Vince Vaughn leads an all-star cast as the boss of a small company desperately trying to secure a make or break contract in Ken Scott’s cutting edge comedy Unfinished Business.
Frustrated with in fighting and office politics, Dan Trunkman quits his secure job to launch his own company with just two associates – the naïve, inexperienced Mike (Dave Franco) and the world weary Tim (Tom Wilkinson) who is nearing retirement.
But the new venture is struggling to survive in a harsh economic climate and Dan and his colleagues need to win a lucrative deal with a large, European owned corporation to keep afloat.
At first Dan is convinced that the deal is done and heads to Portland, Oregon, confident that it’s in the bag. But once there, he discovers that his old employers, represented by his former boss, Chuck Fortnoy (Sienna Miller) are about to steal it from under his nose.
Dan, Mike and Tim must head to Berlin to try and save the day, and they arrive in a city hosting a G8 conference and a sex fetish festival . Each of them is about to experience a series of life changing adventures – and setbacks – on a business trip they’ll never forget.
With unashamedly adult themes – the innocent Mike loses his virginity and the jaded Tim, trapped in an unhappy marriage rediscovers a love for life in the exotic German capital while Dan refuses to give up, no matter where his quest takes him – Unfinished Business is a road trip unlike any other.
“Whenever you’re doing adult subject matter, it’s kind of nice to be doing it with language that is adult. It’s a business trip and it lends itself to those situations that are adult, and the movie definitely tonally deals with them in that way,” says Vaughn.
“When I was younger, I was in a lot of those movies, whether it was Wedding Crashers or those kinds of R movies. Even Swingers was adult, for what that was, so it’s nice to be back doing something that allows the comedy to come from more of an adult place.”
Vaughn grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, and his break out role came in 1996 with Swingers, written by and co-starring his friend, Jon Favreau. The film was a critical success and Vaughn went on to establish himself as one of the best young actors working in America with films including The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Thumbsucker, Psycho, Wedding Crashers, The Break Up, Starksy and Hutch, Into The Wild and The Internship.
Unfinished Business is his second film with Ken Scott. They had previously worked together on Delivery Man (2013). Vaughn is currently filming the second series of the award winning HBO TV series, True Detective.
Q: Do you think comedy works better when it’s backed by a story that people care about? In this, Dan and his team are struggling to survive and Dan is trying to do the best for his family…
A:. I think what’s nice about this is you have these guys who are all specific in their own way, who are all on this business trip with their backs against the wall. I think the stakes of the movie really lends itself to a lot of comedy.
Q: Describe your character, Dan, for us.
A: I think Dan is like a lot of people out there. He’s trying to be a husband and a father, and to work. What happens at the start of the movie is he realises he’s in a situation that’s not, work-wise, the best, and he kind of pushes all-in and starts a small business, and then has a couple of employees who are both a little bit challenged. Tom Wilkinson is a guy who is at the end of his run in this particular business, and Dave Franco is at the beginning, and is a little bit of his own unique person, if you will. They’re kind of starting this business and trying to get this thing going, and they’ve been struggling, and it sort of leads to this one moment where they finally have what they think will be their first deal, which will keep the lights on, and they have to face some of the complications of that. They go over to Berlin and find themselves in a bit of an international competition.
Q: You’re a family man and you know what it is to provide for your kids and want the best for them. Could you relate to Dan?
A: I think I’m very different to him. I mean I can relate to some of his situations. The thing I really relate to is balancing work and life, like everybody can, but I think what’s nice about Dan is that he’s a very genuine guy who’s trying to do his best, and I think he cares about these guys on his team. He has a good streak in him; he’s looking out for people and being a good friend. That side I can kind of relate to, the want to try to be helpful to people that are trying their best.
Q: Was it fun to return to return to the more adult themes at play in this film?
A: Whenever you’re doing adult subject matter, it’s kind of nice to be doing it with language that is adult. It’s a business trip and it lends itself to those situations that are adult, and the movie definitely tonally deals with them in that way. When I was younger, I was in a lot of those movies, whether it was Wedding Crashers or those kinds of R movies. Even Swingers was adult, for what that was, so it’s nice to be back doing something that allows the comedy to come from more of an adult place.
Q: It’s very much a story about Dan and his guys with their backs to the wall. So it was crucial that you Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco got that right…
A: Well they’re both terrific. Tom’s very funny. He’s a terrific actor, obviously, but he’s also very funny, and has a great sense of humour, and I really enjoyed working with him. He’s uber-talented and easy to be around, and it’s the same with Dave. Dave is really a very genuine guy, and funny. He had a lot of great ideas and brought a lot of funny stuff to the character. He made me laugh every day.
Q: What was it like working with Sienna Miller who plays Dan’s nemesis? We’ve not seen her in a lot of comedy films..
A: Well I really just think the world of Sienna. I think she is a beyond gifted actress, and it’s nice to see her doing a range of stuff. She’s been great in a bunch of different things, and also she is just fun and easy. She was warm and funny and very kind to everybody, and she was a joy to be around, but I also just respect her a lot as an actress. She’s really doing a lot of different types of interesting performances, and I think that is exciting to see.
Q: Was there much room for improvisation? Can you play with the script on the day if you feel that it calls for something a little different?
A: Sometimes you improvise. We did a little bit in this as we went on. There was some stuff we got a little more loose with, and had some fun – I always like to work that way. But with this one we had a pretty good script. There was a little bit of playing around, for sure, but there was a definite game plan as well.
Q: Can you tell if something is going to be funny while you’re shooting it?
A: Yeah, I think so. I think you can tell when stuff is working. When we did Swingers, we didn’t get a lot of set laughs, but it was more character driven, so you weren’t looking for that. I think because Dave’s character is so unique and kind of outrageous, it was stuff that you could just tell was very funny, just because it’s so specific.
Q: You must have been in hysterics during the gay bar scene?
A: (Laughs) I would say that when you’re in those scenes, you’re kind of in that reality, doing it, but Dave Franco makes me laugh, and I just think that his point of view on the whole thing was funny to me.
Q: Tell me about filming in Berlin. It’s a vibrant city and for these guys it’s very exotic, very different to what they are used to…
A: I love Berlin. Great art scene there, and it was cool to go check some stuff out. It was a beautiful place to go and see, and it was wonderful having Nick Frost in the movie, and Sienna [Miller] was fantastic to work with, and it was just fun. It was fun to be there. The timing was a little rough for me because I had just had a kid, and so I was away, which made it difficult, but as a city and as an experience, it was fantastic.
Q: Was it a fun atmosphere on set?
A: Yeah it was fun. I mean the cast was all great, and Ken’s great, so yeah, for sure. I thought that the theme was fun – going on a business trip and running into these situations that are really unique. There’s so many terrific actors in the movie, and seeing what they would do every day, all of that was a good time.
Q: How do you decide your next role? Do you look for something a little different each time or is decided by what the best script is at the time?
A: For me, ever since I got married and had a kid, I’ve been signing up for these studio movies. Some of them they make PG-13, and they weren’t supposed to be. They change it as you go, and you didn’t have a filmmaker that was dogmatic about, ‘Hey, let’s make it R.’ So what’s nice about this one is that it is an R movie, and it is adult, and I like that. True Detective, for me, I just thought the concept of it was so good, and I haven’t done something dramatic for a long time.
Q: Do people assume that you’re always looking for comedy? Because you started with more dramatic roles..
A: It was funny, because when I started with more independent films and dramatic stuff, when I first got cast in Old School, it was a bit of a moment, because the studios thought, ‘I don’t know if he can do comedy.’ Then of course I went on this big comic run with Wedding Crashers and Old School and Dodgeball, and all these movies, and now it’s like I haven’t done drama in forever. I’m excited to get back and do something that’s just a dramatic piece. The writing is spectacular, and it’s fun to be a part of that.
Q: So True Detective is kind of going back to your roots?
A: For me, it’s welcome. I think as an actor you always try to do different stuff, and if you do the same thing too often it can kind of get old, and it was nice to be able to mix stuff up, for sure. Anything you do in life, it’s nice to kind of expand a little bit.
Q: Would you ever direct?
A: I would perhaps. I’ve been involved in certain things, in producing and collaborating on them. There’s nothing in the works right now, and I have a couple young kids, but I’m always open to that. There’s not like a calling at this moment to say, ‘Gosh, I’ve got to go do this.’ But if the right project came along I definitely would. It would definitely be about having that strong point of view on something and wanting to do that. Working with someone like Nic Pizzolatto on True Detective – who is an amazing writer and puts the show together – it’s nice to go and sit in someone else’s painting that way, too.
Q: Where did acting come from for you?
A: As a kid, I was always put in a bunch of activities, and that was one thing I always just enjoyed and liked. I always liked movies, and I was a bit of a class clown. I couldn’t resist making a joke, and I’d get in a little bit of trouble, and that kind of stuff, so I just kind of gravitated towards it, I guess.
Q: Did you believe that you would actually be able to make it as an actor? Or was it more that you just followed your instincts to see where it would lead?
A: I think if you go back with older eyes and view it, you can see more of the pitfalls, but at a young age, I really wasn’t much interested in anything else. I kind of didn’t like authority, and there wasn’t a subject I was dying to study in school, and I really liked the arts, and movies, and that stuff, so I sort of felt like, ‘That’s what I’ll go and try to do.’ I can’t say that I knew I was going to “make it”. I just thought that if I could make a living, that would be great. My goals were so short term: ‘Can I get an agent?’ ‘Can I get a couple lines on a show? That would be great.’ I didn’t have a big plan, or an idea. I just really took the journey that a lot of actors do, which is, ‘I like this, so how do I work at it? How do I get better at it? How do I get to participate in it?’
Q: So your expectations were just to keep working?
A: Everyone was just trying to work. There wasn’t this consciousness of ‘I’ve got to blow up and get this and get that.’ We never really spoke in those terms. I don’t know that it felt realistic. It was more, ‘Oh my goodness, do you have an agent?’ ‘Are you getting auditions?’ It would be great if you got a recurring part on a TV show. People were just trying to make a living doing it.
Q: Did Swingers feel like a big break at the time?
A: Well Swingers was really about being passionate to tell a story that we thought was cool. We were reading all this material that was bad, and we liked talking about all the stuff that was going on. There’s one thing that just recently I reminded myself of, which is that when we started, we all had creative freedom. I mean no-one would necessarily make what you wanted them to make, but you had creative freedom. I was sort of defiant with that, when I was younger, and then when I found some studio movies to jump into, they were all things where I really liked what they were doing. Now I sort of realise that you still have that same creative freedom, and you can make sure you really know what you’re getting into, and that it’s something that you really want to be doing. But yeah, when it came to my career, Swingers just really came out of, ‘Everything that is out there, I don’t connect to. This is stuff that is going on in our lives, and we kind of have a comedic look at it, so let’s make this take on it.’ I don’t know that we ever thought that people would see it. We wanted that, I guess, but we really were just trying to make a fantastic movie.
Q: It was ground-breaking in a lot of ways.
A: Yeah, and I think a lot of that came out of the approach to it, because obviously we didn’t have any money. You couldn’t close the bar, so you had to film while it was open, and we all had to be overly prepared, and all of that stuff, and it sort of became the style of the movie, and that was cool. Then Made was the first movie I produced, and that was the first movie [John Favreau] directed, and that was really fun, and from the same place. Crashers had that in a way. It was a good idea, and me and Owen [Wilson] and David [Dobkin] sat around and wrote and played around, and they kind of left us alone. We were sort of allowed to write the jokes and do the things that we thought were fun. So I guess that sometimes if you really just try to stay engaged in the things that you’re liking and doing then that’s its own kind of working on something.