During the span of his lengthy career, it’s almost certain that Vince Vaughn has made you laugh. Whether he’s avoiding a family sing-along in The Break-Up or making “Earmuffs” the quote of the year in Old School, Vaughn has proved his mettle in Hollywood. He’s also stepped behind the camera, with writing credits on movies including Couples Retreat and The Internship, his upcoming comedy with Owen Wilson. For all these reasons, the folks running the Starz Denver Film Festival, which wrapped yesterday, awarded Vaughn the 2012 John Cassavetes Award, which “is presented annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the world of filmmaking and whose work reflects the spirit of the late John Cassavetes.”

Vaughn was in town for a screening of his sister Valeri Vaughn’s documentary, Art of Conflict, which he narrates. The film depicts how street murals illustrate the story of Northern Ireland’s violent history—particularly between the Protestants and Catholics in the region— and includes interview with muralists, political figures, and historians. Some highlights from the Q&A that followed Saturday’s viewing:

On where the story idea for Art of Conflict came from: “I went on a trip to Ireland and had heard stuff about the conflicts in the north. I ended my trip in Belfast and was shocked to see to the murals—they were powerful, shocking, and inspiring. [They were] something I hadn’t seen before.”

On making the film: “It’s a lot of years, a lot of hours, lots of clearance to get [a film made], especially with documentaries, when you’re dealing with a lot of material. It takes a lot of people. The editor of this also cut The Break-Up and Iron Man.”

On making a documentary: “It’s like writing a script. In a documentary, you get all the footage and then you have to find the story. Our focus is not a history lesson.”

On the group dynamic of filmmaking: “You need to have a vision. You need to surround yourself with people who have good ideas.”

On being pegged as a comedy actor: “I was lucky to have older actors who said, ‘An actor’s job is to work.’ [So I thought] I should probably try to go do some movies. The comedies were scripts that I liked. It was something that was fresh, that we hadn’t seen in the way we were doing it. Just now I’m starting to go do other types of films. Like anybody, you have a lot of sides to yourself, and one gets more prominent or rewarded. I never had much of a game plan. You try to do your best with the thing that’s in front of you that you’re excited about. The fame is the part that’s really hard about it. You do have to really love [acting] to go through it and deal with it.”

On his next project: “It’s with Owen Wilson, a movie called The Internship, where two guys originally from Atlanta lose their jobs. They start Googling “good jobs,” [then they end up] typing “Google” into Google. We decide, why not us? So we try our hand at the internship program at Google.”

Image courtesy of James Dimagiba

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.