From crashing weddings to smashing skulls

By Nick Romano
October 06, 2017 at 09:56 AM EDT

It’s a new dawn for Vince Vaughn. The actor found a niche in adult comedies like Wedding Crashers, Old School, and Dodgeball, but he’s making the shift back to more serious roles since True Detective season 2 and Hacksaw Ridge. His latest, a grindhouse feel with Brawl in Cell Block 99, is one of his darkest turns yet.

“Physically, for me, it was just kind of getting in the right condition to play the character,” Vaughn tells EW of his transformation. “So, I worked out quite a bit for the role and really got very comfortable boxing with the different kind of fighting styles to implement in the movie.”

Mentally, the actor took to the emphasis on family.

Brawl in Cell Block 99, written and directed by S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk), centers on Bradley Thomas (Vaughn), an imposing blue-collar guy with a tattoo of a cross inked on the back of his shaved head. He builds a new life for his family as a drug runner but lands himself in prison when a pickup goes south. In jail, he’s tasked with a deadly mission by an angered drug dealer, who threatens to harm his wife and their unborn child if he can’t complete the task.

“I think the genesis of it is his family and the want of his family, keeping his family safe, so that’s very primal and something I can relate to having kids,” Vaughn says.

Udo Kier, playing the Placid Man, was similarly drawn to the text and the question of, “How do you get to be evil when you’re not evil?”

Brawl in Cell Block 99, now playing in theaters, also features Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, and Marc Blucas. Watch Vaughn’s interview in the clip above.