The Entourage return, bearing a film that acts as the full stop on their super-successful, male fantasy-fulfilling TV series. Hamish MacBain helps them celebrate
A few hours before their European premiere in London, and the principal cast of Entourage, it is fair to say, are loving today’s photo shoot. They are being instructed by ShortList’s team to act as if they are best friends having the best night out ever together.
This, it quickly transpires, will not be a stretch.
Having spent the past 11 years depicting the ultimate male-fantasy gang a Hollywood golden boy named Vince who brings his two closest friends, his brother and subsequently his high-powered agent, along for the ride you might expect they would be sick of the sight of each other. But as the camera flashes, you see in front of the lens the kind of camaraderie that is simply unfakeable. Life appears to have imitated art. The in-jokes, the merciless p*ss taking, the suddenly recalled memories of great times past. All the tell-tale signs of a real gang of tight-knit friends reconvened are here.
“We don’t get together that often now,” says Kevin Dillon, who plays Drama, the older, less successful brother of the aforementioned golden boy. “But when we do it’s like we never left each other.”
Further heightening the atmosphere, you suspect, is anunderlying sense of finality. The five guys ‘guys’ is definitely the appropriate term here know this game is soon to be up. Having been apart from each other for a couple of years now, this is their very own one last night out (with their very own, very separate, much-more-real adult lives to follow).Their man-fantasy playground will soon cease to exist. “The truth is we’re all adult men now and sometimes life just gets in the way,” continues Kevin Connolly Vince’s best friend-cum-manager, E, on the show. “The intention is always, ‘Hey, let’s get together next week!’ But there are girlfriends, kids, jobs, travelling, family. This person’s here, this person’s there. So it’s more difficult to get together. But when we do, it’s like being with family.
This feeling will doubtless be familiar to you and your own gang of close friends. And this, for all the famous people cameos, the fastcars, the beautiful women and the chance to live vicariously inside the movie-business machine, is why Entourage resonates.
“Partly, our job is to represent the height of indulgence,” says Adrian Grenier, who plays Vincent Chase, the young Hollywood star at the centre of Entourage. “The having endless options, and everything goes right, and there are no consequences. But at the end of the day I think it’s about friendship, it’s about the connection of the boys, and despite all that artifice, there’s something very real within that camaraderie.”
A couple of months earlier in Los Angeles, I meet Doug Ellin, the man who created Entourage and has now written and directed the movie. He concurs with his cast members that both are “much more about relationships than about Hollywood”. The initial seed of the idea for the show may have come from Mark Wahlberg and his own real-life entourage but, in Ellin’s mind, “you could take these guys back to where they’re from in New York, and have them starting a restaurant together, and you’d have a similar show. Friendship is the key to the whole thing.”
He insists, too, that the camaraderie between his cast is genuine. “It is, and it always was from day one. None of them knew each other, but as soon as you got them together it was what you watch. It really was. My greatest accomplishment was to cast the right people.”
The characters on the show completed by best-friend-cum-driver Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and self-proclaimed super-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) are not equals in terms of status. But when they walk and talk as a group, which they frequently do, they sure as hell act as if they are. “The Vince character clearly was the rainmaker for all of us,” says Ferrara. “But rarely, in the show or in this movie, does he ever call that out. Or shine the light on that fact, like, ‘If it wasn't for me, then…’ I think there was maybe one scene. But rarely does he ever say that, yeah, you guys are all self-made men, but I was the rainmaker for all of you.”
“You can’t be rich unless your neighbours are,” says Grenier. “And I think that’s part of the spirit of this this capitalist journey through the eyes of a celebrity experience. That it’s not about the material things that Vince gets, it’s about the fact that he ends up sharing them with his crew. And then they in turn give back.”
Instead, the allusions to the unsaid power Vince holds over his friends tend to be more comedic. Example: in one scene in Season Four of the show, Drama and Turtle are about to head out on a double date. Vince, bored, says he might tag along, at which point his friends’ faces drop, as they know that he, without even trying, will be partnering up with the most attractive girl (or indeed both girls if he fancies). He says he’s joking. They breathe a sigh of relief. He comes along for a lift in the car and, at a set of traffic lights, is invited to jump into the passenger seat of a sports car being driven by the preposterously knockout daughter of a lawyer, who takes him to Dennis Hopper’s house, where he will bet hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Manchester United match, then take her down to the beach for the night to… we’re not shown, but you can guess.
As he waves goodbye to his less fortunate friends, Turtle sighs with pain: “I would give my nuts to be that guy for one day.”
One of the most amazing things about Entourage is that, for all that it shines a some-might-say unflattering light on Hollywood, it hasbeen warmly embraced by the movie business. Famous actors may be discussed with levels of vicious derision normally only seen in hacked Sony emails or on the most troll-infested of message boards, but none of them have complained. (Well, Seth Rogen has. But then “His ugliness is oddly fascinating. Especially in Blu-ray” was a particularly harsh diss.)
This is because to them the people living it for real the series rings true. Entourage has created archetypes.
“I always meet actors who are like, ‘That was me and my friends,’” Ellin tells me. “And agents are always like, ‘That’s what I do!’ So I felt like we did it in a way that they responded to. When LeBron James did the show, we went to dinner and he said, ‘this is my E, this is my Drama, this is my Turtle.’ And I’ve heard that 1,000 times. If not 10,000. From regular people to celebrities: guys just from high school, are like, ‘I had a Drama, I had a Vince.’ So I think that’s why it strikes a chord.”
Connolly: “There’s an actor I don’t wanna mention his name but I was out at this house party one night, and I was watching him and his friends, and I swear to God, it really felt like I was looking at Season Two of Entourage. I can’t really explain it: they moved as one unit, they just went as a pack. And I was going, ‘OK, that’s the Vince, that’s the Turtle…’ It was so obvious.”
Jeremy Piven has an explanation for this. “You have to understand: any time a narcissist is being represented, they love it,” he says. “I had a guy interviewing me, and he was going, ‘Do you know that Ari Gold has shaped the way that agents actually do business?’ I was just thinking, ‘What? Really? Come on man: these are characters, and it’s a fantasy!’”
For his expletive-laden, super politically incorrect, Malcolm Tucker-esque one liners, Ari Gold is perhaps the show’s most popular character. “I’ve had women come up to me and say, ‘I’m the real Ari’,” says Piven. “And that’s shocking, and horrifying. I personally have had experiences where I’ve read the scripts and been like, ‘Oh, this is the part where I turn everyone off. This is the part where they run for the hills.’ So the fact that he’s loved is amazing to me.”
Now a long-term resident of London for Mr Selfridge filming, Piven has a theory as to why Ari is so popular in the UK in particular. “It’s because all he’s doing is taking the p*ss. And that’s the British national pastime.”
ON TO THE SILVER SCREEN
The Entourage TV show, as it probably had to over eight seasons, went to some dark places. Cocaine addiction, rehab, movie-star jail. But if you ask anyone involved in the film either Ellin or any of the actors they all say the spirit of the movie is similar in tone to the ‘let the good times roll’ feel of the earlier seasons. Vince is a megastar, Ari is a mega-studio head, and they are about to make a mega-budget mega-movie directed by Vince in-between preposterously decadent parties attended and soundtracked by Pharrell Williams.
One of the characters E is expecting a baby, but the concessions to real life are few.
“The irony of that,” says Connolly, “is we did six seasons where, if there were complaints, the major complaints were ‘nothing bad ever happens to these guys. Where’s the darker side?’ The minute that the Vince character went down that path, there were twice as many complaints: like, ‘I don’t wanna watch this, I wanna get back to the guys having fun!’ So the movie is feel-good.”
“Season Two is really what I was going for,” says Ellin. “It’s definitely not dark. It’s definitely about friendship, wish fulfilment, fantasy. You know, the stakes are high, but it’s fun. They’re definitely talking about more mature things than they were in their twenties, but they’re still supposed to be early thirties, and in Hollywood that’s still very young. Clooney just got married, you know?”
“I took a couple of friends to a screening in London,” says Piven. “I brought a guy and his son, and a friend of mine who had never seen the television show. She had no reference, had no clue. And I could feel the nervousness in the room. The older guy who considered himself the British Ari Gold he loved it. His son loved it, and the woman who had never seen the show really enjoyed herself. And that kind of made me realise we might be on to something, because if there was any knock on the show, it’s that it’s a guy show, and it’s not for women. But here’s a woman, laughing and enjoying the ride.”
“And by the way,” continues Grenier. “I think women are as crude as men, and I think they can appreciate it. I think it unlocks a whole side of women that we aren’t privy to. I think they’re secretly enjoying the crass nature of the guys as well.”
LESSONS (NOT) LEARNed
So now that they have made the transition from playing film stars and film-star friends to being film stars themselves, you wonder: what lessons have they learned from their semi-imaginary world? Grenier says he once used a Vince line ‘Get it done, or I will find someone else who can’ to one of his reps, but is quick to point out this was in jest. “It can be a good dry run sometimes,” he says. “But you have to watch out, because Entourage really is a fantasy.”
Ferrara: “I believe part of what made the show work and hopefully will make this movie work is that it’s wish fulfilment. I’m 35 years old now, and I wish I could hang out with, like, the three guys who were mythree best friends when I was 18, back in Brooklyn. They’d drop everything, and move out here and not make a lot of money, just to hang out with me. That would be awesome, but it just can’t be.”
“The thing I got a kick out of on Entourage,” smiles Connolly, “is that our characters, we all live together, so we’d all go out to a club together until 3 o’clock in the morning. Then we’d all go home, wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed, cruise into the kitchen, Kevin Dillon’s got a gourmet Four Seasons breakfast for us, we’d eat, go to morning meetings, stop by a pool for lunch with a bunch of girls, hang out, come home, get ready to go out, then go out to a club.
“It’s like, who wouldn’t wanna live like that, even if it’s for just a week?’”
Entourage is in cinemas nationwide on 19 June
(Photography: David Venni)