From Entourage’s brash Ari Gold to the audacious Harry Selfridge, Jeremy Piven tells HOLLY BYRNES how he swapped the Hollywood fast lane for sedate period drama
IT comes as something of a shock when Jeremy Piven declares he isn’t the type to booze it up with his actor mates and “wake up naked in front of the stove” like a scene out of The Hangover.
From the man who played the ultimate Hollywood high- baller Ari Gold – who worked hard and played harder – in the cult dramedy series
Entourage, you’d expect just a hint of that excess might have eked its way into his private life.
His industry reputation to that eff ect certainly precedes him, with The New York Post once headlining him as “the biggest jerk in showbiz”, while his continued bachelor status has earned him the nickname “the Pivert” by blogger Perez Hilton.
But even when the ensemble cast reunited last year to start fi lming a big- screen adaptation, Piven made a point of stating, for the record, that any male bonding they did before the cameras rolled was an entirely civilised affair.
“I’d been shooting [ Mr Selfridge] in London and really wanted to reconnect with the guys, so I took ’ em to dinner … and we had a blast.”
So no boozefuelled binge fests in Las Vegas, no midnight trips to tattoo parlours or a raunchy rendezvous at Sunset’s seedy strip joints?
The 49- year- old almost apologises: “I’m just not that guy, I would be very disappointing to you.”
If playing aggressive agent Gold put Piven on the cultural map, taking the chance on his next role in a more sedate English period drama playing American retail pioneer Harry Gordon Selfridge was a brave ( or perhaps necessary?) career detour.
Admitting he knew little about the department store revolutionary before being off ered the role, Piven says “there was no way I could walk away from it” when he read into the history. As the fi rst two seasons of the series has explored, Selfridge tested the British establishment when he had the audacity to plunge more than a million dollars into a grand plan to transform the dead end of London’s now famous Oxford St into a luxury shopping Mecca.
A self- starter who began his working career as a stock boy, Selfridge would swiftly win the loyalty and love of his English staff by treating them as equals, ignoring the restraints of the UK class system and being willing to give anyone an opportunity to shine.
You get the impression Piven has something of a man crush on his character, who he describes as a “true original”.
“Like [ circus showman] PT Barnum, he loved putting on a show and entertaining people,” Piven says. “He was the fi rst manmade celebrity and believed in using advertising to get people in store. He made ( shopping) an event but also made sure that everyone was treated as special guests.”
Not unlike Selfridge, the actor is not adverse to doing his own selfpromotion – active and engaged on Twitter, plugging episodes and answering questions from his 2.5 million followers.
“I really have no choice,” Piven explains, “you have to be a one- man show these days. We’re released in the United States on PBS [ a network which relies largely on public donations for funding] and their challenge is getting the word out. So it’s up to me to really respond and tell people about the show.”
New faces: Jeremy Piven
is joined by real- life sisters
Hannah ( left) and Kara ( right) Tointon as his now grown- up
daughters Violette and Rosalie in season three. THURSDAY, 10PM, SCT