Film Michael Bodey gives the lowdown on the anticipated movie version of Entourage
Entourage makes the transition to cinema without losing the spirit of camaraderie (or the cameos) that powered the TV series, writes Michael Bodey
Not even the creator of Entourage knew initially whether the world wanted a film version of the television series. Doug Ellin recalls having a deal to write a film screenplay as far back as season five of the eight-season comedy-drama about a young movie star, Vincent Chase, and his exploits in Los Angeles and beyond with his three childhood friends from New York.
Ellin admits he didn’t take seriously the opportunity to write an Entourage screenplay until executive producer Mark Wahlberg, on whose early experiences the series was loosely based, called him a year after the show concluded in 2011 and asked: “Where’s the script?”
“I didn’t know if there was a real appetite for it or not but Mark assured me if I got the script done, he would get it made,” Ellin says.
The film had to overcome some hurdles, not the least of which was getting the band back together. Ellin spoke of “contractual issues” in 2013, saying he “wouldn’t bet” on the film happening after reports key cast members, including Adrian Grenier and Jerry Ferrara, were holding out for bigger paydays.
But $US30 million ($39m) later, Entourage has made it to the big screen, picking up the story six months after the series concluded, with Vince (Grenier) heading to Paris with his new wife. The question now is whether the world wants it.
Entourage bounced on to our TV screens back in 2004 as a sweet send-up of Hollywood life, enlivened by its insider gags and cameos. But the entourage — Grenier, Ferrera’s Turtle, Kevin Dillon’s Johnny “Drama” Chase and Kevin Connolly’s Eric Murphy — didn’t grow through the series. The thematic throughline of the loyalty of friends was swamped by its sometimes banal or sexist bro-ness. The entourage’s manager, Jeremy Piven’s exuberant Ari Gold, became the most interesting character. And he didn’t really need the entourage (indeed, Ellin has just published the parody book The Gold Standard, “written” by Ari Gold).
The film picks up with the entourage partying on the Mediterranean and Ari retired and frustrated in Italy — in fact, the story picks up in an elaborate short film available online that is a marketing tie-in with General Motors, featuring Ari’s love affair with a new convertible concept car, the Cadillac Ciel. Ellin’s insecurity about the different environment for the film 10 years after the TV series began is understandable. He observes “the business of Hollywood certainly has (changed) but it doesn’t change for an actor”.
“But the business of it has definitely got more Wall Street and corporate — 15 years ago people were happy to make a million bucks,” he adds. “Now agents dream of making a billion bucks. The whole world has changed like that and Hollywood’s just a reflection of it.”
That changed business environment means Warren Buffett can feature among a host of amusing cameos, and the central conceit of the narrative can be the entourage’s jolly existence being threatened by the clueless father-and-son billionaires funding the studio (played by Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment).
Ellin notes that the plot is “a very personal experience”. “I deal with all this stuff all the time and the stuff in the movie is all real,” he says. “The movie is obviously not about heartbreak. It’s an aspirational, wish-fulfilment movie, but that’s the reality in this world. We’ve got people outside the Hollywood world who don’t care about movies, who just want to make a buck.”
Ultimately, Ellin was assured there would be demand for the film. Entourage didn’t have the benefit of social media back when the TV series began, although “it was amazing once we got on to social media a couple of years back — you see people’s affection for it”.
Connolly appreciated the affection for the show immediately. He recalls his overnight success after being seen in the first episode. “And I do mean overnight in the sense that I’d been acting for years and the show aired on a Sunday night and the Monday I went into lunch at a restaurant and everyone looked at me,” he says.
“It was strange. I’d been acting for 25 years but that sort of recognition literally happened overnight and it was bizarre. To still be at it 12 years later is such a blessing.”
Connolly adds that is not the only reason why the four actors have remained relatively close. They have shared a unique experience now for 12 years. And he has no qualms about the view that the actors might have been typecast as their characters.
“That’s why when people ask if I feel pigeonholed, I think there’s not one negative thing about this experience,” Connolly says. “It’s been a 100 per cent positive experience and a great
experience and I’m so grateful. I just feel so lucky. How did I get so lucky?”
The irony of actors playing actors now moving to the real big screen isn’t lost on the close quartet. Connolly laughs and says that earlier in the day he had joked with Grenier that he and his character Eric “are at the same sort of level; my house looks like what Eric Murphy’s house would look like, but with fairness to Adrian, we need to do a few more Entourages before he has a house like Vince’s.”
The criticisms that have been harder to shake revolve around Entourage’s relevance and that the series essentially became an exercise in womanising.
Connolly accepts the question but defends his friends and Ellin.
“You’ve never met five nicer guys that are more respectful to women,” he says.
“Everybody loves their mother and sisters and the women in their lives, so you have a group of guys who are very, very respectful to women and so, yeah, I think it’s a sensitive thing for someone to insinuate that, because it’s just not how it is.”
He continues: “We’re trying to depict what young guys do. Not only in Hollywood, it’s just how it is.
“And, playing devil’s advocate, you could look at some of these other shows — on Girls Lena Dunham has sex with dudes all the time, or Kim Cattrall in Sex and the City …
“And ask Emmanuelle Chriqui about her experience with the testosterone-driven En
tourage and she’d tell you she has five older brothers who would die for her.
“It is a sensitive thing because we are nice to women in our lives and it was never our intention to be misogynistic, but also the reality is reality,” Connolly says.
It is an aspirational film and series. And one of the joys of the new film is seeing Hollywood still willing to play along with the Entourage milieu. As Connolly notes: “Let’s face it, with the exception of Robert Altman’s The Player in 1992, have there been this many great cameos in a movie?”
The TV series always had a high sheen and by definition had to be more cinematic than most of its competitors. So the film steps up cinematically, both in content and look.
For its budget, the film pops off the screen — although Ellin says “the show was always a very cinematic show so it lends itself to a movie”.
Connolly enjoyed the time and space of the movie. After filming seven or eight pages of a script a day on the TV series, he found the film shoot was a different pace. “We were always running and gunning on the TV series and there was an excitement about it and it wasn’t boring, but when you do a movie you go to 2½ pages a day,” he says.
“And when you have 2½ pages a day to do you can stop and look around and go, ‘ You know what would be a cool shot? Let’s do this.’ We were able to do more visually with the resources and time that you are allotted when you’re shooting a film.”
At its core, though, Entourage the film stays loyal to the simple theme of Entourage the TV series. It’s just about loyalty, bro. Hug it out.
“Absolutely,” says Ellin. “It’s about friendship more than anything else. Hollywood is a backdrop and it’s a great backdrop that gives us heaps of stuff to draw from, but at the end of the day these four guys could be from anywhere. They could be the Hangover guys.
“It wouldn’t matter to me if they were firemen or stockbrokers. These were best friends who came from nothing: working-class guys who came to a fantasyland.”
Entourage is open nationally.
YOU’VE NEVER MET FIVE NICER GUYS MORE RESPECTFUL TO WOMEN
Clockwise from main, scenes from
Entourage featuring Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon, with Jessica Alba and Liam Neeson, below right