Tak­ing shots at Vinny and the boys

Los Angeles Times - - CUL­TURE MON­STER - Amy.kauf­man@la­times.com Times staff writer John Cor­ri­gan con­trib­uted to this story.

show pre­miered, it seems cooler to make fun of the guys than to try to live like them. So­cial me­dia are filled with harsh one-lin­ers about “En­tourage” and its fans, many com­ing from the pop­u­lar par­ody ac­count @As­sis­tan­t2Ellin: “They won’t be show­ing En­tourage in the­aters with­out sta­dium seat­ing be­cause there’s no way you’d be able to see the screen over the fe­do­ras.”

To sum up the hat­er­ade: Some­where along the line, what was a show about four wide-eyed guys with work­ing-class roots and big Hol­ly­wood dreams turned into a show about four shal­low, self-cen­tered bros who ob­jec­tify women, spend lav­ishly and gen­er­ally don’t have a lot go­ing on up­stairs. And while the Twit­ter­sphere is no­to­ri­ously fickle, that anti-“En­tourage” sen­ti­ment could af­fect box of­fice.

Ac­cord­ing to those who have seen in­dus­try sur­veys, the Warner Bros. film is on track to take in about $14 mil­lion dur­ing its first five days in the­aters. That’s not ter­ri­ble for a movie that cost less than $30 mil­lion to make, but it’s cer­tainly not “Sex and the City” money: The first film in that fran­chise launched with $57 mil­lion in 2008 and grossed more than $400 mil­lion world­wide.

“Sex and the City” is a key com­par­i­son, be­cause it was when that wildly pop­u­lar HBO se­ries made such a suc­cess­ful leap from tele­vi­sion to the big screen that the “En­tourage” crew be­gan mulling a movie of its own.

“That was re­ally when we all started talk­ing about it,” said Dil­lon. He was sit­ting at a con­fer­ence ta­ble along­side Con­nolly, Gre­nier, Fer­rara and Ellin at the Mon­tage Ho­tel in Bev­erly Hills, where a cou­ple of scenes in the film were shot.

“At that stage,” Dil­lon said, “we were think­ing, ‘Hey, if they can do this well, why wouldn’t we be able to?’ ”

“If we did half as well,” Con­nolly said, “we’d be…”

“Yeah, I would love to stop talk­ing about ‘Sex and the City,’ ” Ellin in­ter­jected. “It’s one of the most suc­cess­ful movies of all time. I think it’s the No. 3 R-rated com­edy of all time.”

“Really?” Fer­rara asked. “I just got scared.” The driv­ing force

Ellin started writ­ing the “En­tourage” screen­play at the urg­ing of Mark Wahlberg 18 months af­ter the show wrapped in 2011. (The ac­tor was a pro­ducer on the show, and it’s widely as­sumed that the pro­gram was loosely based on his own ex­pe­ri­ence mov­ing to Hol­ly­wood with his bud­dies from South Bos­ton). “I would see Mark in a restau­rant, and he’s like, ‘I’ve made six movies and $100 mil­lion while you haven’t writ­ten this movie,’ ” Ellin re­called.

“I al­ways felt like there was a movie there, even be­fore the ‘Sex and the City’ thing hap­pened,” in­sisted Wahlberg via tele­phone from a movie set in New Or­leans. “And, hey, I was not a fan of ‘Sex and the City,’ but I watched all the episodes and both movies be­cause my wife liked it. I un­der­stand this is a male-driven show, but I think a lot of women like hear­ing what it’s like when guys are talk­ing with their friends un­fil­tered.”

The “En­tourage” movie es­sen­tially be­gins where the se­ries ended. Last we saw Vinny, he had de­cided to marry a Van­ity Fair writer. But sur­prise! That didn’t take. So he’s now de­cided he wants to di­rect and gets his foul-mouthed for­mer agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) — now a stu­dio head — to bankroll his de­but. When Vinny’s f lick goes over bud­get, Ari is forced to beg some Texan fi­nanciers (Billy Bob Thorn­ton and Ha­ley Joel Os­ment) for more money.

There are still big man­sions and f lashy rides, in­clud­ing a Cadil­lac Ciel con­vert­ible, a con­cept car that Gen­eral Mo­tors made a pro­to­type of specif­i­cally for the film.

Plus hot girls. Lots of them. In pools, yachts, beds, in var­i­ous states of un­dress. And the stu­dio is us­ing beau­ti­ful women to pro­mote the movie, too, host­ing an early screen­ing at the Play­boy Man­sion last month.

The film’s pre­miere in West­wood on Mon­day night was also full of at­trac­tive women — go-go dancers el­e­vated on plat­forms and leggy young ladies be­ing squired about by men who could have dou­bled as their fa­thers.

That’s why Em­manuelle Chriqui — who plays E’s preg­nant on-and-off again girl­friend in the movie — doesn’t have a prob­lem with the de­pic­tion of the fe­males in the film. She doesn’t think the movie makes “girls look su­per great” but be­lieves it’s an ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in Hol­ly­wood.

“Let’s be real: That’s what our … town is made of, and it shocks me all the time,” she said in an in­ter­view with­out her male cast mates. “Those lit­tle hang­eron-ers, those lit­tle bikini­clad, per­fect bod­ies that show up and flirt with the 50year-old that they think is gonna make them a star? There’s so many of those it’s dis­turb­ing. I see it way too of­ten, and it shocks me all the time. And the thing is, Doug isn’t afraid to show it.”

In­deed, Ellin gets testy when asked whether he be­lieves “En­tourage” de­picts women in a neg­a­tive light.

“I don’t think that four guys in a car who say they would like to [have sex] that night are treat­ing women poorly,” he said. He brought up Lena Dun­ham’s “Girls,” not­ing that he thinks the ac­tress’ char­ac­ter “has had more sex than Vince and has been naked more than Vince, for sure.”

“Lis­ten, Kim Cat­trall’s char­ac­ter on ‘Sex and the City’ — she was hook­ing up with dudes left and right,” agreed Con­nolly.

“This is not a Chris­tian val­ues show,” said Gre­nier.

“Just be­cause they’re guys that are out on the hunt to meet up with chicks and have a good time doesn’t make them such ter­ri­ble guys,” Con­nolly said. ‘A dream job’

All of the film’s stars seem es­pe­cially loyal to “En­tourage” — even though they were part of high-pro­file salary dis­putes be­fore pro­duc­tion be­gan. In 2013, Wahlberg told a TMZ cam­era­man that the movie would move ahead “as soon as the guys stop be­ing so greedy.”

Which isn’t to say that they weren’t ea­ger to jump back into the “En­tourage” world. Since the pro­gram wrapped four years ago, none of its stars have ended up with ca­reers re­motely re­sem­bling Vinny Chase’s. Dil­lon starred in the CBS sit­com “How to Be a Gentle­man,” which was can­celed af­ter one sea­son. Fer­rara booked some small roles in films like “Think Like a Man” and “Bat­tle­ship.”

Con­nolly made an ESPN doc­u­men­tary about the New York Is­lan­ders. And Gre­nier, an ac­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, is work­ing on his own movie about an elu­sive whale — a project that re­cently se­cured $50,000 in fund­ing from Leonardo DiCaprio.

“I gained a lot of per­spec­tive since the show ended,” said Fer­rara. “After the show, I was like, ‘I want to see what life is like.’ And I saw it, and it was fine. But I like it this way. Point blank. I like it this way. I like these guys. I like shoot­ing in L.A. I like it this way.”

“It’s a dream job,” Dil­lon added. “It was the best job ever.”

“And it still will be!” Gre­nier chimed in.

But Ellin is ner­vous. Ner­vous be­cause “En­tourage” re­runs don’t play that of­ten on HBO any­more and be­cause he’s up against big­bud­get tent­poles at the box of­fice (Melissa McCarthy’s com­edy “Spy” opens Fri­day). But he’s en­cour­aged that the movie played well with test au­di­ences. In fact, he was so proud of the 96% the film scored dur­ing test­ing that he ac­tu­ally framed the feed­back sheets.

“If you talk to real peo­ple in­stead of lit­tle, bit­ter guys sit­ting on their Twit­ter ac­counts — real guys who have friends go, ‘This is my friends. This is how I grew up,’ ” said Ellin. “LeBron James? I go out to din­ner with him, and he goes, ‘This is my E. This is my Drama. This is my Tur­tle.’ ”

Claudette Bar­ius Warner Bros.

WRITER-DI­REC­TOR

Doug Ellin, left, on the set with pro­ducer Mark Wahlberg, doesn’t be­lieve the film de­picts women in a poor light.

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