Why Jeremy Piven gam­bled on Mr Sel­fridge to re­place ob­nox­ious Ari with au­da­cious Harry

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page -

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 ef­fect 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 film­ing a big-screen adap­ta­tion of the HBO pro­duc­tion, 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 booze-fu­elled 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 of­fered the role, Piven says “there was no way I could walk away from it” when he read into the his­tory.

As the first 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, from any­where, 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 first man-made 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.”

The pri­vate af­fairs of this “risk junkie,” how­ever, weren’t al­ways as suc­cess­ful as his busi­ness ven­tures: tak­ing up with a dizzy show­girl in sea­son one, only to have to fight his way back into the heart of his be­lea­guered wife, Rose (Aussie Frances O’Con­nor) by the end of sea­son two.

At the start of sea­son three, Sel­fridge is mourn­ing her death from pneu­mo­nia, but will soon find com­fort in the arms of a new love in­ter­est (played by Kelly Adams).

O’Con­nor has since gone on to crit­i­cal ac­claim in an­other Bri­tish TV se­ries The Miss­ing for which she re­ceived a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion.

Piven hails his for­mer Aussie costar as a “ge­nius” and “a com­plete pro­fes­sional … who works her butt off and I’m just glad to see her be­ing cel­e­brated for her work now.”

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 one­man 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.”


EDI­TOR Deb­bie Schipp RE­VIEWS Deb­bie Schipp, Colin Vick­ery, An­drew Fen­ton, Holly Byrnes, Neala John­son, Leigh Paatsch, Tif­fany Dunk COVER Jeremy Piven for Mr Sel­fridge COVER DE­SIGN Trevor Timms AD­VER­TIS­ING Paul Car­roll (02) 8114 7452 PRO­DUC­TION Page­mas­ters

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.

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