HIGH SOCIETY GOLD
Why Jeremy Piven gambled on Mr Selfridge to replace obnoxious Ari with audacious Harry
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
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.”
MR SELFRIDGE THURSDAY, 10PM, SEVEN
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.