It’s the knowing TV show about Hollywood, that counts US Presidents among its fans.
If you’re not a fan of TV’s Entourage – and if you’re not, where have you been for the last 11 years? – then there’s a chance to catch up on the entire phenomenon via a new spin-off film.
Of course Entourage is said to be a stand-alone story. In other words audiences don’t need to have seen the preceding eight seasons, although it obviously helps.
The new $30 million movie catches up with Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Johnny (Kevin Dillon), Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Ari (Jeremy Piven) as they embark on shooting a new film. Think film-within-a-film motif with added juvenilia combined with all the expected shenanigans associated with Hollywood and the madness of Entourage suddenly makes sense.
The Entourage brand has its devoted cult following – the hardcore fans that will adore this continuation with its in-jokes and familiar ensemble. But there are those who firmly believe the series should have been killed off long ago, and that central player Adrian Grenier couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.
That’s the nature of fandom. Suffice to say much of the content of Entourage is aimed at a Stateside audience and many of the cameos that pepper the movie will go over the heads of non-US viewers.
The appeal of Entourage over its 11-year run was in observing the evolution of Vincent and his gaggle of gauche pals as they learned the ropes whilst living in La La Land – and sponging off their famous pal.
Looking back to the early days Grenier, 38, recalls his raison d’être.
“I always enjoyed the early days of creating this character because I was tasked with creating a star,” he says.
“And I said, ‘What is a star?’ Well, basically a star is uniquely himself so it gave me a lot of permission to play and put a lot of myself into it. I always felt that Vince just had to be floating above everything. He couldn’t get bogged down in all of the pitfalls. He had to have this even-keel detachment.”
But it’s the insight into the day-to-day vagaries of actors, producers, managers and studio chiefs that give the show (and movie) a heightened fly-on-the-wall feel.
Both Grenier and co-star Jerry Ferrara have witnessed the idiosyncrasies of film directors at first hand. Each man can provide an illuminating anecdote about the audition process. Wannabe actors should take note.
“I went to a screen test for Avatar,” reveals Ferrara. “The audition was at James Cameron’s house. Strangely enough – and he’s such a genius – he thought the lighting was best in the kitchen so I did the screen test in James Cameron’s kitchen.
“He was rolling around on the floor, shooting me from all these angles and it threw my concentration off. I just tanked. I can’t even imagine what this audition looks like. I was so psyched out by James Cameron, which is probably what he was trying to do. I didn’t get the part…”
“I actually auditioned for Woody Allen,” adds Grenier.
“I walked into his darkened hotel room and there was this single light on a chair. I sat there and I was doing this scene with somebody in the darkness and I could feel Woody Allen lurking and coming from the darkness into the light.
“I could barely make out his face and I stopped when the scene was over. I looked and he scurried away. [I heard a voice say] ‘Okay, thank you’ and I thought, ‘Alright, that’s it.’”
It’s that closeness to reality – and the knowledge that the antics of the key players in Entourage are based on fact – that adds to the authenticity even as they various characters are misbehaving.
The new picture – director (and series creator) Doug Ellin has hinted there may be a sequel, perhaps even two – illustrates what happens when a star with too much ego gets his hands on not just acting in a movie but directing it, too.
TV show director Mark Mylod directs the faux movie at the heart of the story, with Ellin taking a back seat so as not to confuse his cast.
“Doug made the smart decision to bring in a separate director for the movie,” says Grenier. “He brought back Mark Mylod [who directed scores of episodes] and who really defined much of the look and feel of Entourage itself. He’s a talented director so he gave him carte blanche to make it. And, of course, Vincent Chase is the director.”
Like Robert Altman’s The Player, Entourage is scattered with celebrity cameos. Among the sequences is an up-close-and-personal meeting between manager Turtle (Ferrara) and Ronda Rousey, the champion mixed martial artist now breaking into films. Ferrara laughs at the memory of being on the receiving end of an arm lock.
“We were in the position so they could line the camera up,” he smiles. “Even with no pressure, just lying there, I could feel my shoulder unnaturally moving out of the joint. I could only imagine what that felt like for the women that she’s put in an applied pressure to. One of my worst nightmares.”
Being based in Los Angeles meant 28-year-old Rousey “could dip in and out” of filming in between training sessions.
“I shot one scene when I was in the first week of camp. That’s the week where I put on the most muscle and I eat a lot. I was a little self-conscious [because I was] at my most bulked out stage. But it ended up being perfect for the scene. Between fights I get really small but in the gym scene when he walks in I’m so intimidating!”