Now that his hit HBO series Entourage has finished filming its final season, actor Jeremy Piven said that he’s just trying to impress his nieces. Taking a variety of roles in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World – the most notable of which is the mysterious Timekeeper – is sure to help him, in that regard. In the film, Timekeeper is angry at the world for squandering time and wants to steal it back, believing that he could do more valuable things with it. He feels that families don’t use their time together wisely and, as such, he is a super-villain with family values.
At the film’s press day, Jeremy Piven talked about the appeal of playing a handful of different characters that show his range, all in the same film, being the misunderstood villain, how comfortable he is with green screen work, and how much fun he had working with Jessica Alba. He also talked about how totally fulfilled and grateful he is for his experience on Entourage, how satisfying it was to humanize Ari Gold, his desire to return to the theater for the right role, and how he’s hoping to impress his nieces again with a role opposite Miley Cyrus in the upcoming feature So Undercover. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: What was the draw for you, in terms of getting involved with the Spy Kids franchise?
JEREMY PIVEN: Robert Rodriguez is a genius, and I’m a huge fan of his. I auditioned for him, years ago, for the first Spy Kids. He’s a lover of actors. That’s very clear, by the performances. If you watch any of his movies, you get a sense that people are doing their best work, and that’s not by accident. I think that he really tries everything he can to help craft the best performance that he possibly can. It wasn’t premeditated, in terms of, “I want to transition from Entourage into a movie where I play a handful of different characters that can show my range.” I just got lucky as hell.
Did you enjoy being the villain?
PIVEN: In the beginning, Danger D’Amo is leading the charge and helping to conquer the bad guys, and then everything is revealed. So, I’m basically playing the good guy. You’re trying to figure out a way to go back in time and spend more time with your father. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
So, he’s just misunderstood?
PIVEN: Absolutely, yeah. He’s fun and quirky, and you hate him and love him. That’s part of the fun of the whole ride with this guy.
Was it hard to adjust to all the green screen work?
PIVEN: No. It’s so odd, and I don’t know what it says about me, but it was so freeing and comfortable. It just felt like I was at home, in that style. I don’t know if spending so much of my life doing commedia dell’arte on stage and playing these larger than life characters, and playing many different characters in the same show, led me to this ‘cause it certainly felt like it. There’s no time with his movies. You meet him, and then you start shooting the next day, or in the next couple of days. We just whipped everything into shape. I pitched how I thought the characters would sound and look, and we started adding characters, as it went on. He said, “Can you play your father?,” and I was like, “Yeah! That sounds like fun!” It’s all about flexibility with him. He knows exactly what he wants, and yet he’s open to anything. That’s probably the rarest of combinations.
What was it like to work with Jessica Alba?
PIVEN: I didn’t get a chance to rehearse with Jessica, but I knew her from Entourage. Especially in this movie, she’s incredibly present and has such weight. She’s got a real reference to being a mom, at this point. She’s working on her second child. She’s also really funny, and I don’t think she’s had a chance to do that. It’s fun because the world gets to see this other side of her, which is really pretty great. She may have been doing comedies for awhile and I haven’t seen them. If it’s my fault, I apologize.
How did it feel for you to have to say goodbye to Entourage?
PIVEN: It’s just sweetness. There’s nothing bitter about it, for me. To be honest, had this last year not been the way it was, it would be really hard to let go. Ari was such a shark, and so aggressive and abrasive, but then he lost his wife. Losing his wife, in this last year, just gutted him. So, to be able to play the humanity of this guy, after all that, was just such a gift. I don’t want to be too greedy. I’m totally fulfilled with this experience, and grateful and joyous, and I’m embracing this transition into things like Spy Kids. I had the time of my life. I’ve never had so much fun on a set. So, I’m very, very lucky.
Is there anything with Ari Gold that you didn’t get a chance to explore, that you’d like to explore if a feature film does happen?
PIVEN: Well, before this season, I would have said, “God, would I like to humanize this guy and show how much he really cares about his family. Wouldn’t it be great, if the rug was pulled out from underneath him and his wife was leaving him?” But, it happened. Believe me, I didn’t pitch it. I guess I wanted it so much that I maybe, possibly, subconsciously manifested it. I don’t know. But where it ends, he’s faced with this conundrum, which we’ve all been faced with, and it’s not manipulative. It’s totally satisfying. So, I feel like it’s a great place to begin the movie, or not. If we were to end it, it would be a really nice, beautiful ending. And then, if it was the beginning, I think it could also be a great beginning. I know that sounds very cryptic, but it’s true.
Do you relate to any aspects of Ari, as a character?
PIVEN: What’s interesting is that I have some fundamental problems with the character. I can say it now. You can never say that while you’re doing it. I think his mantra is probably, “It’s always about the money, baby.” With me, growing up in a theater family and having them be so supportive, from the jump, and being a part of this theater community where the brass ring is working, wherever that is, and then to play a character where he’s not really concerned with that and is really just concerned with the monetary aspect of the job, and then to be identified with someone who is the antithesis of your energy and where you come from, has been a very interesting and surreal ride. When I see guys out, and they scream at you and smack you and are like, “This guy is the best asshole! You fuckin’ asshole, come here!,” and they grab you and take pictures with you while you’re in the bathroom, it’s weird. Kids who don’t know me as Ari will now come up to me because they’re connecting with Spy Kids. I’m introducing myself to this whole new generation, and there’s a real connection.
Are you looking to get back to the theater at all?
PIVEN: It just depends on the role. I would love to go back and do something. I was going to step into a play called The Motherfucker in the Hat, and unfortunately they had to close, but I was so looking forward to that. I am just in love with that play. It’s so genius. There’s this whole new crop of brilliant playwrights that are out there doing new stuff on Broadway. I can’t wait to go climb back in there. That’s what I do. There was maybe a misconception that that’s not what I do, but it is very much what I do. For the record, if you’re not a stage actor, climbing onto Broadway and tackling something like David Mamet is not an easy thing to do. It was amazing, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Now that Entourage is done filming and Spy Kids 4 is hitting theaters, what are you up to now?
PIVEN: I’m in the middle of just trying to impress my nieces, who think I work for the bus company because they saw a picture of me on a bus. I did an independent movie with Mark Pellington (I Melt with You), and then tried to impress my nieces again, by starring opposite Miley Cyrus (in So Undercover). So, basically I’m just trying to get some respect from my family.