The very funny, heart-warming comedy Last Vegas stars four Academy Award-winning legends – Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline – as lifelong friends who decide to reunite and relive their glory days in Las Vegas when one of them decides to get married to a girl half his age. As Archie (Freeman), Sam (Kline) and Paddy (DeNiro) try to convince Billy (Douglas) that he’s making a mistake, the four men quickly rediscover what made them such good friends, in the first place.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Jerry Ferrara (who plays obnoxious frat boy Dean) talked about why he wanted to be a part of this project, his first time meeting the guys at the table read of the script, being nervous about working with such legendary actors, and getting punch by Robert DeNiro. He also talked about taking on boxer Arturo Gatti for a biopic that he’s already in training for, re-teaming with director Peter Berg for a role in Lone Survivor, and reprising his Think Like A Man character for the sequel, Think Like A Man Too. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JERRY FERRARA: I’ve actually been a fan of Dan Fogelman’s writing. He’s a tremendous writer. I read it before I really knew who was playing each role, and what the four guys would be doing. I remember reading it and it had that sense of camaraderie. It’s hard to write camaraderie. That’s usually something that’s the actor’s job, but Dan did a good job of that. You felt these guys’ history, even in the script. I finished it and thought it was just fun. There was a little wish fulfillment. I could only hope, when I’m in my 60s, that me and my three boys from youth are going to go to Vegas, one last time. It got me, right away, on that level. And then, when you factor in who the guys are that are doing it, and who’s playing each role, it was almost better on the second read, knowing who was playing each role.
You’ve played bigger roles than the one you have in this film. Was this more a case of wanting to work with this talent, no matter what size the role was?
FERRARA: Yeah. Regardless of anything else, if it’s something that’s interesting to me, I don’t care if it’s a day of work or six months of work, I’m gonna want to do it. That’s why you do this. That’s what the fun of it is. I definitely saw some fun to be had with this character. It was a goal of mine to work with one of these guys, at some point in my career. So, the fact that I had a front row seat to watching the four of them work together, for the first time, I’m a part of history, by default. I had a front row seat, watching these four legends work together, for the first time in their careers. It was just a no-brainer. I didn’t have to think twice about any of this.
When was the first time you met the guys? Was it at the table read for the film?
FERRARA: Yeah, the first time was at the table read. I’m an early guy. If I’m supposed to be somewhere at 7, on time to me is 6:50. I was not like that in my 20s, but growing up, that’s how I behave. So, I got there at 6:50, and Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas were there already, with their scripts out. You never know what to expect. Table reads are casual. You’re there to have fun and just hear it out loud. But, I’ve gotta say that the five of them, with Mary Steenburgen, as well, were ready to go. They could have shot that day. That set the trend, for sure, right then and there.
FERRARA: It was actually both. There was a little bit of nerves, in the sense that I didn’t want to suck or freeze up. I’ve never frozen up or been worried about it, and this would have been the worst time to do that. By default, it made me more hyper-focused. Having a small part, it wasn’t like I had to go study my lines for six weeks, but I was so aware of the story and everything around me, out of fear of screwing up. But to their credit, once I got on set and was doing my scenes, for the first time, with all four of them, they defuse all of that. I don’t know if they do it on purpose, or if it’s the product of them being good guys, as well as good actors. They pulled me in and said, “Hey, I watched Entourage.” They defuse any of that and make you feel like it’s a level playing field. I don’t know if they do it on purpose, knowing that people probably come to work with them and look at them like baby giraffes, or if it’s a product of them just being cool, down-to-earth, humble guys. They just defused it all.
This is one of those characters that could have easily become very stereotypical. Was there anything that you wanted to be sure to do or to avoid, to make sure that didn’t happen with him?
FERRARA: Yes, for sure. I think everyone knows a guy like Dean, who’s the frat boy that’s on his own little trip in Vegas. I can even say that I maybe was a little bit like that, when I was 18 years old. I didn’t mind the stereotypical part of the character because I thought my job was to annoy the audience so much that when DeNiro punches me, they almost want to cheer. Me and my friends, or even girls, talk about guys like that and say, “Oh, he’s probably just really insecure. That’s why he acts like that.” I wanted to show all of that stuff that you never get to see, once the movie turns for my character. I wanted to show that he’s just really insecure. There were girls, so he has to drink to talk to girls and, in turn, he acts like an asshole. He’s probably a virgin. That’s how I played him. All the reasons why he’s that stereotypical guy is because he’s just a scared little boy.
Obviously, nobody really wants to be the guy that gets beaten up, either in real life or in a movie, but very few people can say they’ve gotten punched in the face by Robert DeNiro. Does that make it a little bit cooler?
FERRARA: I really feel like I have an acting guardian angel because I’ve always been blessed with unbelievable love interests, in my career. In this sense, no actor will say, “I’m excited to be in this movie because I get my ass kicked!” No one has ever said that. But if someone came to me and said, “You can pick any actor in the world to beat you up,” DeNiro would be my number one draft pick. So, my guardian angel appeared again. In a cool way, it is a memorable moment. I’ve gotten a lot of people talking to me about it already, just based on the trailer, without having actually seen the movie yet. I guess I’ll get some glory from it. At the junket in Vegas, I saw DeNiro and he gave me a hug, and then he gave me a little smile and a little body shot. That guy is the coolest, obviously.
What made you want to take on Arturo Gatti for a biopic? Is it daunting to take on a role like that and portray an actual person?
FERRARA: Last Vegas made me nervous, and I’ve realized that, if it makes me nervous, than it’s probably so worth everything. It’s probably going to be really interesting and great. And this movie is going to make me very nervous. It’s my favorite boxer. I’ve been a huge boxing fan since I was born, and Arturo Gatti is my favorite boxer, of all time. Getting the opportunity to play him is scary because he is a legend in his game. Just like these four guys in Last Vegas are legends, he is a legend in his sport. He’s a polarizing figure who was larger than life. It’s gotta be done very carefully, it’s gotta be done with a lot of respect for what he does, and ultimately, it’s gotta be done fearlessly. You can’t try to be safe and tap dance around it. You’ve gotta go for it. It’s at the infant stages of making the movie, and we’re gonna make it right. I’m starting to train now, and we’re not close to shooting yet. A lot of work needs to be done, but I couldn’t be more excited and nervous and terrified about it, which makes me even more excited.
When do you think you might start shooting that?
FERRARA: It’s tough to say because there are certain physical things that I need to put myself through, and certain creative script things that are going to take time. Being that he’s no longer with us, there’s just a lot of people that we need to hear speak, to paint the picture of exactly who he was and how he lived his life. We’re a long way down into the process, but we’ve got a ways to go. We’re literally painting the picture, as we speak.
Were you looking to take on a role that you could completely immerse yourself in, like you’ll have to do for this? Was that something you felt like it was time to do, in your career?
FERRARA: Absolutely! Three years ago, I may have thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I really wasn’t. It would have probably been a disaster. Even two years ago, I was closer, but no. At this point in my life, especially since Entourage has ended until now, I’ve felt nervous. Instead of fading into that, I swam against the current and I’ve gotten stronger for it. So now, as a 33-year-old who’s been around for a minute, I’m just ready for responsibility in acting.
FERRARA: He is just a genius. He did a cameo on Entourage, which is where I first met him. And then, he hired me for Battleship, and I got to know him, as a director and as a person. And then, in between Battleship and Lone Survivor, I really got to know him as a person. He’s just a great guy. I have the utmost respect for what he’s done in his career, but I have the most respect for him as a person. With Lone Survivor, it was a small role that he just kept making a little bit bigger. When that guy calls, if he says he needs me, I’m there. He called and said, “Jerry, I need you,” and I was there. It was great! He’s a master. He was one of my favorite directors, even before I knew him. Now that I get to pop up in his movies, it’s just another guardian angel looking out for me.
You got to revisit your character in Think Like A Man for the sequel. Once you learned that film was a go, were you nervous about reading the script, knowing that the first film was so successful and that sequels often aren’t as good as the original?
FERRARA: Yes and no. You want it to be good, but it’s so hard to do anything the first time, let alone the second time. I wouldn’t say I was nervous. I was excited to read it. I have two families now. I have an Entourage family, and now I have a Think Like A Man family. Just knowing that it’s all the same people involved, it’s not that the script was irrelevant, but the script actually happened to be great. It was nothing but excitement. It was like, “Let’s get the band back together and let’s do it.” The minute we walked back on set, it was easy. We just slipped right into it. It was like a family reunion.
Last Vegas opens in theaters on November 1st.