Almost a year ago, when the Entourage movie was filming at Warner Bros. in Burbank, I got to visit the set with a few other reporters. After watching the guys drive around the backlot to film a car sequence, we had a chance to speak with Jeremy Piven during a break in production. He shared some details on what the film’s about, how making the movie compares with the show, what it feels like to be back with the cast, how it’s been a bit uncomfortable getting back into Ari Gold’s skin, what it was like getting to work with Martin Landau on the show, reactions from fans when they meet him, and a lot more.
Where are we as the film starts?
JEREMY PIVEN: It’s kind of scenes we planted in the last episode. Am I going to rule the world or stay in Italy and continue to nurture the relationship with his wife? I think that we’ve kind of honored that and made a proposal and picked up not too long after that. it’s pretty true to what we know about Ari in terms of what the energy he would have would be like after sitting idle in Italy not having access to technology and to the work. So we pick him up in a very revved up state. I think one of the cool things that I hung my hat on in terms of Ari was that he had so much loyalty to Vince. I think that he believes in him. And, clearly, he did back in the day. So he will back anything that he wants to do creatively. Ari will fend for his clients, as you saw.
It’s got to be sort of cathartic to play a guy like Ari, who has…not no filter, but who is not afraid to say things. Is Ari still in that place or has becoming a studio head changed him?
PIVEN: As you know, being on your best behavior, I think there’s no hiding who that character is. And he will continue to operate the way he has. There’s only so much I can tell you, to be honest with you. I’m one of these people who would rather show you than tell you through the performance.
I loved you in this role and loved the character. I think you love seeing the excitement and the passion that he has for his friends. When you guys were getting ready to roll, were you already thinking about one-liners or ways you could make the character even more fully fleshed in a movie?
PIVEN: I was into Mr. Selfridge when I found out. I spent several months of the year in London. It’s such a different character and a different show and a different time, different energy, that I kinda left Ari behind, to be honest with you. So when I found out about it, I was deep into the Harry Selfridge world. It’s a huge hit over there and the rest of the world, and it’s picking up steam over here. I couldn’t be more proud of it. So, to be honest with you, I was so deep into Mr. Selfridge that I couldn’t and didn’t want peek my head out to even try to wrap my mind around completing Ari’s arc for my own health and safety.
Has it been uncomfortable getting back into that role then?
PIVEN: It has been uncomfortable.
PIVEN: They could study me and my physical state in terms of how stress plays on your body, because the reality is…For instance, if you are an incredibly reactive person and you are working on your lowest level, and if you continuously give into your dark side and are angry, and screaming, and breaking things, and you do that for hours and hours on end, you are going to be incredibly exhausted. That’s just the way life is. So the character was a blessing and a curse in the way that it is so fun to play him. And he is unstable. It’s cathartic, but at the same time, it’s incredibly draining. But I am so grateful to be able to ride with him again in the movie.
Being where you are coming off of that and coming back to this film, do you feel your performance affected how you play this character? Is Ari going to be different because of how Jeremy has changed?
PIVEN: Well, I think we are a sum of all of our experiences. My goal, everyone’s goal is to get better at what we do. So I don’t want to repeat what I’ve done. I only want to try to make it better. I think being over in England and acting with the best actors in the world at the beginning of Season 3, I hope that they’ve raised my game. Over there in England, they use the word proper a lot, but they use it for a reason, because they want to do things right. They go and study acting at a university. They go to conservatory. They work on the stage until they get their break. So I’m acting with the best actors in the world. So, hopefully I’m able to come back and give you a more super-powered portrayal of this character. That’s my goal. That’s what I hope to do. We’ll see.
This character is played like Commedia dell’arte, if you are familiar with that form at all. It’s one of four emotional states—happiness, sadness, fear, anger at all times. And that’s basically what Ari is. He just sort of locks into those emotions. And you play heightened emotions in a truthful way. If you look at what I’m doing…If you ask the average person, they wouldn’t know what that is or care. And that’s fine with me because I don’t need to reveal what my background is. It’s incredibly boring, to be honest with you.
But yeah, the theatre background has enabled me to inhabit that character and play him as fully as possible. And also, it’s a form that allows you just to kind of jump in and not doubt yourself. And that’s kind of the energy you need to play a character like this.
I read a column called “Best Episode Ever”, and for Entourage, I think one of them involved Martin Landau at the studio.
PIVEN: Well, Martin Landau is a guy that we’ve all watched for years. He’s a legend. To have him come just to be a part of our show gives us such joy. He lends such authenticity because of his connection to Hollywood. So to have a character like that, of that generation, mixing it up with he who represents someone with no background in Hollywood, who is basically a piece of foil, as Ari calls him, to juxtapose those two characters and their backgrounds and having them work together is, I think, just a stroke of genius.
My heart swells when I see a guy like that. I mean here he is in his 80’s, totally vital, presence. I saw him the other day and I said, “Martin, we so loved working with you. I hope you had a good time with us.” He said, “Oh, you wouldn’t believe. Whenever I travel all over the world, people always say, ‘Is that something you might be interested in?’” It just makes me so happy that people saw him in Entourage and he’s being exposed to a whole new generation of people. That makes me very happy.
Fan reaction is a big thing. When fans come up to you on the street, they’re expecting your character.
PIVEN: I think they do and they are very disappointed. Like, “Who is this guy?” They usually ask me what’s wrong and why I’m so bummed. It’s interesting, because I think I’ve been lucky enough to spend seven months a year in the UK and the cultures are so different. They immediately see you and address you as an actor. And I think in The States, for whatever reason, it might be an interesting study, and I don’t know what the variable for this is. I think that they…you know, maybe being in their living room for eight years, they associate you immediately with that character. And then when they meet you and they see that you are not that character, I think it’s a little confusing. And I’ve had people literally just circle my face with their fingers and go, “What is this? Who is this?” And they think that I’m kidding. And I get the strangest looks.
I grew up in the theatre. The last character I played before Entourage was Dean Pritchard in Old School, this sort of nerdy dean that had a chip on his shoulder. I was already a real working actor before we started this journey. I’m playing one of George Constanza’s slumpy best friends. When you play a character with power and energy, people lock into that and go, “Oh, this must be the guy.”
How do you unwind from being Ari? Do you do yoga?
PIVEN: I do yoga. I’ve been doing yoga for over 20 years and I love it. I think, oddly enough, you wouldn’t believe it, but even to do yoga before you play him is, I think, essential because, also, if you notice people when they are angry, they’re at their most calm. They are usually not gasping for breath the way people might portray them. they’re angry, but their calm. So you have to kinda come from a very calm state, which is very strange considering it’s such a juxtaposition to the way you see the character.
Speaking of Martin Landau, was there any actor you got to work with on the film who wasn’t part of the series that was very exciting for you to work with on this film?
PIVEN: I mean the cameos are insane. When you are looking over and you are playing a scene with Liam Neeson and he’s flipping you off. When you’ve got Kelsey Grammer and Ed O’Neill and every pro athlete and hip-hop star in the world, and it just goes on, and on, and on. And Jessica Alba is leaning into me, just crushing me. And it’s so fun. So I don’t know if there is a contest for cameos, but I would like to enter us into that contest, because there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t show up and go, “Why are you talking to me? Tell them!”