Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Entourage" the Movie


The Return of The Pack

June 2015

Entourage has been with us for more than a decade, believe it or not, and this month, after a four-year hiatus, it makes the leap from a thirty-minute vehicle for boobs and product placement to a ninety-minute vehicle for boobs and product placement. So we sent GQ's Drew Magary to glom on to the boys and find out how it feels to have Vinny Chase & Co. back in our lives—just like we all wanted! Right?

Re-introducing the older, not-so-wiser Entourage gang: from left, Ferrara, Connolly, Grenier, Piven, and Dillon.

You probably want to know why. Of all the questions raised by the existence of the upcoming Entourage movie—does Ari yell? does Vinny do the fuckin' movie? does everyone get laid in the end?—the most pressing, most fundamental one is why it even exists in the first place. Why is this movie here? Who asked for it? After eight seasons on HBO, is there really anything more we need to know about Vinny (Adrian Grenier), E (Kevin Connolly), Drama (Kevin Dillon), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Ari (Jeremy Piven)?
The first answer to all of these questions, of course, is Tough shit—THEY'RE DOIN' THE FUCKIN' MOVIE! But there is another answer, one that becomes evident if you do what I did and drop back into the Entourage world for a little while. One day this spring, I tagged along with the gang as they pimped the movie at Austin's South by Southwest festival, and right away that mid-aughts era of brotastic American escapism—the fancy cars, the sexy ladies, the VIP areas, the fist bumps—came rushing back. It didn't last, of course. Nothing about Entourage is built to last.
And yet that brief dip was enough for me to (re)discover Entourage's genius—I'm using "genius" lightly here—which I will divulge to you, even if you are too cool to give a shit about it.
But first Jeremy Piven is gonna lecture me about acting.
I arrive at the Austin Motel at eight in the morning for the cast's GQ photo shoot, with the idea of serving as their henchman for the day. I will shine their shoes, fetch their dry cleaning, obtain the choicest weed, and perhaps even develop a series of hand signals to relay to them when I see a woman with whom they might wish to have sex. OMG BRUNETTE AT TEN O'CLOCK [furious butterfly hand-puppet].
The problem is that there are many people here who are already prepared to assume similar duties. There are security guards and drivers and managers. Off to the side, Kevin Dillon is getting his arms and hands massaged by a crew member. (He still has chronic pain from a neck injury he suffered during a movie shoot twenty-three years ago.) So his needs—including the hand job, so to speak—are already being taken care of. Three of the cast members have brought a personal manager or an assistant or publicist along with them. "They're so self-sufficient," one publicist tells me, which is an amusing thing to hear about someone through a publicist. All the same, my services are not urgently required.
"I feel so relaxed right now," Grenier says. "Nobody's making us do anything."
Over near the water station, an assistant is rubbing bronzer on Piven's ankles. While the other guys are easy company in real life, Piven is so formal and serious that it almost feels like a put-on, as though he needs to be the precise opposite of Ari Gold so that people won't mistake him for the character. This results in a conversation about acting between Piven and me in which, despite my best efforts to ingratiate myself, everything I say winds up being hilariously wrong. Observe:
"One of the forms [of acting] that I did was commedia dell'arte," he tells me, "which is an Italian form where you're in one of four states—happiness, sadness, anger, or fear—at all times, and you're ramped up to a 10, you know?"
"Like, very melodramatic?" I ask.
"No," he says. "No disrespect, that's exactly what you're trying not to do."
"Ah! You can tell me I'm wrong. I think of melodramatic as hammy."
"If that's your take on what I do..."
Fuck. "No, no, not what you do," I say, frantically trying to recover. "I'm saying the Italian form you were talking about."
"The Italian form is a heightened emotion that has to be rooted in sincerity. I ran into Tim Robbins, the actor and director who taught me the commedia dell'arte form, and he just laughed, because he knows that that character"—Piven means Ari—"is played completely in thecommedia dell'arte form. Now, if I were to explain that to the average person who maybe likes Ari Gold, I don't know—I don't even know why I'm telling you, to be honest."
Doug Ellin is the creator of Entourage, as well as the director of the movie, and I can tell by the look on his face that I have asked him a question that he is already sick of answering: Will your movie get a fair shake from critics? I have tried to phrase this politely—rude version: aren't you worried critics will shit all over this thing?—and he is doing his best to answer it politely.
Quiz: Which episode is this from? Trick question! It's from every episode! And also the movie!
"We were a very critically acclaimed show," Ellin reminds me as he sips his cocktail in a swank hotel bar. "We were nominated for six Golden Globes, five Emmys"—in fact, he's selling his bros short: it was fourteen Globe nominations and twenty-six Emmys—"but there was some type of groundswell that came from some strange place that suddenly we weren't, you know, popular or good. It's weird that people say: 'Are you worried about the critics?' I don't think The Sopranos would ever get that question."
He's right. The Sopranos definitely wouldn't get that question. And Entourage was an acclaimed show. In fact, it remains one of the highest-rated comedies in HBO history. And yet, even though it only went off in 2011, its cheap gay jokes, plentiful titty shots, gratuitous cameos, and extremelylow-stakes story lines (actual, mildly spoilerish plot summary of the movie: Vinny needs a few extra million to finance his movie, only evil Haley Joel Osment won't pony up because he's mad that Vinny boned Emily Ratajkowski) already feel like relics from another era. When I told a friend I was going to see the Entourage movie for this article, she said to me, "I hope it's the worst movie ever."
None of this means, however, that the market for Entourage has dried up. It still has tons of fans who enjoyed every season right up till the very end, who never stopped finding it mindless, harmless fun. And the truth about Hollywood is that simply getting anything made is a big deal—so if your thing makes enough money for you to make another one, then you do that, too. It takes an insane amount of artistic purity to resist, and artistic purity has never been what Entourage is all about.
As a bonus, the movie also functions as a blank canvas for endless luxury-product placement. One particularly fancy Cadillac convertible gets so much screen time, it should get a SAG card. Mark Wahlberg himself—surrounded by his crew of Boston meathead friends—makes a cameo in the movie for the sole purpose of plugging his family's terrible reality show. Entourage is a mighty river from which many brands flow, which makes it rare and extremely valuable. It's valuable to Grenier, who's trying to get a small documentary off the ground about whales. (Leo kicked in the last bit of funding.) It's valuable to Ferrara, who got in fighting shape to play boxer Arturo Gatti but hasn't been able to get the movie made yet. ("The scary thing is that I'm kind of getting older now. I'm kind of Gatti past his prime.") It's valuable to Connolly, who's producing and starring in a Fox pilot. It's valuable for Dillon, because it finances his lifestyle of being super nice and just kinda chilling out. And it's especially valuable to Ellin, who just went through a rough divorce.
"I mean, getting divorced—I just gave it all away," he tells me at the bar. "When you go through a divorce, you really start lookin' at every fuckin' dollar, you know?"
It's time for dinner, and Warner Bros. has rented out part of a trendy Austin restaurant with a private booth in the back for the cast and me. A circular booth. A BALLER booth. The kind of booth from which a Mafia don orders hits. I scooch in and sit between Connolly and Piven. I stretch out my arms and rest my hands on the top of the banquette, because that's a boss move. We are holding court.
The owner of the restaurant is personally overseeing our table. No need for menus. Ordering is for peasants and losers. Food and drinks simply materialize before us. We toast: TO US. Life in the Entourage universe is just the space between toasts.
Piven, wearing fancy glasses and a suede fedora, loosens up and talks about the apartment he has in London: "I usually rent a flat, as they call it." As plates of decadent food are shuttled to and from the table, we cover a lot of strong guy-conversation topics, like Jay Cutler ("I don't like him," says Ellin. "I don't think he's got heart") and Dr. Dre ("I still can't get over how big Dr. Dre is," Ferrara says. "He's just jacked") and Seinfeld (Piven tells me that he got cast in an episode—he played an actor hired to play George Costanza—despite not ever having watched the show) and movies like Boyhood ("I thought it was the most boring movie I ever saw," Dillon says. "I was unimpressed").
We're joking and laughing and everyone feels included. Suddenly I remember why I enjoyed the show during its first few seasons. You, the bro watching at home, get to feel like the Fifth Beatle, or Fifth Turtle. You belong. I belong. At least I feel as if I do. That's the brilliant illusion.
Dinnertime is almost up, but I manage to say a few more wrong things to Piven.
"If people mistake you for Ari in real life," I say to him, "it's a sign that you've done your job well!"
"I guess there is some sort of compliment in there," he replies. "I really wish I was evolved enough to get it."
Later on, I make a Mumford & Sons joke. "I'm sorry," he says, "but I actually really like Mumford & Sons, man."
And then I spill my glass of water. Time to move on.
We leave the restaurant through the kitchen, past a row of smiling chefs who have lined up to wave good-bye, down through a service elevator, out to a loading dock where our SUVs await to whisk us away, leaving no trace of our presence for the little people to detect. I feel like I just went through the GoodFellas tracking shot, only in reverse.
At tonight's Tumblr Fuck Yeah Party Sponsored by Entourage—that is the party's official name—we coast past three separate lines of people waiting outside the club and are escorted to the top level, where we are ushered into a roped-off area with tasteful plush furniture. I get a wristbandand a special hand stamp. This means that I am important and fabulous. More drinks arrive. Randy Jackson shows up (Dawg!) and the crowd begins to swell. The cast poses in front of branded signage. Kevin Hart shows up with an actual entourage, including a tall dude in a bow tie and glasses who looks like Brother Mouzone from The Wire. Hart greets Grenier and the gang as we all observe the historic summit unfolding before us. More people pack into the VIP area, and I gradually retreat into a bunch of potted plants. I head for the bathroom, and in line I meet an Entourage fanboy named Jeff. I ask him why he loves the show.
"It's the life I wanted," he says. "I just missed out on it."
Later, I find another fan named Spencer, who's rocking a white satin football jersey. Are you excited for the movie? I ask.
"I'm fuckin' excited as hell. Yeah, to see some titties and see some fuckin' extravagant spending of money."
And that's the key. Spencer wants the life. Everyone wants the life, and everyone wants to feel as though it's right there for the taking, even though it's not. And Ellin and the cast have the life. They can slip in and out of the life as they please so long as the show continues to exist, somehow. Would you give that up if you didn't have to? Would you give a shit if critics rolled their eyes at you? Of course not. That, my bros, is why Entourage keeps on going.
But now it's time for it to go on without me. The boys need a bit of private time. My Maserati has turned back into a pumpkin. I leave the bright lights and the SUVs and the gorgeous women behind, and I climb into an uberX that takes me five miles outside town, far beyond all the cool places to stay. I walk into my generic hotel and I ride the generic elevator up to a generic hallway that leads back to my generic existence.
And when I get to the door, my key card doesn't work.
Drew Magary is a GQ correspondent.
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The 10 Best Outtakes From GQ's Entourage Story

June 2015

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros
Before I get on with emptying my notebook from this month's Entourage story in GQ, I would first like to present a formal review of the Entourage movie. I am married man with three kids. I got to watch this movie alone. In a private screening room. With no teenagers in the audience. There were no ads before the movie. The movie was just 96 minutes long (director Doug Ellin told me that when he informed Warner Brothers execs that the movie's running time was so short, they applauded him). And there was lots of gratuitous nudity. And a cameo featuring Gronk in an arm cast.
Three stars.
In all seriousness, I think critics will pile on this movie for the same reasons people complained about Entourage in its waning seasons... but I really did enjoy watching it. There are some funny lines, and the whole thing is fast-paced. It's vacant, but fun, a quality that is remarkably undervalued in pop culture now. Zack Snyder wouldn't know fun if it was shot in grey tones on digital film stock. Entourage is a movie designed specifically for sweet guys to bro out to (Russell Wilson makes a cameo, which makes perfect sense), and even though the word "bro" is basically an epithet in pop culture these days, bro-ing out can still be pretty fucking fun. Nobody on Earth has ever turned down free bottle service.
Okay, now let's see what other fascinating Entourage tidbits didn't make the cut. I know you people just can't get enough of Vinny and the crew...
1. All the other guys in the Entourage cast refer to Adrian Grenier as "Aydge." Seems crucial that you know this.
2. As I noted in the original article, my plan going in was to trail the cast around Austin all day in hopes of being a lackey. A stooge. A flunky. A Turtle. Entourage's entourage. But that didn't really work because everything the guys needed was essentially already taken care of. And besides, any sane person knows that having and maintaining an entourage is a complete pain in the ass. Much better to just do the shit yourself. At one point during our GQ photo shoot, Kevin Connolly got all the guys to sign a DVD box set of the show to give to charity, and he needed the ink to dry. So he handed it to a Warner Bros. rep while he got his picture taken for GQ. I asked to hold the box. I wanted to be the box boy.
"Okay," the rep said, "but if you smear it, he's not gonna do any more press." (It was an idle threat. Kevin was still totally gonna do all the press.)
So I took the box and held it upside down. Immediately, the discs began the slip out, but I recovered in time. Everyone saw me fuck up, but no matter. I held the box high in the air. I was prepared to plant that box on the surface of the sun if I could get the silver ink to dry in a timely manner. That's just how seriously I took my bitch duties.
"If you put it down," the rep told me, totally seriously, "put it into my hands." She was nervous. I don't blame her. She entrusted this box to an unproven box holder.
"Can I have it back now?" she asked me.
"Do I have to give it back?"
She took the box back and cradled it like a baby.
2a. Later on, I volunteered to get the boys lunch. And not just any lunch, but lunch from Franklin BBQ, one of the best BBQ joints in America. I wanted to up my degree of difficulty for toadying.
"They will have eaten," another rep told me. "It's not necessary."
Yes, I explained to her, but I was taking INITIATIVE.
"Right. Well, they didn't ask for it, so..."
Dessert! No one said shit about dessert. That wasn't infringing on any personal boundaries. So I headed over to Franklin BBQ anyway, because they sell very small pies that are very delicious.
I walked up to the front door of the restaurant, which turned out to be closed for a private event. A man in red shirt stood guard by the door.
"Are you here for the Verizon event?" he asked me. "We're normally closed on Mondays."
"Oh, can I just get pie?" I asked.
"I'm actually picking up food for the cast of a movie," I told him in hushed tones.
"Sorry, man."
"It's actually for Entourage, if you must know."
"Sorry, man."
"Do you know of any other places that sell very small pies?"
"I'm sorry. I'm not from here."
Shit. I fled the restaurant and doubled back across town. I tried to get cookies for the guys instead, but the only joint I could find had big, shithead cookies. Cookies as big as dinner plates. Not appropriate cookies. There was also a hot sauce emporium on Sixth Street that sold nothing but hot sauce, which is a lot of hot sauce. I ran in and grabbed six bottles of green cactus sauce—hot enough to be manly, but not scorching.
"I'm actually giving this to the cast of Entourage!" I told the woman behind the counter.
"Is Entourage still happening?" she asked.
2b. Then I got everyone in the cast some swag. I ran over to the Austin convention center merch booth and picked out t-shirts. There was an official SXSW shirt with a bull on it, and another one with a fist surrounded by lightning. I had trouble choosing. The clerk recommended the lightning fist for the cast. In dark blue. I got the blue lightning fist shirts and tucked them into a canvas swag bag, along with a free pamphlet extolling the virtues of Bitcoin.
The Warner Brothers rep was concerned. "The guys are having a blast," she said to me, "But they didn't want to make it seem like they made you do stuff. Cuz they're so nice. They were starting to feel like it would make them seem like assholes."
Let the record show: They were NOT assholes. In fact, when I awkwardly delivered their shirts to them, they seemed legitimately excited.
"Oh my god. That's a cool T-shirt," Piven says. "Just a great, classic T-shirt, and it's a great material."
Brilliant. My gambit is working exactly as I had planned.
"That T-shirt—I think that might go the distance," Connolly says. "I could see that bein' in the closet for a long time."
Fuck yeah. I got closet status.
3. For the piece, I was allowed to stand by and observe while the cast, along with Ellin, were interviewed in the courtyard of the Four Seasons by a blonde reporter from YoungHollywood.com. (Sample question: "Let's define love."). Ellin seemed visibly displeased that the TV crew didn't have a seat set up for him for the interview.
There was a security guard there who had established a one-man perimeter near the cast, to shoo away some of the onlookers. A gaggle of bros came a bit too close to the set for the guard's taste. He looked at me and gestured toward the onlookers.
"They with you?" he asked me. Me? FUCK NO. Get those douchebags out of here.
The security guard whispered "stand by" into a mic and then had the bros move back. He was super serious when he did it, too, like he was guarding Obama.
4. While I was having dinner with the cast at Swift's Attic in Austin, the guys' assorted girlfriends and fiancés sat at their own table off to the side, from which they blew kisses and waved little waves to their men. They were all tall, skinny, blessed with perfect teeth and dressed in tight sundresses and/or shredded Def Leppard jeans. They could easily have blended in with the movie's many, many, many conspicuously attractive female extras. Seriously, watch the movie and count the hot extras... it's enough to make Michael Bay blush.
5. Doug Ellin is fascinating, and he's also an endless source of good copy. Entourage is the first feature film he has directed in seventeen years. His last effort, the small-budget 1998 David Schwimmer vehicle Kissing A Fool, nearly destroyed his career. The day of its release, Ellin told me over cocktails, "Fuckin' Roger Ebert is like, 'Doug Ellin needs to go to screenwriting school.' And I'm like, I worked my fuckin' ass off. It wasn't like it was Schindler's List. I made it the best I can, and I sold it to Universal, and my producers fuckin' love me. They hired me to take this movie and make sure it fuckin' got seen. And I did that. And then, from then on, it was this snowball of hell. I probably made a million dollars the year before Kissing A Fool comes out, and the year after it, zero. Nothing. I wanted to kill Ebert."
6. More Ellin! On Mark Wahlberg approaching him to create Entourage: "I was like, 'That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, a bunch of guys live off another guy?'"
7. One more from Ellin, on losing awards: "I remember the first time we got the Golden Globe nomination the first year. I was stunningly shocked. But by the time our sixth loss comes—like, we lost six in a row, like the fuckin' Buffalo Bills. You sit at these things, and people just walk up and go, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm really fuckin' sorry.' You feel like a fuckin' loser."
8. For his next project, Ellin is making am HBO biopic about Harriet Tubman. I feel like there won't be as much gratuitous nudity in that one.
9. Jerry Ferrara, on being a former fat kid: "I used to shop in the husky section. I cried. My mom would say, 'It's time to get back-to-school clothes,' and I would go back to the husky section for jeans." I feel your pain, amigo.
10. One last bit from Piven, a cool fact you may not know: Piven's niece is Pearl, the little girl from the legendary Will Ferrell short The Landlord. Pearl, the daughter of Piven's sister and director Adam McKay, is ten years old now, and she's already got the quite the personality on her. From Piven: "Let me tell you what she said at her birthday party the other night. Pearl just, out of nowhere, goes, 'I have the soul of an African-American soul singer,' and just stares at me. And I start laughing, and then I realize she's serious. She's serious."
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