When you’re on the set of the Entourage movie during its last frenzied few weeks of shooting late March of last year, it can feel a lot like the world of Hollywood make-believe has folded in on itself, like a piece of origami, the authentic details peeking through but also blending in into one cohesive unit. Extras buzz around in gladiator costumes and Bollywood garb, pretending to be on the sets of pretend movies. Actors playing actors cruise around in a convertible pretending to be on their way to screening of a pretend movie, albeit on the actual Warner Bros. lot.
The line between art and life tends to get fuzzy. There’s a craft service table, but it’s iffy whether or not it’s pretend craft service or, you know, actual craft service. Model Emily Ratajkowski (you know her from Gone Girl and, fittingly, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” music video), clad in a long ski jacket, mills around, plucking snacks from the craft service table. Okay, so that one’s real. The buxom brunette is just one of the many cameos featured in the HBO series’ big screen debut.
During its eight-season run, Entourage had been the most “meta” of shows regarding the business of Hollywood: a series starring actors about actors whose trials, tribulations and shenanigans making it in “the biz” satirized the real thing, yes, but one that – as anyone who’s been out to a Hollywood club, well, ever knows – didn’t have to satirize much.
“When the show ended, and I had a few years to look back at it, I realized how strong those lines really were blurred and how life was imitating art all over the place,” said Kevin Connolly, sitting in a wheelchair on set, at the time recovering from breaking his leg while shooting a cameo with Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson. Connolly reprises his role as Eric a.k.a. “E.” “You just don’t realize it when it’s happening. It’s something that you kind of feel after the fact.”
And things are about to get a lot more meta. It’s been nearly four years since we’ve seen the boys from Queens, Vince (Adrian Grenier), Eric a.k.a. “E” (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon). And the show’s big screen debut picks up where the show left off with stakes higher than Ari Gold’s blood pressure. On the day ComingSoon.net dropped by the set, the foursome were shooting a pivotal scene where Vince and company cruise the Warner Bros. lot to screen the fictional movie, Hyde, in which Vince both stars and directs – a make or break move for his fledgling career. Meanwhile, E is working out his relationship with on-and-off love, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and grappling with impending fatherhood; Turtle is a new millionaire but still ever the faithful serf to Vince and E; and Drama continues to do, well, Drama, this time landing a coveted role in Vince’s new vehicle.
“I’m kind of carrying the torch for a lot of struggling actors out there, and it really is like that,” said Dillon about the perpetually career-challenged Drama. “It’s a tough racket.”
Not tough? Getting back into full “Entourage” mode, at least for star Grenier.
“It’s a real treat to be able to come back and get the gang back together. It’s family. It’s like a big family reunion,” Grenier said.
“We always said, “Eight years and a movie.” How many people can say that?,” echoed Connolly. “So few people can say that. So we really are, we’re a lucky bunch.”
Not to be forgotten are the supporting characters in the Entourage universe, notably power agent, Ari Gold, brought to bombastic life by Jeremy Piven. Ari is now a studio head and integral in getting Vince’s movie made. Piven himself has spent three seasons shooting ITV’s “Mr Selfridge” in London (a fourth season was ordered in March), a departure from Gold’s ego-driven Hollywoodland.
“I had been so deep into ‘Mr Selfridge.’ I spent seven months a year in London,” Piven said in tones that are fractions of decibels of Gold’s signature yell-a-thons. “It’s such a different character and different show and different time and different energy that I kind of left [‘Entourage’] behind to be honest with you.”
But from the looks of the movie’s latest trailers, Piven has had no trouble making Ari Ari-er than ever, complete with top-blowing temper tantrums, a trait Piven copes with by practicing yoga. Seriously.
“Even to do yoga before you play him is, I think, essential,” he said as a practitioner of the Hollywood staple for over twenty years. “You have to kind of come from a very calm state.”
“Entourage” follows in the footsteps of its older HBO sibling, “Sex and the City,” transitioning from small to big screen. Both Sex and the City movies (released in 2008 and 2010) opened to tepid critical reviews but achieved reasonable commercial success, with the 2008 installment grossing almost $27 million in the U.S. and Canada in its opening weekend.
So, despite its rampant fan following and social media buzz, “Entourage’s” viability as a feature film will be the true marker of the show’s success, at least according to series creator and the movie’s director, Doug Ellin.
“I hope I’ve taken lot of time to make it if you’ve never seen the show, you can turn on this movie and you’ll know this is about a movie star and his friends,” Ellin said on set. “When I ended the show, I didn’t think, oh let’s try to leave it open for a movie.”
But it’s the type of art imitating life imitating art that has always made “Entourage” both a glam, bro-fueled dramedy for outsiders and a reality show of sorts for those on the inside.
“We always have to one-up ourselves,” Grenier said. “We have to because the audience really demands a fantasy ride. So, everything has to be very heightened and we have to live vicariously through these guys, who have the best lives in the world.”
“It was a struggle to get this movie made,” added Ferrara. “I don’t ever believe it’s gonna happen until we’re on set and shooting.”
Oh, and expect cameos – lots of cameos, among them Liam Neeson, Pharrell, Mark Wahlberg, T.I. and repeat favorites like Gary Busey, just to name a few, likely playing heightened versions of themselves. Again, meta – so meta that the crew continued shooting up until earlier this year, at the red carpet of the Golden Globe Awards, no less. Very fitting for a show known for blending the real with the hyper-real, the dream with the harsh reality of a Tinseltown, this time bringing fans into that curious amalgam to hug it out at least one more time.
Entourage opens in this theaters on June 3.