Salvatore “Turtle” Assante, as played by Jerry Ferrara on the HBO series Entourage and now in the movie based on the show, has probably changed the most out of the ongoing story’s five major characters. Starting out as the rather schlubby, perpetually baked driver and assistant for his childhood friend, actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), Turtle by the end of the series has transformed his appearance, found his footing in Hollywood, started a business and has become a millionaire.
That’s where we find him when Screen Rant arrives on the set of the Entourage movie in Los Angeles, but the funny thing is that – as Ferrara points out – even with his millions, Turtle still drives Vince around. We spoke about that and much more about making the jump from TV series to major motion picture when Ferrara jumped out of the car for a few minutes to hang out with the press.
We haven’t heard so much about the basic plot of the film.
Yeah. The drive of any of the stories have always kinda been what happens to Vince is what happens to all of us. But with this particular one, it really is all on the line, not only the acting reputation, but past mistakes or movies these guys have made, like ‘Medellin’. So now we’re just trying to right all the wrong. But our footprint and handprints are all on this movie. If this movie fails, he’s in acting jail, directing jail, producing jail. He might not ever get out. So it’s all on this line with this movie.
So does Turtle not have his own arc in the movie?
I mean everyone kinda has their own arc. Mine, I guess you could say, without giving away too, too much is more guy chasing girl element.
So there’s another romantic interest.
Sort of. You could say that. Definitely an interesting one. Everyone kind of has their own mini arc within the movie. But like I said, the main drive is always Vince and his career.
Adrian promised us some full frontal. (laughter)
I do believe there is full frontal Drama. You might not want to put that in print. That might not help our box office numbers. All done comedically, of course.
Other shenanigans you can preview for us maybe?
I mean shenanigans is a good word. Let’s just say once we get to this beach party sequence it will be shenanigans.
After all the time off, does it feel weird to get back together doing this, or does it feel like normal, like you never left?
It’s actually weird that it’s not weird, if that makes sense. We got to shoot a couple of days in Miami before we really, really got started. I remember being nervous the night before and then nervous after we did the first take. And then, by take two we were just doing Season 9, like nothing else has changed.
It’s kinda always been that way with us. We’ve taken a year off in between seasons at a time. So it’s not that foreign. It’s like we never missed a beat.
I mean, look…I don’t speak for everyone, but it’s not like it does take crazy amounts of research to get ready for this. It really is more about just getting the sense of camaraderie back. Again, lucky for us, it doesn’t really take all that long. We’ve been doing it for a decade now. So that really it what it was, was just get as familiar as you can with the script and just get that camaraderie back with the guys. Maybe go out to a club or two.
I’m very curious from when you got the script to what you guys are actually making, did a lot change along the way?
Yes. A lot has changed. I guess you could say it’s always the way…not always, but the way Doug Allin has kind of worked. Sometimes there were some scripts of the show that just came out early and never changed. But for the most part, obviously Doug is a great writer, but he becomes even a better writer while he’s actually watching that scene and making little adjustments.
But yeah, things are constantly changing. Cast members are changing, who’s coming in, who’s doing it, who’s not doing it. So the script was always ever-evolving. It still is, to a degree. I think we’re shooting something Thursday that is still yet to be fully finished. And I think it’s like that with a lot of movies.
Was that a way Doug worked on the show, too, or you just didn’t have time to have that kind of freedom?
As far as I remember, Doug always wrote as many as he possibly could until we started shooting. The problem is he also needs to be on set and he’s responsible for so many other areas. So he would get as far along as he could with the scripts and then it was always kind of a race to the finish by the end. He’s very much on set still constantly writing.
Having Doug directing the film, is it similar to doing the show or is it a little different feel, different take on things?
I mean, look. I think TV is always kind of a producer’s medium, in a way. I’m not trying to slight directors in any way. But Doug’s kinda the guy. This has always been his vision from day one. So the fact that he’s directing is just…it almost makes it a little bit easier. He’s there for every single facet of every shot. So yeah, I think it makes it even easier.
Can you tell us a bit about the scene that you were just filming in the car, the context of that?
The context is it’s kinda very, very early on in the movie and we’re kinda setting up the story about the stakes I was referring to earlier, which were it’s more than just acting in the a movie. Now Ari is kind of running the studio. So it’s a different trip to Ari’s office. Where it used be where Ari worked for us, now we’re kind of walking into the studio where we kind of work for Ari. So it’s very much that kind of ‘Entourage’ walk to go see Ari, except the circumstances are totally different.
So Ari took the job, then …
Yeah. I think I can say that without getting…Yeah, I hope I can say that. (laughter) It’s out there! We are at a studio!…I think it’s safe to say he did take the job.
How nice is it to tell fans that, “Yes, it’s happening. We’re in the middle of it”?
It is a lot better than telling them, “We hope. We’re trying,” and then they kinda get pissed off at you when you don’t have a more definitive answer. It’s definitely a good feeling. It was a struggle to get this movie made, just like any movie. It’s not easy. I don’t ever believe anything is going to happen till we’re on set with the cameras rolling. So it was very nice to finally say, “Yes, we’re starting shooting in February and will be out in June (2015).” So it’s a good feeling.
You already mentioned that Turtle has a romantic interest story going in the movie. Something about the character, he was always trying to find his place in the world outside of being Vince’s guy. Is he still looking for that place?
Yes and no. in a weird way, I always thought he was kind of the last one to find that. Like when the story started, and even down to the pilot, we kinda knew Johnny Drama wanted to act and E wanted to be the business model, and Vince was an actor. Turtle never really had a direction. Toward the end of the series he did.
When you kinda open on him now, at the end of the series he’s a millionaire, and how they are trying to figure out how much money he has and he won’t tell anybody. So it definitely is a full circle moment. But what I love about it is the character is a millionaire, yet he’s still driving Vince to his meetings. The dynamic just has not changed. That’s kind of what I think the show was always about. No matter which one of these guys made it, they were all going to back each other up and go along for the ride.
Does Turtle still smoke a lot of weed?
Yes. (laughter) A lot has changed since we did the show. I mean there’s medicinal places now. There’s all sorts of vaporizers. So it’s more about how he smokes. But yeah, he still smokes weed. He smokes the movie version of weed.
10 years into this, are you still excited every time a new cameo comes by the set?
Absolutely. It never gets old. It definitely was one of the perks of the job. It was so hard early on to get people to do the show. They didn’t know what it was, like, are we making fun of them? Once they realized the joke’s not on them…
I always go back to this one particular day. It was like around Season 4, I think, where we had Kanye West and Sydney Pollack in the same day. I remember looking at that call sheet and it was all of us, and then looking down at the cameo list like, “Wow. Where are you ever going to shoot something where you got Kanye West in the morning and then you got Sydney Pollack coming in after lunch?” It’s the most unique thing I’ve ever been a part of.
With Ari running the studio now, how has that changed the dynamic to the characters and working with Jeremy as an actor?
Well, like I said earlier, Ari used to work for Vince and the guys as his agent. And now, as the studio head, and now that we’re doing a movie for Ari, we’re kind of his employees. So it definitely changes the dynamic between all of us. You’d have to ask Jeremy what’s changed for him. But for us, it’s kind of always…watching the Ari character now, it was kind of what he was always driving toward, was to rule the universe. I think he’s actually said that line probably 30 times in the show before. So he’s definitely running his own little Hollywood universe.
Who breaks (character) the most off set between you guys? Or who tries to make everyone break the most?
It’s a pretty even matchup. I don’t break too much, because when I break it’s over. It takes me an hour to recover. I’m one of those giggly sons of bitches where I just can’t stop. It’s pretty even. Luckily, there’s not too many…Well, it’s even.
Talk a little bit about the rating. We were talking earlier about whether it’s PG-13, whether it’s R. Are you shooting any bits that could be unrated?
I think it’s R. I think that’s always kind of been the world. Yeah, I think it’s R, but I think it could easily be PG-13. I think that’s way above my pay grade as a decision…I think it leans more toward R.
Entourage is in theaters June 3, 2015.