Visiting the set of Entourage, the movie continuation of the HBO series that ran from 2004 to 2011 and chronicled the exploits of a young actor and his friends in Hollywood, is a truly meta experience. On this warm day in March 2014, the film is shooting on the Warner Bros. Pictures lot – the studio backing the movie – and the scene being filmed is a relatively simple shot of our four main characters driving through a studio lot to get to a meeting with agent-turned-company-chieftain Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). The production is using the grounds of its own studio to play the role of the same studio in the movie, in a film about actors, filmmakers and celebrities in Hollywood. Whoa…
But that’s always been part of the charm of Entourage, the series, which had a habit of dropping real-world celebrities and stars into the weekly exploits of rising star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier, his best friend and manager Eric “E” Murphy (Kevin Connolly), his brother and bodyguard, also-ran actor Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon), and driver/weed supplier Sal “Turtle” Assante (Jerry Ferrara).
That habit has continued in the film as well. “Emily Ratajkowski is in the house, Russell Wilson was there, Mike Tyson dropped in and some of the old faces like Gary Busey and Bob Saget,” says Grenier when asked to name some of the celebs who have shown up. “It’s chock full of cameos. There must be at some point an extras reel of just cameos. There’s just so many. I think we set a record for most cameos in a film.”
“The cameos are insane…”
“The cameos are insane,” says Jeremy Piven. “You are looking over and you are playing a scene with Liam Neeson and he’s flipping you off. Or 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.”
As we stand in the increasingly hot sun (shade is a precious commodity in this section of the Warner Bros. lot) watching the boys drive slowly down a side street, only for the car to be sent back for another take, it’s a little surreal to observe this and ponder the fact that Vince and the gang are actually going to be on the big screen. Created by Doug Ellin and based loosely on executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s own experiences as a young, up-and-coming actor from the East Coast getting his first taste of the flash of Hollywood, Entourage was a solid little success for HBO but often overlooked in the shadow of the cable network’s other, more groundbreaking series like The Sopranos and Sex and the City. And yet here they are, more than a decade after the show premiered, making the boys’ biggest adventure yet.
“We wanted everything to be bigger,” says Ellin, who has written and is directing the film. “From the locations to the stakes the guys are dealing with. Everything is bigger. It’s like a supersized episode.” But Ellin adds that you don’t have to own all eight seasons of the series on DVD to enjoy Entourage the movie: “I’ve taken a lot of time to make it so if you’ve never seen the show you can turn on this movie and you’ll know it,” he says. “It’s a movie about a movie star and his friends and quickly you’ll know the characters and then you’ll follow the story I hope. That’s the plan.”
“We wanted everything to be bigger…”
The story this time finds Vincent about to risk his entire career on directing and starring in a $100 million would-be blockbuster called Hyde for the studio now run by his former agent Ari. If the movie fails, it could cost Vince and E their careers, not to mention Ari his job. “The drive of any of the stories have always kinda been, what happens to Vince is what happens to all of us,” says Ferrara. “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 (their drug cartel movie) Medellin. So now we’re just trying to right all the wrongs. 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.”
In a strange way, it’s all on the line for Entourage as well: if the show can successfully make the jump to the big screen, there’s always the possibility that more stories about the boys could be told. Kevin Connolly says that back when the show was first on the launching pad, he could never have imagined a scenario like this or the show’s enduring popularity. “Listen, no way you could ever in a million years have anticipated that it would be even a 10th of that,” he insists. “You do a pilot and you’re just hoping the show gets picked up. For it to be referenced on SportsCenter and that kind of thing has just exceeded all of our expectations times a hundred, literally. It’s been amazing.”
“We always talked about doing a movie,” says Dillon, whose Johnny Drama has provided most of the truly lunatic comic relief of the show’s eight years on the air. “I had a gut feeling that it could happen. I also felt that the show had legs. I feel that we could have done two more seasons easily. At least we are getting to do this and carry on a little bit. It really feels like we are picking up where we left off.”
In addition to the five principal actors, Entourage finds many of the supporting cast from the series returning as well, including Perrey Reeves as Ari’s wife Melissa, Rex Lee as Lloyd, Scott Caan as Scott Lavin, Debi Mazar as Shauna and Emmanuelle Chriqui as E’s long-suffering love (and mother of his child) Sloan, in addition to a father-and-son pair of investors played by Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment who Ari brings in to help bankroll Vincent’s movie.
It’s all played out on a much bigger scale than before, but Grenier says that’s part of the fun of making an Entourage movie: “Always climbing and always aspiring. That’s part of the joy of the show. We always managed to one up ourselves. 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.”
For more, check out our in-depth on-set interviews with the director and cast of Entourage:
- Adrian Grenier Talks About Returning to ‘Entourage’; Reveals Film’s Cameos
- Kevin Dillon Talks ‘Entourage’ Movie Story & Drama’s Evolution
- Director Doug Ellin Talks Crafting the Film’s Story & The Future
Entourage hits theaters June 3, 2015.