Last spring, Rotten Tomatoes visited the set of Entourage, the film based on the eponymous HBO series that ran for eight years and starred Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, and Jeremy Piven. The experience was, as you might imagine, a confusing exercise in what’s real and what’s Hollywood fantasy — made extra confusing by the fact that the scene we watched them film took place on the Warner Brothers studio lot as the Warner Brothers studio lot. Plus, there were beautiful people everywhere — not only the members of our beloved entourage of Vince, Drama, Turtle, and Eric, but also their real-life entourage, hanging around the set and looking fabulous. All of that is to say that spending time with Entourage can really mess with your mind. Staring into the eyes of TV star Adrian Grenier, it’s hard not to believe that he’s movie star Vinnie Chase, but, of course, now he’s movie star Adrian Grenier, so either way, it’s a reality-bending, albeit dreamy, Hollywood experience.
To prepare yourself for the Jun. 3 release of the Entourage film, we answered the following questions with the help of the cast and writer-director Doug Ellin.
The final episode of season eight of Entourage ended neatly, but with enough open threads that a movie, a la the Sex and the City franchise, could easily pick them up. Vince, having fallen for Vanity Fair writer, Sophia (Alice Eve), sprung a million dollar engagement ring on her and they were last seen flying to Paris on a private jet. Johnny Drama (Dillon) had found his niche as a voice actor in the edgy animated series Johnny Bananas, co-starring Andrew Dice Clay, and Turtle (Ferrara) is an accidental tequila tycoon. Eric (Connolly) dropped the major bomb that his on-again-off-again girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) was pregnant, and no one was sure if they would get back together (he did sleep with her ex-stepmother — not cool, E). As for Ari (Piven), he made the most drastic change, quitting his job and moving his family to Florence to enjoy the good life.
“It feels like we’re picking up where we left off,” Dillon said. Even though it’s four years past the series finale, the film takes place mere months after Vince impulsively flew to Paris to wed Sophia. The marriage didn’t take, so he’s back on the market — though Grenier imagines that things with Sophia didn’t end too badly. Also back from Europe is Ari (no word on Mrs. Ari yet), who has accepted the offer to take over as head of the studio for fictional chairman and CEO of Time Warner, John Ellis, who proposed the gig at the end of the series finale. Ari gives Vince 100 million dollars to direct and star in the film Hyde, a big-budget version of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story (for which a fun fake movie poster surfaced on the web a few months ago). Drama, whose Johnny Bananas cartoon fell into a ratings slump and was thereby cancelled, nabbed a big part in Hyde as one of the only humans, and Eric is producing the film. Turtle, now adjusting to life as a millionaire is still along for the ride. Or, more accurately, Turtle is still driving the car.
Ellin, who wrote and directed the series, made sure that the film was a self-standing story that non-Entourage fans could jump into. “I’ve taken a lot of time to make it that if you’ve never seen the show, you can turn on this movie and you’ll know this is a movie about a movie star and his friends. Quickly, you’ll know the characters and then you’ll follow the story, I hope. That’s the plan.” Since the plots of Entourage were always second to the relationships between the characters and the business of Hollywood, making the Entourage movie accessible is really about getting folks on board with where Vinnie & Co. are in their lives. “When I was doing the show, I was always, ‘Just go from where we left off,'” Ellin said. “It’s not The Sopranos or Game of Thrones, where the plot is everything. It’s about the vibe and the feel. And if you like being with these guys, we could figure out another way to take them.” Of course, for the die-hard fans, there will be plenty of Entourage callbacks throughout the movie.
By Hollywood standards, the movie Entourage was not that expensive to make (just compare it to Hyde). Most of it was shot on location in Los Angeles, which gave the production a tax credit, and, besides the movie within the movie, Entourage isn’t exactly a tour-de-force of special effects. That being said, the film version of Entourage is much bigger in scale than its TV counterpart, with more locations, more money, and more time to bring the scenes to life. “It’s more cinematic,” Connelly said. “There’s more of a scope. It’s an episode on steroids.” There’s also more at stake for the characters, with Ari having given Vince the chance to helm his own feature, even after the failure of Medellin. “If [Hyde] fails, he’s in acting jail, directing jail, producing jail,” Ferrara explained. “He might not ever get out. It’s all on the line.” For the actors, who’ve regularly stayed in touch since the end of the series, not much has changed. “The spirit is the same,” Grenier said. “The faces are the same. We’ve perfected the production over the years so it’s quite efficient. Everybody sort of knows what they need to do to accomplish a scene so it doesn’t feel different in that [regard].” Ferrara did, however, cop to feeling nervous the night before shooting.
Part of the fun of the TV show Entourage was the appearance of celebrities playing themselves as they floated in and out of Vinnie Chase’s universe. And the movie will not disappoint in that regard. “The cameos are insane,” said Piven. “You’re looking over and you’re playing a scene with Liam Neeson and he’s flipping you off, you know?” Many more will be revealed in the film, but we learned of a list of cameo appearances that included Emily Ratajkowski, Ronda Rousey, Russell Wilson, Mike Tyson, Gary Busey, Mark Cuban, Bob Saget, Mark Wahlberg, Tom Brady, Piers Morgan, Jessica Alba, Kelsey Grammer, and Ed O’Neill “It’s chock-full of cameos,” Grenier said. “I think we probably set a record for most cameos in a film.” Hopefully, anyone who doesn’t make the final cut will show up in a bonus reel.
A movie within a movie, based on a TV show about Hollywood. Can Entourage‘s self-reflexive nature get more confusing? “People over the years have asked me about the life imitating art and the blurry lines kind of thing,” Connolly explained. “When it was happening, I didn’t really feel that way, and then when the show ended, and I had a few years to look back at it, I realized how strongly those lines really were blurred and how life was imitating art all over the place. You just don’t realize it when it’s happening. It’s something you kind of feel after the fact.” Now, the Entourage guys just need Hyde to get a sequel and they’ll have another movie (within a movie, based on a TV show) on their hands. Maybe they’ll even host a set visit within a set visit.
Entourage opens Friday, Jun. 3, in wide release. See reviews for the TV show here.