Entourage film director braces for Twitter storm from haters of the TV series
Can the big-screen version of Entourage live up to the TV series? The film's director braces for the inevitable backlash
A lot of people hate Entourage, and Doug Ellin knows it. But he thinks they have it all wrong.
He points out that the show had been nominated for multiple Emmys and Golden Globes for comedy series. That critics loved Entourage when it started in 2004 and that its ratings were way better than HBO's zeitgeisty show Girls.
"And for some reason, somewhere along the line, this hate started propagating that actually it wasn't good," says Ellin, who created the eight-season-long series and the Warner Bros movie version. "It's really silly and really stupid. I will never understand it. The truth is, I'll stand up in front of anybody and say this is a smart show that really shows this town how it is."
For a while, Entourage did seem unstoppable. Its most popular season averaged 8.4 million viewers per episode, according to HBO - far more than the 5 million average for the top season of Girls. Fans were so obsessed with the dudes' lifestyle they started frequenting hot spots seen on the show - Urth Caffe, the pool at the Roosevelt Hotel, Koi.
And as women did with Sex and the City, guys picked members of the Entourage posse with whom they most identified: movie star and ringleader Vinny Chase (Adrian Grenier), earnest and loyal manager "E" (Kevin Connolly), goofball underdog Drama (Kevin Dillon) or weed-loving Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).
But more than a decade after the show premiered, it seems cooler to make fun of the guys than to try to live like them. Social media are filled with harsh one-liners about Entourage and its fans, many coming from the popular parody account Assistant2Ellin: "They won't be showing Entourage in theatres without stadium seating because there's no way you'd be able to see the screen over the fedoras."
To sum up the haterade: somewhere along the line, a show about four wide-eyed guys with working-class roots and big Hollywood dreams turned into a show about four shallow, self-centred bros who objectified women, spent lavishly and generally didn't have a lot going on upstairs. And while the Twittersphere is notoriously fickle, that anti- Entourage sentiment could affect box office.
Sex and the City is a key comparison, because it was when that wildly popular HBO series made such a successful leap from television to the big screen that the Entourage crew began mulling a movie of its own.
"That was really when we all started talking about it," says Dillon. He was sitting at a conference table alongside Connolly, Grenier, Ferrara and Ellin at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, where a couple of scenes in the film were shot.
"At that stage we were thinking, 'Hey, if they can do this well, why wouldn't we be able to?'" Dillon says.
"If we did half as well," Connolly says, "we'd be …"
"Yeah, I would love to stop talking about Sex and the City," Ellin interjects. "It's one of the most successful movies of all time. I think it's the No3 R-rated comedy of all time."
"Really?" Ferrara asks. "I just got scared."
Ellin started writing the Entourage screenplay at the urging of Mark Wahlberg 18 months after the show wrapped in 2011. (The actor was a producer on the show, and it's widely assumed the programme was loosely based on his own experience of moving to Hollywood with his buddies from South Boston).
"I would see Mark in a restaurant, and he's like, 'I've made six movies and US$100 million while you haven't written this movie'," Ellin recalls.
"I always felt there was a movie there, even before the Sex and the City thing happened," Wahlberg says over the phone from a movie set in New Orleans. "And, hey, I was not a fan of Sex and the City, but I watched all the episodes and both movies because my wife liked it. I understand this is a male-driven show, but I think a lot of women like hearing what it's like when guys are talking with their friends unfiltered."
The Entourage movie essentially begins where the series ended. Last we saw Vinny, he had decided to marry a Vanity Fair writer. But surprise. That didn't take. So he's now decided he wants to direct and gets his foul-mouthed former agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) - now a studio head - to bankroll his debut. When Vinny's flick goes over budget, Ari is forced to beg some Texan financiers (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment) for more money. There are still big mansions and flashy rides, including a Cadillac Ciel convertible, a concept car that General Motors made a prototype of specifically for the film.
Plus hot girls. Lots of them. In pools, yachts, beds, in various states of undress. And the studio is using beautiful women to promote the movie, too, hosting an early screening at the Playboy Mansion last month.
That's why Emmanuelle Chriqui - who plays E's pregnant on-and-off again girlfriend Sloan in the movie - doesn't have a problem with the depiction of the females in the film. She doesn't think the movie makes "girls look super great" but believes it's an accurate representation of women in Hollywood.
"Let's be real: that's what our … town is made of, and it shocks me all the time," she says in an interview without her male cast mates. "Those little hanger-on-ers, those little bikini-clad, perfect bodies that show up and flirt with the 50-year-old that they think is gonna make them a star? There's so many of those it's disturbing. I see it way too often. And the thing is, Doug isn't afraid to show it."
Indeed, Ellin gets testy when asked whether he believes Entourage depicts women in a negative light.
"I don't think that four guys in a car who say they would like to [have sex] that night are treating women poorly," he says. He brings up Lena Dunham's Girls, noting that he thinks the actress' character "has had more sex than Vince and has been naked more than Vince, for sure".
"Listen, Kim Cattrall's character on Sex and the City - she was hooking up with dudes left and right," Connolly says.
"This is not a Christian values show," says Grenier.
"Just because they're guys that are out on the hunt to meet up with chicks and have a good time doesn't make them such terrible guys," Connolly says.
All of the film's stars seem especially loyal to Entourage - even though they were part of high-profile salary disputes before production began. In 2013, Wahlberg told a TMZ cameraman that the movie would move ahead "as soon as the guys stop being so greedy".
Which isn't to say that they weren't eager to jump back into the Entourage world. Since the series wrapped four years ago, none of its stars have ended up with careers remotely resembling Vincent Chase's. Dillon starred in the CBS sitcom How to be a Gentleman, which was cancelled after one season. Ferrara booked some small roles in films such as Think Like a Man and Battleship.
Connolly made an ESPN documentary about the New York Islanders. And Grenier, an active environmentalist, is working on his own movie about a whale.
Ellin is nervous. Nervous because Entourage reruns don't play that often on HBO. But he's encouraged that the movie played well with test audiences. In fact, he was so proud of the 96 per cent the film scored during testing that he actually framed the feedback sheets.
"If you talk to real people instead of little, bitter guys sitting on their Twitter accounts - real guys who have friends go, 'This is my friends. This is how I grew up'," says Ellin.
Los Angeles Times
Entourage opens on June 18