Maybe you can have it all.
Or so says the Entourage season 4 poster.
Some would dismiss it as a tagline for an ad campaign, but it’s a lot more than that; it’s become a way of life — a rallying cry that’s been imprinted on the consciousness of any bro who has experienced high school, college or post-college over the last 10 years.
While it’s difficult to assess where Entourage falls in the pantheon of bro culture, one thing is abundantly clear: the show has affected us more than any other comedy — yes, even more than South Park — since its debut on July 18, 2004.
Not to say the show didn’t have its shortcomings (see: seasons six through eight), but, nonetheless, we will always remember watching old episodes in our freshman year dorms with a half dozen testosterone-ridden friends and blurting out quotes from every single episode.
However, what’s most unique to the Entourage legacy isn’t where or who you remembering watching it; rather, it was the intense character-imagining — the manifestation of ourselves in the character’s lives and bodies as they pilot us through the seductive bright lights of Hollywood — that transcended it from any television show before or after it aired.
Ultimately, living like Vinnie, E, Drama and Turtle — and, of course, Ari — was a dream, but it felt like a reality every Sunday night on HBO (or even if you were just watching it on DVD).
It’s this role-playing fandom that will always triumph over any of the show’s limitations, which includes the movie coming out next June.
Before we get there though, let’s look back and pay tribute to the show that helped define a generation of male psyche. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Entourage on its 10th anniversary:
Obama gives the Heisman Trophy
Did you know our commander in chief gave show runner Doug Ellin the stiff arm when he requested the president appear as a guest star on the show? While Barry O is far from the first “celebrity” to turn a cameo spot (see: Charlie Sheen, Russell Crowe, Kobe Bryant, etc.), he’s certainly the most notable name to ever receive an invitation to appear on the show, or any TV shows for that matter.
The Perfect Storm
While everyone knows the back-story by now — Entourage is loosely based on Mark Wahlberg’s experiences and the cast came together through a patchwork effort, some fans don’t know that fictional movie star Vinne Chase’s big break “Aquaman” was actually based on Wahlberg’s first major blockbuster, “The Perfect Storm.”
Director James Cameron, who was nice enough to do a cameo while writing the script for Avater — yes, the same movie that came out four years later, fulfilled the role of the infamous Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Troy).
Similar to real life, there would be no blockbuster sequel for Vinnie and the boys, even though the franchise kept chugging along without them.
No, Daniel Day Lewis never made a guest appearance, but one notable member of the cast found himself deeply entrenched in his character during the show’s production.
Jeremy Piven, who plays Vince’s agent, Ari Gold, told the Hollywood Reporter that he has trouble disassociating real life with his character’s onscreen bravado. The actor “convinced” actress Kate Beckinsale to agree to a project after calling several people at his agency.
“I started calling some people at my agency that got Kate on the phone immediately and worked this deal with him to get Kate Beckinsale a job,” he told the Reporter.
The real-life Ari makes an Ari-type demand
Piven wasn’t the only Ari pulling strings and making power moves. The real life agent that the character is based on, Ari Emanuel, demanded Piven play the role, making an overseas call from a plane in China to ensure HBO would work out a deal.
“Jeremy Piven plays me or take my name off it,” he reportedly said.
Sounds like Ellin — who is now represented by Emanuel — wrote the character to perfection.
Bombing at Cannes
Although Ellin has never specifically stated it, the show’s fictional film “Medellin” bares a lot of similarities to the 2006 straight-to-DVD film Southland Tales, which stars the Rock and Sean William Scott. Both films ran long (Southland is an egregious 145 minutes long despite its simple plot) and both ran over-budget. Most notably, both failed to reach theaters after getting panned at the Cannes Film Festival.
Moreover, a popular independent director was at the helm for each project — the fictional Billy Walsh for Medellin and Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) for Southland Tales. Both seemed overwhelmed with the task of doing a big-budget studio movie, at least Walsh did in the fourth season of Entourage when the guys shoot on location in Colombia.
Ron Jeremy plays a role
It wasn’t all fun and games for the guys, as I’m sure everybody remembers.
In the fourth season, Drama moves out of the house and into his own apartment, which in real life was the home of Ron Jeremy — perhaps the most notable porn star on the planet. Jeremy lived a few floors down from Drama’s apartment, but would visit the set regularly and sometimes fall asleep while watching the production.
Oddly enough, the show would get its hands messy in the porn industry a few seasons later when they introduced the guest cameo of Sasha Gray, who lingered like an unwanted sexually transmitted disease for almost an entire season.
Before we completely move on from the show’s darkest moment, it’s worth noting that the original pilot script eerily foreshadowed where the show was heading its seventh and eighth season when Vince’s career falls apart. Producer Steve Levinson remembered Ellin’s first script as “pretty dark in terms of where Vince was in his career. There was an edge to it. It was very representative of where we ended up going.”
After receiving some instructions from his bosses at HBO — more wish fulfillment, less negativity, Ellin submitted several revised drafts before finally turning around people who originally hated every aspect of the show.
With more focus on celebrity and fame — as well as Vince and his pals’ roots in Queens, the show consciously went after a younger audience.
It was a decision that not only saved the show, but ultimately catapulted it right alongside the network’s titans The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under.
While HBO executives simply wanted “more fun” from the script, they would have made a lot more revision requests had Ellin wrote a pilot based on Wahlberg’s vision.
“If they had done my version, it would have had a lot more violence and craziness that people might not have found entertaining,” he said.
Nonetheless, the star realized what Ellin and Levinson would come to terms with in the revision process. “Ultimately, you want to feel good at the end of watching it,” Wahlberg said. “Too much of it would have been a downer.”
Role of a lifetime
Despite his vision being put to the side, Wahlberg did play a monumental role in the pre-production. He sold Jerry Ferrara on the role of Turtle. “This role is yours to lose,” he told the New York native. “Go in there and fucking smoke these guys.”
Considering Ferrara’s limited acting career prior to Entourage, that wasn’t Wahlberg’s toughest sell.
Rather, that challenge presented itself as he sought to lure Piven into the project to play the role of Ari – a role he thought the actor was born to play.
“I had to convince Jeremy that this would be a career-defining role for him,” Wahlberg said.
Ironically, Piven didn’t think he’d get the part. His agent and the show’s casting director forced the actor, who was already downtrodden about the idea of “playing the ninth lead behind Turtle,” to read in front of Ellin and the rest of his crew.
“I thought the meeting was to kiss his ass because I thought Jeremy was a big star,” Ellin said. “The role was not necessarily going to be a regular, and I was being told: “You cannot have him. It’s that simple. He has to sign a six-year deal [and he didn't want to].”
Something clicked between the two sides and a sigh of jubilation erupted after Piven had joined on because the show finally had a ‘big star’ anchoring one of its lead roles.
“The worst script I’ve ever written”
The final product — the script of the pilot that aired on July 18, 2004 — had almost no story, according to Ellin.
“HBO was very adamant that this should not be a story-driven show,” he said. “I was like: ‘this is the worst script I’ve ever written. There’s nothing happening, they smoke some pot, they pick up girls.’ That was the script that got green-lit.”
The shows star Adrian Grenier, who plays Vinnie, was equally unimpressed when he finally got to read the script.
“There’s no character here,” he said. “There’s nothing for me to do.”
Ellin would eventually add some more depth to the character, but, if were being honest, Vinnie remained the most shallow character throughout the show’s duration.
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