'Entourage': 10 Never-Told Secrets

11:45 AM PST 07/20/2011 by THR staff
Joe Pugliese

In the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, the execs and stars of HBO’s “Entourage,” starting its eighth and final season, dish (finally!) on its history as a lens into Hollywood -- and the candid stories behind its stories.

What do Ari Emanuel and Harvey Weinstein think of the show that has immortalized their personas? In the new Hollywood Reporter cover story, that question and many more are answered. In an unguarded group interview, the execs and stars of HBO’s Entourage, now entering its final season, sat down with THR senior writers Leslie Bruce and Lacey Rose to reveal which Hollywood plotlines were true and who in the industry gets mad, calls with advice and offers the best real-life fodder.

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes THR's 'Entourage' Roundtable

1. ARI EMANUEL ONLY WANTED JEREMY PIVEN TO PLAY HIM – AND OTHER DEMANDS HE’S MADE
The role of Ari Gold was initially conceived as creator Doug Ellin’s former CAA agent, Jeff Jacobs. “Then I went into the initial pitch meeting and met [executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s agent] Ari Emanuel, who said, ‘All right, it’s Mark and his life. This guy is going to write it, and if it sucks, we’ll fire him and someone else will rewrite it,” recalls Ellin, who is now represented by Emanual. “I had never seen anybody in this business really talk like that. ... So I said, ‘This guy is a character. He has to be in the show.” The real Ari was also adamant about Jeremy Piven playing the part, even calling up HBO from a plane in China to ensure the network would work out a deal, saying, “Jeremy Piven plays me, or take my name off it.”

2. VINCENT CHASE IS NAMED AFTER VINCE VAUGHN
When Ellin began writing the script nearly a decade ago, he had his heart set on casting Vince Vaughn as the star. “It sounds crazy now because Vince Vaughn makes $20 million a movie, but nine years ago when I first started writing this script, I was like, “Do you think there’s a way we could get Vince Vaughn?'” said Ellin. “It was done completely as an homage to him.” He also acknowledges that the character has touches of Tobey Maguire (in storyline), Leonardo DiCaprio (in personality) and, of course, Wahlberg (in lifestyle).

STORY: 'Entourage' Final Season Details Revealed

3. HBO REJECTED THE SHOW AT FIRST, AND FEW OF THE ACTORS WANTED IN
Ellin’s first script had no fans at HBO when it was first pitched. Ellin recalls getting a call from executive producer Steve Levinson, who told him, “They hated it.” Levinson and Ellin both say it started in a far dark place, one they would ultimately take the show to several seasons later. “It opened at the premiere of Vince’s movie, everybody hated it and nobody knew how to tell him,” said Ellin. HBO executives kept telling them to make it “more fun,” and to focus on the wish fulfillment. Stars Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly and Piven were equally as uninterested in being involved at first.

4. SOME DREAM CAMEOS NEVER HAPPENED
While the show has had an astounding parade of guest stars, including James Cameron, LeBron James and Martin Scorsese, some a-listers actually declined the invite. According to Ellin, both Russell Crowe and President Obama were among the guest starts that didn’t come through. Ellin also mentions that he’d hoped for Charlie Sheen: “I spoke to his manager Mark Burg and he’s like, ‘Charlie loves it, he’ll call you back today,’” recalled Ellin. “I never got the call.”

STORY: How 'Entourage,' 'Smallville' Writers Tackled Their Series Finales

5. HARVEY WEINSTEIN DID NOT LIKE HIS DOPPLEGANGER “HARVEY WEINGARD”
It seems Harvey Weinstein doesn’t believe imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. After a foul-mouthed producer named Harvey Weingard appeared in season two, Connolly says he got an earful from the famously abrasive producer. “I’m at a party. Harvey Weinstein just came over and told me to tell my producers they’re dead. ‘Tell them if they ever mention my name again, they’re dead.’” Those lines made their way into an episode during a later season. Ellin said Weinstein called after the episode and said he enjoyed it.

6. MRS. ARI’S NAME WILL FINALLY BE REVEALED
Ari Gold’s wife, Mrs. Ari, has been a strong, opinionated character for the last seven seasons, but her name has never been revealed. This season, Piven says viewers will finally find out her name.

STORY: 'Entourage' Ending: Long-Running HBO Hit Films Final Scenes

7. JAMES CAMERON CAME ON BECAUSE....
The cast gushes about the many A-list directors that have appeared on the show, including Gus Van Sant, Paul Haggis and Brett Ratner, acknowledging that they often come on and are so happy not to be directing. But it is Cameron’s turn that, as Ellin put it, “gave the whole show credibility.” The show’s post-production supervisor, Janace Tashjian, had worked on Titanic with him. “I wrote him into a script, and she said, ‘What are you doing?,’” recalled Ellin. “I was like, ‘You know him.’ I never in a million years thought we’d get him.”  He was writing Avatar when he appeared on the show, and Ellin says he remembers the director coming out of his trailer holding up the Entourage script. He said, “How do you do this? It’s so simple. I’ve got all of these blue guys…”

VIDEO: Emmy Roundtable: Comedy Showrunners

8. THE SHOW STRUGGLED TO FIND ITS VINCENT CHASE
“The biggest [challenge] was finding a guy who was a believable star that wasn’t already one,” said Wahlberg of the show’s earliest struggle to cast the Vince character. Ellin acknowledged that nobody thought the show could find its Vince, which is why early on HBO brass kept saying, “less Vince, less Vince.” As the former HBO Chief Chris Albrecht remembers it, “If you didn’t believe that Vince is a movie star, then you would never believe the show.” Eventually, Grenier, who was a departure for the character since he didn’t share Wahlberg’s tough guy persona, was cast.

9. SOMETIMES JEREMY PIVEN THINKS HE IS ARI GOLD
While Piven likes to disassociate his off-camera character from his on-camera one, he has found himself channeling Ari Gold. He shares a story about running into producer Joel Silver, who was screaming into the phone as he tried to land Kate Beckinsale for a movie role. “So I pick up the phone,” said Piven, “and started going as if someone yelled, ‘Action.’ 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.”

STORY: Anthony Weiner Approached for Cameo on 'Entourage'

10. MARK WAHLBERG WANTS AN ENTOURAGE MOVIE
While the cast and crew were tight-lipped about the ending of the final season, they all agree a follow-up on the big screen is the goal. “I think with the success of Sex and the City, there’s a good chance people believe there could be a great movie here,” says Wahlberg. “I will fight to the end to get the movie made.”

Read the full The Hollywood Reporter Entourage cover story here and watch behind the scenes interviews with the cast.

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