Salary Fights, Porn Stars, Broken Bones: How 'Entourage's' Bros Got to the Big Screen

Hollywood's what's-real-what's-not TV series gets even more meta in the movie with contract clashes both real and onscreen, studio drama (ditto) and a slew of star cameos as the film's stars reveal what really happened.

This story first appeared in the May 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Adrian Grenier had been to the Golden Globes many times before. As the actor who played movie star Vincent Chase on Entourage — nominated for six Globes best-comedy-series awards during its eight-year run — he had logged plenty of hours on the red carpet at The Beverly Hilton. But at January's ceremony, as he smoldered for the paparazzi, there was something different in his demeanor. It was hard to put a finger on it — the change was nearly imperceptible — but it turns out he was acting.

"We were working," says Grenier, 38, of the day he and the rest of the Entourage cast turned up at the Globes, in character, to photobomb the event for an oh-so-meta sequence in the Entourage movie, Warner Bros.' $30 million big-screen adaptation that (finally) arrives in theaters June 3. "We showed up the night before to run through it — we choreographed it. There was a lot going on — you're on the red carpet with celebrities and actors and performers — but we had a job to do. We weren't there for the glitz and glam."

On HBO's Entourage, which ran from 2004 to 2011, the line between fantasy and reality — between glitz and glam and phony glitz and glam — always was blurry. But that's what made it such a favorite among Hollywood insiders (along with 3 million viewers). Every character was a carbon copy of an industry original. Vincent was loosely based on executive producer (and movie star) Mark Wahlberg. Ari Gold, the sharky agent played by Jeremy Piven, was not-so-loosely based on Wahlberg's agent, WME's Ari Emanuel. Kevin Dillon, who played Johnny "Drama" Chase, Vincent's less successful brother, himself is the sibling of a more successful star (that'd be Matt). Every week, the show featured scenes set at trendy Beverly Hills eateries, plot points torn from the trades and more industry name-dropping than one could overhear at e. baldi during lunch hour. Getting name-checked on Entourage became the ultimate professional accolade, way cooler than a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

"Most movies and shows that deal with the business border on insipid," says Entourage fan J.C. Spink, a manager and producer. "It was fun to see one where they got most of the stuff right. My friends and family back home could understand what I go through."


"If you play a character authentically, there's bound to be some confusion over what's real and what is fantasy. You just have to laugh," says Piven (left). Adds Grenier: "It's the best job on the planet. We get paid to show the world what it's like to live the lives of guys who are on top of the world."

The movie is more of the same, only bigger. There's a plot, kind of — Vincent is directing his first feature, the tentpole Hyde (as in Jekyll and …), while Ari, now running a studio, is battling the Texas billionaire funding the project (Billy Bob Thornton, with Haley Joel Osment as his son); Drama is having a crisis over his X-rated home video getting leaked online (worse, the Texans want him out of Vincent's movie); Eric (Kevin Connolly), Vincent's manager and childhood friend, is dealing with a pregnant ex-girlfriend; and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Vincent's friend and driver, has a crush on martial arts star Ronda Rousey — but never mind. Nobody watched Entourage for the plots. What's likely to critic-proof the 104-minute film, written and directed by series creator Doug Ellin, is that it's packed with glamorous locales (dozens during the opening credits alone!), more than 50 cameos (even Warren Buffett zips by in a studio golf cart) and countless shout-outs to indus­try names that will be meaning­less to anyone outside show business (take a bow, CAA's Michael Kives, who has two seconds of screen time and gets mentioned during Jessica Alba's cameo — even his house is in the film).

"I try to make Entourage just what Hollywood is — I really do," says Ellin. "The world has to be as real as possible to make it feel like it's happening. People watching the first season thought it was a reality show — a lot of people didn't realize it was scripted. And that's the goal: to make it feel exactly how it would feel if you were walking through the streets of Los Angeles."

Only now, on a 30-foot-tall screen.


"We played guys racing in the fast lane, which was what we were all doing. Looking back, it blended together," says Connolly, 41.

•••

So, whose big idea was it to turn Entourage into a movie? Nobody seems to know. Dillon, 49, recalls discussions as early as 2008, during season five — right around the time another HBO series, Sex and the City, made its big-screen debut (and went on to gross $415.3 million worldwide). "We all went, 'Hmmm, maybe we could do something like that, you know?' " he says. "We were often compared to that show. I don't know why — I never watched it. But we thought maybe we could do a film as well."

In the fake Hollywood of the Entourage movie, Vincent's directorial debut goes $15 million over budget and nearly gets shut down. In real Hollywood, Ellin's film had problems of its own. For starters, the 47-year-old writer-director was having trouble pounding out a story despite nagging phone calls from Wahlberg. "He called me every few months and said, 'Where's the script?' " says Ellin. Salary negotiations also stalled the project for months, and there were rumors of acrimony among the cast, particularly over how much Piven, 49, the only established star on the series, was being offered. Some of that strife leaked into the press — asked in October 2013 when an Entourage movie would begin shooting, Wahlberg told TMZ, "As soon as them guys stop being so greedy" — and spilled onto social media. "I will sign any deal that gives ALL the boys an opportunity to share in the upside of success EQUALLY," Grenier fired back at Wahlberg on Instagram.

In the end, a deal was struck that, according to sources, paid Piven about $5 million and each of the other actors more than $2 million (plus backend). "It was just a matter of ironing out details," Grenier tells THR. "The previous deal for the show was over, so we all had the right to negotiate however we wanted for the movie." And the way Grenier and the other actors (minus Piven) — none of whom had broken out beyond their Entourage roles — wanted to negotiate was as a team, which TV stars sometimes do but is more of a rarity in the film world. "We recognized that we had more leverage when we were aligned," adds Grenier.

The 34-day shoot, which began in February 2014, was more sprawling than the TV show, with scenes set not merely on the Warners backlot and at local restaurants but also in places like Miami, where Vincent throws a party on a $30 million yacht. But it wasn't all caviar and Jell-O shots. "We were doing a party scene at Turtle's house with cameos up the yin-yang," says Dillon. "We had 20 trailers, each for a different celebrity — it was like a small city. It was fun, but it wasn't really a party. As soon as they said, 'Cut!' the music would stop." In yet another case of life imitating Entourage, Dillon's favorite scene — in which Drama does a striptease with Channing Tatum — was dropped from the shooting script when Tatum canceled his cameo ("I did a lot of whining," says Dillon). But there were more serious snafus on set. On day 20, while shooting that celeb-packed party on the Rancho Palos Verdes estate that's supposed to be Turtle's digs, Connolly broke his leg fooling around with a football. "Kevin whispered to me, 'I heard something pop,' " says Ellin. "Kevin is one of my best friends, but immediately I'm like: 'Oh, God. This movie is dead.' " After some creative adjustments, though — in a few scenes where Eric was supposed to walk, he instead gets driven — the movie fans have been awaiting for four years finally was finished.

Almost.

Nearly a year later, in January — after editing on the film mostly was complete — Ellin decided to add one more scene: a bit where Vincent and his posse steal the show at the Golden Globes. "I just had this idea," he says. "I called Lev [producer Stephen Levinson] and Mark [Wahlberg] and asked if they could figure it out. They called the Globes, and they were awesome to let us on their carpet. That's millions of dollars' worth of free sets, you know?" The only hitch: Ellin failed to dress for the part. "My girlfriend told me to wear a suit, but I was like: 'I'm just filming — I'm shooting. I'm not wearing a suit,' " he adds. "Then a few hours later I start getting calls from people saying they can see me on Access Hollywood, and why am I dressed like there's a flood?"

He'll remember to dress better for the Entourage premiere June 1 at Westwood's Regency Village Theatre. And he might want to bring a camera to capture more red-carpet footage because a second Entourage movie is not out of the question. "Warner Bros. is ready to move ahead with the script," says Ellin of plans for a sequel. "But I'm not thinking about it till I see if people are into this one."

comments powered by Disqus