The Hollywood Hills loom like gentle giants behind us, cutting a silhouette against a sky the color of a robin’s egg. The sun hangs low like a radioactive grapefruit while a bird sings softly from its perch atop a giant margarita on the roof of a nearby Mexican restaurant. There’s barely any traffic. It’s a beautiful and peaceful late afternoon on the Sunset Strip.
“It’s the middle of the f - - - ing afternoon! Why the f- - - are these f - - -ers dressed for the f - - -ing nightclub?! F - - -!” inquires Doug Ellin, creator of HBO’s Entourage and director of the new movie adaptation of the series. At the moment, he’s shooting a film version of one of the show’s classic sequences, the walk-and-talk featuring all five of the core group. Ellin is dissatisfied with the wardrobe for the corralled young female models—all in heels and minidresses—who are being released into the frame at measured intervals, like handfuls of doves in a John Woo movie.
Ellin eventually decides it’s not that big of a deal (“F - - - it!”) and moves on with the shot. After all, this is Entourage, where the women are always a little hotter, the consumption is always a little more conspicuous, and the reality is always a little more exaggerated. For eight seasons Vince (Adrian Grenier), E (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), along with agent provocateur Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), navigated the hyperbolic universe of the show’s Hollywood, charting the ups and downs (but mainly ups) of Vince’s career and the accompanying after-parties and bro brunches, occasionally featuring the show’s one non-disposable love interest, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui). In the movie (out June 3), the boys follow Vince into the next chapter of his career: directing and starring in a film produced by Ari and bankrolled by a Texas tycoon (Billy Bob Thornton) and his son (Haley Joel Osment).
But right now the group is rounding the corner for what might be the last time, headed for a parked convertible that they will get into and drive off into the sunset (on Sunset), in a shot that mirrors the show’s title sequence.
“It feels like we’ve been shooting season 9 but on steroids,” says Connolly. “Everything’s just bigger.” Two and a half years passed between the series finale and the beginning of production on the film—a delay reportedly caused in part by contract negotiations between Warner Bros. and the cast—but the actors all say that the old rapport floated back to the surface once the cameras started rolling. “There was a moment there where it was like, ‘It’s been a while,’ ” says Ferrara. “I mean, it’s not like I had to research how to play Abraham Lincoln, but it definitely took a few takes for us to get warmed up. But then by take 3, it was like the show had never stopped.”
In consummate Entourage style, the first day of filming took place in Miami on a yacht the size of a battleship populated by impossibly attractive partyers. The show, which grew out of executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s early experiences in the industry, was never coy about its wish-fulfillment trappings. This wasn’t some kind of A Star Is Born parable about the unraveling effects of celebrity, but a sybaritic celebration that was always just one Robin Leach voice-over away from being a video brochure for the lifestyle.
The great irony at the show’s center was that its principal actors never quite managed to hit those heights of fame, so the series served as wish fulfillment for them, too. “I wish I was Vince,” says Grenier. “Of course I do.” Eleven years of pretending can’t help but go to your head somewhat. “You get so used to driving the Aston Martin around that you feel like it’s your car, but then a big Teamster grabs you and rips you out of there once the take is over,” says Connolly.
On set, the production designer is telling Ellin that the mansion they’re shooting at tomorrow is going to make the mansion they shot at last week look like a mud hut. Nearby, Jeremy Piven is looking bored. The actor took home three Emmy awards—and probably more than a few stomach ulcers—playing Ari Gold, the whirlwind of sarcasm, epithets, and frantic phone calls that powered most of the show’s drama like an indefatigable turbine. “It is exhausting, it’s extremely exhausting,” says Piven of playing the character. “Because your body thinks it’s real. Ari’s so perpetually revved up you go into fight-or-flight mode.”
When interviewing these guys, it’s also hard not to think it’s real. After all, an Entertainment Weekly feature would fit precisely into Entourage’s universe, and the four of them do have points in common with their characters. Grenier speaks with Vince’s actorly puffery, Connolly with E’s relatable pragmatism, Ferrara with Turtle’s upbeat optimism, and Dillon with Johnny Drama’s just-glad-to-be-here gratitude. Back on Sunset Boulevard right before shooting starts, Dillon approaches Ellin to follow up with the writer-director about whether he had managed to find a line for Drama in the upcoming scene. “I didn’t, man,” says Ellin, half distracted. “I didn’t come up with anything, sorry.”
Dillon just smiles wide and nods his head. “That’s all right,” he says. “I’m all good. You didn’t have to find it. Sometimes guys don’t say anything, sometimes Drama doesn’t say anything. We’re all just having fun anyway.”