One of the most remarkable accomplishments I've ever seen, in all of my time visiting film sets, was the completely-to-scale Warner Bros. backlot that was built for “Entourage: The Movie.”
Wait… I'm looking at my notes… I'm wrong. That was the actual Warner Bros. backlot, and it was an afternoon last year when a group of journalists were invited to do a set visit in perhaps the least exciting location possible. I know that for many people, it is a thrill to step onto a studio backlot, and that thrill is part of what “Entourage” has always traded on when peddling its fantasy version of the Hollywood life to audiences. But in this case, we ended up standing for a few hours in what may be the least interesting spot on a lot, between two soundstages.
When I was invited to attend the “set” of the film, I immediately pictured one of the show's famous odes to movie star decadence, a house party overflowing with girls and booze and drugs and girls, and I marked the day on my calendar. Cut to: eight or nine of us standing around between those two aforementioned soundstages, waiting.
The gap between what I pictured and what we ended up doing pretty much sums up the difference between what “Entourage” is selling and the reality of how this business works. The glamor is what “Entourage” sells you, the money and the luxury and the decadence. It makes it looks like a rowdy affair where everyone screams the word “FUCK!” at everyone else while throwing around millions of dollars. I've been on some big sets for some big movies, and even the rowdiest of them wasn't like that. Instead, most movie sets are distinguished by just how much waiting there is to do.
That's what we did that afternoon on the Warner lot. We waited. We stood around and talked to a few of the cast members, and when I went back and listened to the interviews this week, they made me laugh because every single one of the reporters sounds like they're asleep on their feet. We're standing outside in the sun, and they managed to find the one place on the lot where it felt like there was a magnifying glass stretched between the two soundstages, where we were getting pounded by direct punishing sunlight from overhead. The interviews, such as they are, consist of a lot of “What's going on with the characters?” followed by a lot of “Exactly what you expect.”
And that's fine. That's the comfort food aspect of “Entourage” that makes this a safe bet for Warner Bros. this summer. I can't imagine they spent real giant budget blockbuster money on this. It's all houses and conversations and driving and bongs and the occasional naked person. Just like “Sex and the City,” this is all about selling this lifestyle capsule, and that's what the audience wants. They want to feel like they are Vincent Chase for a few hours, like they can count on every possible conflict in their lives to work out simply because they look good in expensive clothes. They want to be pampered. They want to be worshipped. They want to be able to snap their fingers and have anything or anyone you want. It literally doesn't matter what the storyline is of “Entourage.” There is not one audience member who is sitting out there right now thinking, “Well, I might go, but it really depends on what story they tell. If it's not specifically about E and Sloane having a baby, then I AM NOT GOING AND I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY.”
There was a little bit of low-stakes drama that unfolded while we were there, something about comments Jeremy Piven had made that the rest of the cast didn't like or some such thing, and in our interview with Piven, he seemed like he was in “I am a very serious actor now and you must treat me as such” mode. Every single one of the actors was on message and completely forgettable. “It's nice to be back together. Doug Ellin is the reason this works. This is such a thrill. Bigger. Funnier.” What's really odd about that is that the characters they play are heroes precisely because they are impolitic and refuse to play by the rules. The bigger their transgression, the more the show rewards them. That very definitely was not the case as we talked to them between rehearsals for the enormously complicated technical move involved in the scene.
The big bit of business we watched them film?
You know what the real highlight of the day was? When we first got to set, there was a guy who came walking by who looked exactly like Kevin Dillon. Only he was about 45 pounds heavier than Kevin Dillon as we normally know him. And we thought at first that it was Kevin Dillon and maybe Fat Johnny Drama was going to be a storyline in the movie. Then the real Dillon showed up and we spent about a half-hour going “WAIT?! WHAT?! THAT'S NOT KEVIN DILLON?!?” regarding the first guy, who then became our favorite thing ever, and we spent the rest of the time we were on-set watching Fat Kevin Dillon do his thing.
A set visit day like this is no one's fault. The fine folks at Warner Bros. meant well. They just happened to have us there on a day where there was nothing to see, at a location we've all seen a thousand times. Even that sort of feels like a perfect summation of a set visit for a film that is as pre-sold as pre-sold gets. By now, you probably have a pretty good idea what you think of “Entourage,” and if you're someone who's never seen the show but actually thinks the film looks good, I'd love to know what you see in the trailer. I'm curious, because to me it seems to trade so heavily on you having to have some association with the series.
Whatever the case, “Entourage” is in theaters June 3, 2015.