This article was originally written for Flickering Myth’s big summer preview
This can only mean one thing: we’re back, baby. After eight years of storming out of marriage counselling sessions, screaming at everyone in sight (mainly Lloyd) and frantically navigating LA in search of studio heads to land Vincent Chase a part, get ready to see Ari Gold return with the biggest deal of all – a big screen debut for one of HBO’s best shows.
With Fargo, Scream, Psycho, From Dusk Till Dawn, Rush Hour, Shutter Island, Westworld, Underworld, Friday The 13th, The Devil’s Advocate and Shooter making up but a few of the slew of movies that have been or are currently making their way to TV, the Entourage movie will be a slight departure from Hollywood’s latest infatuation (which is arguably just a reworking of their remake/reboot framework). It seems like barely a day goes by without news of yet another film-based TV series being developed, so it’s now something of a surprise when it goes the other way. What used to be the norm is suddenly the exception; 21 Jump Street, The A Team, Mission: Impossible and the upcoming 24 currently stand out as the biggest films to have made the leap from TV roots – but is it time for Vince, E, Turtle, Drama and Ari to take the big screen by storm?
The answer is an emphatic yes, but the question of whether Entourage’s big screen debut will be a hit or a miss – an Aquaman or a Medellin, if you will – is difficult to answer. The problem it may face, on UK shores at least, is anonymity. It simply isn’t a big show over here, unlike the behemoth Game Of Thrones or Breaking Bad; and even in its native America it doesn’t come close to the distinguished acclaim of those shows or several others. If either Game Of Thrones or Breaking Bad had a film coming out in cinemas you can bet ticket sales would smash through the roof (there are, for that matter, inklings of a Game Of Thrones film, but that’s for another time and place). Entourage, on the other hand, is something of a dark horse. Comparatively few people watch it, yet for eight years it quietly toiled away gathering momentum and acclaim, which has ended up propelling it to the dazzling heights of movieland.
Created by Doug Ellin and co-developed by Mark Wahlberg (and loosely based on his early years in LA as an aspiring actor), Entourage follows the trials of global movie star Vincent Chase and his eponymous entourage of his best friend/manager Eric “E” Murphy, brother Johnny “Drama” Chase, friend Turtle and agent Ari Gold (who, incidentally, is one of the greatest TV characters of all time – see him fire an office full of employees with a super soaker for proof). Spanning eight seasons, one of the great things the show does, beyond being entertaining, funny and packed with brilliant cameos, is subvert the general perception of Hollywood. There’s a tendency for those of us outside the ring to look in with longing at the glamour and glitz of these stars we idolize and admire, yet Entourage chronicles both the ups and downs of the Hollywood system, glamorising the lavish lives of movie stars in the sun-lathered capital of the film world while also highlighting the backstabbing and money-grabbing we don’t hear about in the news. It’s this diversity that’s given the show such acclaim and longevity, and, ultimately, this upcoming movie; after all, with such a potentially leery subject matter it would be all too easy to create something utterly shallow with far too much style over substance. Entourage is a big party at times, but it knows when to cool off.
Of course, as with any TV series making the jump to film, there always needs to be a solution to the narrative compression problem. Going the other direction it’s completely freeing, like writing a novel. The first episode of From Dusk Till Dawn, for example, spent an hour retelling the first ten minutes of Robert Rodriguez’s (far superior) film. That’s FIFTY extra minutes of drama and exposition. For a writer – particularly one who loves their dialogue – that’s like Christmas. The Entourage movie, on the other hand, will need to figure out a way of expanding the standard thirty minute arc of each episode while compressing the series arc of around twenty episodes. Essentially it will be turning around ten hours of drama into two, so where will it begin and end?
Each season generally focusses on Vince chasing (no pun intended) after one particular movie with some blips and false horizons along the way. One episode might solely involve Vince and E meeting potential financiers, another might see them jetting off to Vegas or driving into the desert to take mushrooms and find answers. Be greedy – one film doesn’t seem like enough to cram in every brilliant Turtle and Drama side quest or Ari counselling session. On the other hand, perhaps the From Dusk Till Dawn example actually bodes well for the Entourage movie; it shows that ten minutes of clever, exciting drama can be much better than an elongated hour.
But what do we actually know about it? Who’s going to be in it? What are the boys going to be up to? Will Seth Green return to harass E and Sloan? The array of cameos, of which there no doubt will be, have always been the highlight of the show, from Gary Busey to James Cameron to Martin Scorsese, but Green, the Lex Luthor to E’s Clark Kent, has always been one of the very best, unafraid to portray himself as the slimiest slime-bag in Hollywood as he relentlessly antagonizes and taunts. Ellin would do well to bring him back. And don’t despair when Piers Morgan shows up (you can let out a sigh if you must, we will) – Thierry freakin’ Henry will make everything better.
The trailer also tells us that Ari has secured $100m from Billy Bob Thorton’s financier for Vince to pick up the megaphone and move into directing (“from the producers of Medellin and Aquaman”, it tells us, before revealing a trailer for Vince’s film about street rioting…or something), only to go way over budget and enrage his ever animated agent. Beyond that we don’t know a huge deal; everyone involved is remaining tight-lipped, as if Christopher Nolan had something to do with it. It’s likely the characters won’t evolve all that much; they’ve already gone through their arcs over the course of eight seasons and there would be little sense in starting them on new ones – at least significant ones- unless a series of films is planned. Having said that, both Mark Wahlberg and Adrian Grenier (Vince) reckon the film is so good that a sequel is already a safe bet. During a press tour for Transformers: Age Of Extinction last summer, Wahlberg admitted to liking the film so much that June 2015 was too long to wait and he wanted to pull the release forward. “If I was a betting man,” Grenier also told Larry King when asked about the possibility of a sequel, “I’d say yes. I’d put it all down.”.
Entourage is perhaps destined to be lost but not forgotten this summer amidst the blockbusting Avengers, Terminators, dinosaurs and everything in between. To be fair, what would really have a chance against such heavily anticipated sequels? Of course on the one hand, with a fairly modest budget of $30m, it’s not crazy to predict that it might just turn a decent profit. Yet on the other, failing to break the box office won’t be the end of the world. Even if it doesn’t make a lot of money, it’s likely to make a lot of friends – on the evidence at hand it looks every bit as good as the show, if not even better. We just want to see the boys back. In Grenier’s words, “The risks are larger and the reward is ever greater”.
Only June 5th will tell.