EXCLUSIVE: The Entourage bad boys are almost back. Exactly one year ago, the HBO series ended its eighth and final season with soap opera schmaltz but also a Hollywood cliffhanger: agent Ari Gold as a newly minted studio mogul. That obviously set up the movie which Entourage creator Doug Ellin wanted to write one day. Well, I can now report that’s sooner rather than later: Ellin is on page 110 of his screenplay and “gonna finish by Sunday (I pray)”, he emails me. Ellin notes that no one wants to see the movie greenlighted by HBO more than the series’ WME packaging agent Ari Emanuel (the prototype for Gold) and executive producers Mark Wahlberg and Steven Levinson. Ellin says that Wahlberg keeps promising “to kill me if I don’t write faster. Every time I see him, Mark says, ‘I’ve made 5 movies this year. Get going!”
Ellin explains that he first needed time off after spending “10 years of my life” on the TV series that premiered on HBO in 2004. In the meantime, Ellin is under an overall deal at HBO and continued to develop for the pay cable network. He did an HBO comedy pilot starring Ed Burns that wasn’t picked up. Ellin and his producing partner Jim Lefkowitz also developed another HBO project, the boxing drama Da Brick, with Spike Lee and Mike Tyson and John Ridley. When Ellin got down to penning the Entourage screenplay, he told me he felt “renewed momentum”.
He says his script starts about 6 months after the TV series leaves off. “There are interesting developments about Ari as a studio head, and that’s still the first page for me. But foremost is the friendship between the guys who are still hanging out and going to fun parties, and it continues with the same characters.” Ellin has kept in touch with all the key castmembers: Jeremy Piven (“Ari”), Adrian Grenier (“Vince”), Kevin Dillon (“Drama”), and especially Kevin Connolly (“E”) and Jerry Ferrara (Turtle”) who are two of Ellin’s closest friends. Those Entourage actors have been getting other gigs while HBO has been paying Ellin for the script.
HBO brass Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo have cautioned publicly that they’ve only heard “a very general pitch” and need to read the completed script and make deals with the cast before deciding to go forward. Ellin is optimistic. “I’m excited. I feel a lot of positive energy,” he tells me. “Everywhere I go, people ask me, ‘Where’s the movie?’”
The Entourage feature will have similar Hollywood send-ups and snark which have been missing from the HBO sked but also from the TV landscape in general. That’s because it’s tough to write a good showbiz sitcom or dramedy or 120-minute motion picture. Certainly Entourage had its ups and downs quality-wise. I was mixed in my assessment over the years, alternately castigating it for not showing the down and dirty Hollywood, and occasionally praising it for less predictability and more realism. But with the Jewish High Holy Days coming, I’ll always recall my favorite Entourage episode: the one that had Ari doing business in the temple aisles during Yom Kippur services. (‘The Return Of The King’ was written by Ellin and Brian Burns.) And I’m grateful to Ellin for replacing Variety with Deadline Hollywood as the showbiz must-read. (That Season 6 scene was a shocker when agent Terence says to Ari Gold, “I’ll fuck Nikki Finke before I let her affect my business decisions.”) In fact, Ellin recently emailed: “I have you in a scene currently. The world wants you on camera!”
The vast majority of Entourage fans want an R-rated movie with an abundance of broads and boobs and cameos by genuine Hollywood bigwigs as well as decent plotting and character arcs. Hopefully, Ellin has written that and more. So it’s worth repeating the warning I posted a year ago, “Goodbye Entourage as a TV series. Now just don’t come back as an embarrassingly lame movie.”