A lot of people hate “Entourage,” and Doug Ellin knows it. But he thinks they got it all wrong.
He wants to remind you that the show was nominated for multiple Emmys and Golden Globes for comedy series. That critics loved the show when it started in 2004 and that its ratings were way better than HBO’s zeitgeisty show “Girls.”
“And for some reason, somewhere along the line, this hate started propagating that actually it wasn’t good,” said Ellin, who created the eight-season-long program and the Warner Bros. movie version that opens Wednesday. “It’s really silly and really stupid. I will never understand it. The truth is, I’ll stand up in front of anybody and say this is a smart show that really shows this town how it is.”
INDIE FOCUS: Sign up for our weekly movies newsletter
For a while, “Entourage” did seem unstoppable. The show’s most popular season averaged 8.4 million viewers per episode, according to HBO — far more than the 5 million average for the top season of “Girls.” Fans were so obsessed with the dudes’ lifestyle that they started frequenting hot spots seen on the show — Urth Caffe, the pool at the Roosevelt Hotel, Koi.
And as women did with “Sex and the City,” many guys picked members of the “Entourage” posse with whom they most identified: movie star and ringleader Vinny Chase (Adrian Grenier), earnest and loyal manager E (Kevin Connolly), goofball underdog Drama (Kevin Dillon) or weed-loving ride-or-die Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).
But more than a decade after the show premiered, it seems cooler to make fun of the guys than to try to live like them. Social media are filled with harsh one-liners about “Entourage” and its fans, many coming from the popular parody account @Assistant2Ellin: “They won’t be showing Entourage in theaters without stadium seating because there’s no way you’d be able to see the screen over the fedoras.”
To sum up the haterade: Somewhere along the line, what was a show about four wide-eyed guys with working-class roots and big Hollywood dreams turned into a show about four shallow, self-centered bros who objectify women, spend lavishly and generally don’t have a lot going on upstairs. And while the Twittersphere is notoriously fickle, that anti-"Entourage” sentiment could affect box office.
According to those who have seen industry surveys, the Warner Bros. film is on track to take in about $14 million during its first five days in theaters. That’s not terrible for a movie that cost less than $30 million to make, but it’s certainly not “Sex and the City” money: The first film in that franchise launched with $57 million in 2008 and grossed more than $400 million worldwide.
“Sex and the City” is a key comparison, because it was when that wildly popular HBO series made such a successful leap from television to the big screen that the “Entourage” crew began mulling a movie of its own.
“That was really when we all started talking about it,” said Dillon. He was sitting at a conference table alongside Connolly, Grenier, Ferrara and Ellin at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, where a couple of scenes in the film were shot.
“At that stage,” Dillon said, “we were thinking, ‘Hey, if they can do this well, why wouldn’t we be able to?’ ”
“If we did half as well,” Connolly said, “we’d be…"
“Yeah, I would love to stop talking about ‘Sex and the City,’ ” Ellin interjected. “It’s one of the most successful movies of all time. I think it’s the No. 3 R-rated comedy of all time.”
“Really?” Ferrara asked. “I just got scared.”
Ellin started writing the “Entourage” screenplay at the urging of Mark Wahlberg 18 months after the show wrapped in 2011. (The actor was a producer on the show, and it’s widely assumed that the program was loosely based on his own experience moving to Hollywood with his buddies from South Boston). “I would see Mark in a restaurant, and he’s like, ‘I’ve made six movies and $100 million while you haven’t written this movie,’ ” Ellin recalled.
“I always felt like there was a movie there, even before the ‘Sex and the City’ thing happened,” insisted Wahlberg via telephone from a movie set in New Orleans. “And, hey, I was not a fan of ‘Sex and the City,’ but I watched all the episodes and both movies because my wife liked it. I understand this is a male-driven show, but I think a lot of women like hearing what it’s like when guys are talking with their friends unfiltered.”
The “Entourage” movie essentially begins where the series ended. Last we saw Vinny, he had decided to marry a Vanity Fair writer. But surprise! That didn’t take. So he’s now decided he wants to direct and gets his foul-mouthed former agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) — now a studio head — to bankroll his debut. When Vinny’s flick goes over budget, Ari is forced to beg some Texan financiers (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment) for more money.
There are still big mansions and flashy rides, including a Cadillac Ciel convertible, a concept car that General Motors made a prototype of specifically for the film.
Plus hot girls. Lots of them. In pools, yachts, beds, in various states of undress. And the studio is using beautiful women to promote the movie, too, hosting an early screening at the Playboy Mansion last month.
The film’s premiere in Westwood on Monday night was also full of attractive women — go-go dancers elevated on platforms and leggy young ladies being squired about by men who could have doubled as their fathers.
That’s why Emmanuelle Chriqui — who plays E’s pregnant on-and-off again girlfriend in the movie — doesn’t have a problem with the depiction of the females in the film. She doesn’t think the movie makes “girls look super great” but believes it’s an accurate representation of women in Hollywood.
“Let’s be real: That’s what our … town is made of, and it shocks me all the time,” she said in an interview without her male cast mates. “Those little hanger-on-ers, those little bikini-clad, perfect bodies that show up and flirt with the 50-year-old that they think is gonna make them a star? There’s so many of those it’s disturbing. I see it way too often, and it shocks me all the time. And the thing is, Doug isn’t afraid to show it.”
Indeed, Ellin gets testy when asked whether he believes “Entourage” depicts women in a negative light.
“I don’t think that four guys in a car who say they would like to [have sex] that night are treating women poorly,” he said. He brought up Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” noting that he thinks the actress’ character “has had more sex than Vince and has been naked more than Vince, for sure.”
“Listen, Kim Cattrall’s character on ‘Sex and the City’ — she was hooking up with dudes left and right,” agreed Connolly.
“This is not a Christian values show,” said Grenier.
“Just because they’re guys that are out on the hunt to meet up with chicks and have a good time doesn’t make them such terrible guys,” Connolly said.
All of the film’s stars seem especially loyal to “Entourage” — even though they were part of high-profile salary disputes before production began. In 2013, Wahlberg told a TMZ cameraman that the movie would move ahead “as soon as the guys stop being so greedy.”
Which isn’t to say that they weren’t eager to jump back into the “Entourage” world. Since the program wrapped four years ago, none of its stars have ended up with careers remotely resembling Vinny Chase’s. Dillon starred in the CBS sitcom “How to Be a Gentleman,” which was canceled after one season. Ferrara booked some small roles in films like “Think Like a Man” and “Battleship.”
Connolly made an ESPN documentary about the New York Islanders. And Grenier, an active environmentalist, is working on his own movie about an elusive whale — a project that recently secured $50,000 in funding from Leonardo DiCaprio.
“I gained a lot of perspective since the show ended,” said Ferrara. “After the show, I was like, ‘I want to see what life is like.’ And I saw it, and it was fine. But I like it this way. Point blank. I like it this way. I like these guys. I like shooting in L.A. I like it this way.”
“It’s a dream job,” Dillon added. “It was the best job ever.”
“And it still will be!” Grenier chimed in.
But Ellin is nervous. Nervous because “Entourage” reruns don’t play that often on HBO anymore and because he’s up against big-budget tentpoles at the box office (Melissa McCarthy’s comedy “Spy” opens Friday). But he’s encouraged that the movie played well with test audiences. In fact, he was so proud of the 96% the film scored during testing that he actually framed the feedback sheets.
“If you talk to real people instead of little, bitter guys sitting on their Twitter accounts — real guys who have friends go, ‘This is my friends. This is how I grew up,’ ” said Ellin. “LeBron James? I go out to dinner with him, and he goes, ‘This is my E. This is my Drama. This is my Turtle.’”
Times staff writer John Corrigan contributed to this story.
MORE FROM ENTERTAINMENT: