Band of brothers

Doug Ellin, the creator and chief writer of Entourage, tells Time Out how the idea of an aspiring actor and his friends starting out in Hollywood came about

Band of brothers

The show is loosely based on the life of Mark Wahlberg when he first moved to Hollywood. How did you dream up that idea?
Mark Wahlberg and I share the same manager. They came to me and said we want to do a show about Mark and his friends. I was like, ‘OK, who’s going to watch a bunch of guys live off another guy?’ So I took elements of what I saw in Mark, but made it so that they all grew up together and they were best friends – like a family.

Is it inspired by real events?
During the first season we kept getting asked, ‘Is this true?’ Vince doesn’t read scripts? Well that’s not Mark, but there’s a ton of actors making US$10 to 20 million a year who literally don’t read the scripts they’re offered. They just ask other people what they should do. But also, this show is about the wish fulfilment aspect of Hollywood – beautiful people and good times. It’s sunny in January. If things work out for you, life is pretty good.

Did you consider including any of the darker parts of Mark’s past?
My first draft was much edgier, it was junior Sopranos in Hollywood. But HBO wanted comedy – so we found the middle ground. Then it was really critically acclaimed – the New York Times called it the best show on TV. I’ve had two movies that were tortured in the press, so I was like, ‘Wow, we have a critically acclaimed show, but nobody’s going to watch.’ Then I went to Las Vegas with the actors, and they walked in and it was like they were rock stars. So I knew people were watching.

Is it easy to get the Hollywood A-list cameos?
I usually send the people I want a few episodes. My favourite is the one where Ari gets fired in season two, so I usually send that – unless it’s a young guy we’re after; then I’ll send him a few girl episodes. But I don’t get a lot of, ‘Hey, Martin Scorsese would love to do the show.’ But he did. Well, yeah, I’d come up with this script that needed Gus van Sant and Martin Scorsese, so I was like, ‘Mark? Help! You did a movie with him and we need to make it happen.’

Who would you really like to have on?
Russell Crowe.

What about all the famous people you talk about – like Vince Vaughan. Are they OK with that?
I don’t know. We actually named the character Vince after Vince Vaughan. It was right before he really exploded again. In fact, there are a lot of Swingers influences on the show.

Lots of people’s favourite character is Vince’s agent, Ari – played by Jeremy Piven. Are agents really like that?
Ari is as real as it gets. Jeremy Piven is actually downplaying a lot of the stuff that goes on around town. The number of calls I get from agents and studio executives wondering if I bugged their office. A lot of people in Hollywood don’t view this as a satire; they see it as a docudrama. Ari is actually a pretty good guy. He looks out for his family and friends. There are lots of agents who don’t do that.

How do you keep from making this an inside joke?
From the beginning it was very important not to worry about that. We never dumb it down. We’ll say things and I know people won’t know what we’re talking about, but I think they get the essence.
Entourage airs on Showcomedy every Sunday night.

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