Though best known for his explosive and award-winning performance as Ari Gold on HBO's "Entourage," Jeremy Piven has a list of film credits to his name longer than Vince's bankroll for Aquaman. Acting since the age of 8, Piven has appeared in more than 50 films as well as numerous TV series. The accomplished and surprisingly mild-mannered actor's latest foray is The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, the comedic story of maverick used-car liquidator Don Ready. The Goods, opening Aug. 14, is the latest film from Will Ferrell's prolific production team, Gary Sanchez Productions.
You have an impressive resume but have, in the past, played mostly secondary characters (boyfriends, best friends, husbands). Now, finally, you play the leading man. Do you feel like dues have been paid?
My life mirrors Don Ready's in a way — everything I've done in my life can contribute to this character. He's been on the road his whole life; I've been working my whole life. You play every role like it's the lead, and it's helped now that I have it, but it's a journey and ultimately you're an apprentice your entire life. Having said that, I feel like I'm smart enough now to know that you're only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and with this movie, there couldn't be a better team of people involved.
Being a classically trained actor who's worked on the stage since childhood, how has your theater training influenced your approach to film roles?
It's everything. Once you conquer being in front of a live audience and riding that energy, knowing when the laughs will die down and when to hit them again, all of that bodes well in front of a camera. But you have to keep in mind that you aren't playing for the back row. With Ari sometimes it's almost like Kabuki theater, but you don't want it to get so out of control that you're doing a monster movie. The key is to be big but always perform with sincerity.
Are there any roles you'd love to play, or any that you would automatically refuse?
Javier Bardem and Denzel Washington are two guys who are doing really brilliant, consistent work in serious films, and I would love to get a shot at that. I'd also love to continue to explore romantic leads as well as villains. Really, I don't close myself off to anything. I think it's important for one to know their limitations, though. I personally know that I can't sing, so when they approached me to do that with this character, I couldn't wait. I wanted to play Don Ready as if he thinks he's a rock star, when in reality his singing is so bad that it starts a riot. And then suddenly there are alligators! Everybody knows a guy like that.
Now for the most important question on everyone's mind: What are your thoughts on Brett Favre's retirement?
I think it's crazy! If someone told me to retire now it would be so unnatural. But if you take care of yourself, age is not what it used to be. You can give up or you can get up and move around, embrace life and attack it.
You had a health scare with mercury poisoning last year that kept you from finishing your Broadway run with Speed the Plow. Did that make you take a second look at your life and how you take care of yourself?
The irony of getting sick is that I work so hard and I don't take any breaks. Angela Lansbury came up to me after a performance of Speed the Plow and said, "You can't give that performance every night. You were so emotionally committed and raw that if you do that every night, you're going to get hurt. You need an A show and B show." But I don't even know how to find a B show. I don't know how to fake it — every take, I'm swinging for the fences. But as a doctor told me, your body doesn't know you're acting, so it could be a huge health risk to you at this point with what you're putting out there. I just want to go out and live and find balance. Damn, we got deep!
Well, then, on a lighter note, any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?
Nothing confirmed coming up, so I think this is the perfect time to take a little bit of a break. We have another year of "Entourage" on the way, but I'm very focused on The Goods because I'm really proud of this film. I think we all need to laugh right now and that's what The Goods is all about.