In the Tribeca Film Festival’s Angels Crest, Jeremy Piven plays a small-town district attorney saddled with the unpopular task of prosecuting a young father (Thomas Dekker) whose briefly unattended son froze to death on a snowy mountainside. Vulture caught up with Piven to talk about his latest role; whether he feels limited by his eight-season turn as Entourage’s cutthroat agent, Ari Gold; and how he responds to the show’s detractors, Seth Rogen included.
Angels Crest is very dark. Does playing a popular character on television affect how you choose your film roles?
Well, it’s funny, because I don’t walk around with the reality of playing a popular character. I put just as much into this [film] as I do Ari Gold. And a role like this is closer to me, actually. You may see it as, “Wow, it’s a departure for Jeremy Piven.” But the reality is that the departure is Ari Gold.
But now that Ari Gold does exist, when you’re approached for films, is Ari Gold what they want?
I don’t even know that Gaby [Dellal, director of Angels Crest] has seen me in Entourage. I have no idea. We’ve never spoken about any of that. She sees a guy who is an actor, who is capable of playing a wide variety of roles. And sometimes it takes a woman, a female director from the U.K., to have that. I’m just thrilled to be able to do movies like this one, I Melt with You, Spy Kids. Then I get to play opposite Miley Cyrus [in So Undercover]. This is going to be a summer and fall where you’re seeing me do a bunch of different stuff. And I guess no better time than the last season of Entourage to do that.
How do you respond to the Entourage backlash? Even Seth Rogen said the show isn’t funny in that GQ interview.
Well, you know, Seth Rogen is one of these guys who has been incredibly successful. So I think that it’s not Seth’s fault that he responded to [the question], “Do you have any regrets?” [the way he did]. [Editor’s note: There’s no indication in the GQ article that Rogen was asked, “Do you have any regrets?”] The brilliant Judd Apatow has taken you under his wing and you get to work with one of the great comedic minds and get to create and collaborate. He’s living the dream. So I think that’s a silly question to ask Seth Rogen, and I think it would be silly to be offended by anything he said. That would be very silly.
The perception seems to be that the show is just not as hip as it used to be.
I don’t think any of that concerns me. I think that it’s my job to swing as hard as I can every time I go to set. That’s my job and to leave it all — I’m going to give you a lot of bumper stickers right now — on the field.
Do you think it could keep going past this season, or is it right to end it now?
Could we do more? Absolutely. But I think that’s the perfect way to end it. And people’s biggest complaint with me is that there needs to be more show — it’s not long enough. So I think that we’re set up pretty nicely for a movie.
Going back in time: What was it like to play George Costanza in an episode of Seinfeld?
Amazing. Oh my God, I wish someone would have taken a picture of Larry David directing Jason Alexander — who is basically playing a version of Larry David — while Jason Alexander is telling me how to play him. It was like a funhouse mirror. I’ll give you an exclusive: I had never seen the show before I did that show.
How is that possible?
I didn’t have a TV and I was living in a pool house while shooting The Larry Sanders Show. I remember some of the writers came over to say, “You’re a regular on a series, why are you living in the pool house?” You know, I’m a stage actor from Chicago and I was just out there doing my thing, kind of being a workman. And on the same lot was a show called Seinfeld, and I had just never seen it. I’ve never seen an episode of Friends or ER.
Are you seeing anything while you’re in New York?
I’m going to go see The Motherfucker With the Hat that Anna Shapiro directed with Chris Rock. Anna Shapiro was the first girl who turned me down in junior high school, and we are very, very close to this day.
And how long did it take to get over her rejection?
I clearly have not gotten over it. Have you noticed my ambition? I have double the movies than years I’ve been alive.