You want a funny interview with Jeremy Piven? You want some Ari Gold one-liners and name dropping? Sorry, this is not that interview. This is the interview for I Melt With You, the infamous movie of the Sundance Film Festival. This story of four men on a cocaine binge had people walking out of screenings. Piven plays Ron, a corporate embezzler who’s as bitter as his doctor and author friends.
Piven’s ready to confront the I Melt With You controversy head on. Fresh off the plane from his fourth movie of the “Entourage” hiatus, Piven maintained a calm, subdued tone even when I “went there.” I only regret that I barely got into “Entourage” after following up about all the real meat.
Q: Was it vulnerable for you to give up a lot of the humor that you bring to other roles?
JP: No, it’s exciting to explore suppressing what might come easier to you. So to play a character that both isn’t funny and doesn’t think he’s funny was really, really interesting to me and fascinating. It’s all an exploration and an exercise and you have to just embrace the process. It may sound incredibly pretentious but I think that’s how you grow as an actor and as an artist, by embracing things that you may not think you’re good at that people may initially think, “Well, this isn’t what I want to see him in.” But then it could be the best role you’ve ever had in your life. And you’re exploring other muscles as an artist and that’s fascinating to me. I love that.
Q: That’s a very ambitious, positive worldview that is quite different than the guys in this film. As a successful artist, do you at all share their negative view that things don’t turn out the way you wanted?
JP: Accepting your circumstances doesn’t mean that you become apathetic. It just means that you don’t beat yourself up and make yourself crazy because that won’t change the outcome at all. It’s infuriating what my character does. I can’t stop and think and judge because then I’ll get in the way of the work. I’ve got to be as present as I can when I play that character and play him with as much integrity as I can, and yet do all the wrong things. Then you may be onto something that has some layers and it may be interesting. Some of the people’s responses is: I don’t like this guy. It’s like well, yeah, this person exists. I’m going to give you hopefully a dimensional character that you may not like.
Q: What do you have to do to make an unlikeable protagonist palatable?
JP: I’m not looking to be palatable. I’m looking to be as true as I can to the story as possible and making it as authentic as possible. That’s it. You have to be okay with looking terrible and playing despicable characters that have demons and all these things. You’ve got to go there if you want to be a real artist, and not worry about how you’re perceived or any of that stuff.
Q: Do you know colleagues and friends who are afraid to go there?
JP: Yes, yes I do and I think that they lined up to not do this movie. You’d be shocked how many people just didn’t want to go there, couldn’t go there, whatever it was.
Q: Do you share your advice with them?
JP: Yes, I do and listen, Rob [Lowe] said some amazing things. He said the role for him scared him because he wanted to go there but he didn’t know if he could go there. That’s pretty brave of him to give it a shot. This movie will expose if you’re capable of going to that place emotionally or not. There are some actors that that’s not right for them.
Q: What would you say to people at the festival who walked out of the movie?
JP: I would just love to connect with them and ask them why exactly and get into it a little bit. It obviously struck a chord. It struck a major chord and that’s pretty interesting. It’s fascinating. Why is that? What is it inside of them that doesn’t want to take a look at this? We all have free will, man, and this movie isn’t for everyone. I totally get it. I think if people get up and leave then you’re onto something. I mean, I’ve been doing plays and people have been getting up and leaving since I started in Chicago back in the day. I remember doing a play with Tim Robbins called “Violence” in Chicago and people just get up and leave.
Q: Is the movie designed to be threatening?
JP: No, it’s not designed to be threatening. It’s just designed to show these people’s lives and to be as true as we can to the story. Then if the outcome is it’s offensive then so be it.
Q: Every once in a while you pop into news stories like mercury poisoning or an incident at Nobu. Is there some confusion about who you really are?
JP: Well, I grew up in the theater. I did a Broadway play that I was incredibly proud of. I ended up getting sick and was replaced. I’ve been lucky enough to work ever since and I’ve worked my entire life. So how you receive that information, it’s not something I should really focus on. If you’re mad at me because I ended up in the hospital with severe exhaustion and mono and complications with Epstein Barr and all these crazy things, it was a very difficult time in my life. I’ve chosen to just let the rest of my life and my work just speak for itself.
Q: Wasn’t there an incident where you left a DVD for a waiter?
JP: No, the story was that I threw DVDs at the waiters like Chinese stars.
Q: That’s not even the extent of the story I heard.
JP: What’s fascinating about these stories to me is I was never a famous guy, just a working actor. The people that know me know that these things are absurd and I can’t try to work to convince people who read these articles. I think that would be a fun fantasy if you want to categorize me as this character that’s like Ari Gold. People make their living off of feasting on others. That’s just kind of the way of the world. You don’t let it get to you. You move on. Did that happen? Absolutely not. Never in my life. I’m going to carry around DVDs and throw them lik fighting stars? It’s actually good writing and it’s comical.
Q: Well, if you’d left it instead of a tip that would have been uncool.
JP: No, I’m not that guy. I’ve never been that guy in my life. Anyone that knows me knows that.
Q: Are you happy to see the storylines in “Entourage” calling Ari Gold out on his behavior?
JP: I love it. It’s beautiful. It’s about time.
Q: It’s very entertaining to watch him, but wouldn’t it be exhausting to live like that?
JP: Yeah, that would be a very exhausting existence. I wouldn’t want to do it and I wouldn’t want to be around it.
Q: What are your thoughts on doing an “Entourage” movie and the final season?
JP: I’d love to do a movie and the final season we start in April. We’re set up for a great season because Ari’s rock, which is his wife, Mrs. Ari, seemingly has had enough. So we are totally set up if we continue on that storyline for something that I think could be really fun.
Magnolia will distribute I Melt With You this year.