When asked what he’s been up to since the conclusion of the HBO series “Entourage,” Jeremy Piven seems embarrassed to disclose that he recently made a movie with Miley Cyrus. He shouldn’t be. Cryus is a legitimate force, a certifiable star, and so, in fact, is Piven. In person, he is much softer spoken than this longtime alter-ego Ari Gold. Most people are, of course. But Piven poured so much of himself into Ari Gold that it’s difficult at first to separate the two.
A moment later, though, while discussing his new film “I Melt With You,” Piven reveals a smart, deeply thoughtful side that belies his Evanston, Illinois upbringing as the son of two acting teachers. Now available on XFINITY On Demand before it opens in theaters, “I Melt With You” is a dark, challenging indie movie from Mark Pellington and starring Piven, Thomas Jane, Christian McKay, and Rob Lowe about four friends whose reunion turns into a one-way street of self-destruction. “I’m deeply proud of this one,” said Piven, who chatted with Xfinity TV prior to the movie’s American Film Market screening in Los Angeles.
This is quite a movie. It generated extremely mixed and strong reaction last January when it screened at Sundance. Though not for everyone, I’d recommend it – especially with it available On Demand. Why’d you do it? Starting off, for a purely selfish reason, it’s such an actor’s piece. The character is brought to his knees, literally. And to take a character who you may think you know or possibly recognize – and we all think we know someone at first glance – and then to have him be so broken and vulnerable and all those things – that journey was something I wanted to do as an actor.
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What was your reaction when you read the script? I was incredibly moved. I cried right along with my character. And that was just reading it. It was one of those times when I had to put the script down and take a moment. It really affected me. I had to honor that. I had to tell myself, there’s a reason why this is affecting you, it’s not going to be easy, but you have to go do this.
Was there anything you related to in your character? Not directly, to be honest. I’m not a guy with a family who defines by the income I bring in. This character represents greed. It’s an essay on greed. For me, growing up as an actor, the brass ring was to work. If I could get a job working on the stage, that was success. My journey has been much different than the characters I have played. I’m a thespian from the Midwest. Not a misguided, greedy husband of two kids. In this case, it’s also my job not to judge my character. He loves his family. There’s something endearing and intriguing about a guy who lives his life a certain way but deep down wanted to be considered The Man – and went about it in the wrong way.
After the film screened at Sundance last January, you apologized to your mother, who was in the audience. Why did you apologize? Because there are certain things a mother should never see her son do, and I think this movie includes one of them. My mother – she was my acting teacher at the Piven Theater – is an artist. She’s seen me do everything onstage. But I still had to apologize. A mother seeing her son being smothered to death while he’s sobbing on his hands and knees, artist or not, is hard to take. My mother was frozen. She wanted to know why I didn’t tell her. I should have, perhaps. But I didn’t want to give anything away.
Given the difficult subject matter, who’s this movie for? I’m getting some responses from all different generations. I don’t think women get a chance to see men like this, ever, on film. And a lot of men, if any generation can relate to it, it’s people who haven’t hit 40 who should be very curious to see what these guys are going through. They say there’s no handbook. But here’s a story that’s a cautionary tale. It’s possibly an existential horror film. The first act is The Hangover; you get to love these guys. It’s a romp. But they’re medicating themselves. They’re hiding. And then the walls come down.
Simple question. XFINITY On Demand users have thousands of movie choices. Why should they choose “I Melt With You”? I don’t know how you can possibly get ahead of this movie. Most are fairly predictable. This will sideswipe you. Selfishly, I’ve been told it’s the best work I’ve done. I’m deeply proud of it. But it’s a ride like no other. It’s unflinching. It was not created to be anything but true to itself. It’s the antithesis of a Hollywood ending, and really, if it doesn’t leave you questioning things, I don’t know if you were watching.
What have you been up to lately? I have a movie coming out with Miley Cyrus. It’s called “So Undercover.” I play an FBI guy who sends her undercover. We had great chemistry, and she was a blast to work with. And I finally get to earn some respect from my nieces.
Is there an Entourage movie in the works? They’re writing it as we speak. That’s the rumor. All I know is that was an incredible experience, and right now it’s time to replenish.