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Jeremy Piven Talks About Keeping Up With the Steins

By Fred Topel

Jeremy Piven Talks About Keeping Up With the Steins

Jeremy Piven and Jami Gertz in Keeping Up With the Steins.

© Miramax
Jeremy Piven has perfected the fast-talking, name-dropping Hollywood agent on HBO's Entourage. Now he's applying it somewhat to his movie roles. But his character in Keeping Up with the Steins is not just an 'Ari Gold' it costs $10 to see. This father wants to give his son the best Bar Mitzvah ever. He just loses sight of what the young man actually wants, in the most hilarious ways.

Jeremy Piven Shares His Own Bar Mitzvah Experience: “My Bar Mitzvah was perfect. It was in my basement. There was no theme. I can’t believe I even did it and made it. I was not the most successful Bar Mitzvah student. I was probably the worst Hebrew student of the bunch, mostly because at the time I was playing football and if we would win, which we actually did a lot, the team would go to McDonald’s and celebrate. When you’re a kid, that’s like huge. So instead of McNuggets and apple pie, I was learning Hebrew. Religion came to me in a very kind of awkward way.”

Asked his motivation for going through with his Bar Mitzvah, Piven said, “You know, I didn’t quite understand, to be honest with you… It’s a rite of passage which, I think, I wish we had more in this culture. You seem to go to other cultures and you have a lot of them, it’s important to have these. Ultimately, you’re supposed to be responsible for your actions by the time you take your Bar Mitzvah, which is very young for all that stuff. When you’re that age, I was trying to make out with Melissa Bruce to be honest. That’s what I was trying to do. Hopefully I was going to get lucky.”

A Sense of Déjà vu – Playing an Agent Once Again: Piven plays agent Ari Gold on the HBO series Entourage but that didn’t turn him off from reading the script for Keeping Up With the Steins. “It’s not about the job, really. It’s about the character itself that was so different. The energy was so different. That energy is different than Ari Gold. I thought that’s also a really fun challenge because if you’re playing another agent, then they’re going to go, ‘Oh, this guy again,’ and it’s not. He’s a guy who operates much differently so that was fascinating to me.

He’s got this beautiful family. He had a terrible Bar Mitzvah and he’s doing everything he can not to repeat the same mistakes with his son. He’s obviously trying too hard and is over-invested, and that’s what parents do sometimes.”

Piven Doesn’t Partake in the ‘Keeping Up with the Neighbors’ Game: “I really don’t. I’m so proud of other people’s success, I really am. I’m really happy to own that feeling. I think any time you start letting other people’s success get to you is when life is gonna be a very long, strange, hard road. I’m not in competition with my neighbors, no.”

Finding the Comedy in Abandonment Issues: “That’s what I thought was an interesting little challenge within itself. Sometimes they’re not funny, but you have to make jokes at times as well to kind of sidestep the pain. That’s what these characters do and that’s real. It’s the backdrop of the Bar Mitzvah and the competitive world of the Bar Mitzvah at that, that’s when you can hold up and watch a story about among other themes, abandonment.”

The Lengthy Wait for a Bar Mitzvah Comedy: Piven said he doesn’t know why it took so long for Hollywood to make a comedy about a Bar Mitzvah. “It’s a good question. I know there was one called Bloom… There’s a bunch of Bar Mitzvah movies being kicked around. That’s another reason why I wanted to do it because it’s just so fertile for comedy.”

Jeremy Piven Avoided Being Typecast in Jewish Roles: “There’s no fight. I just think it was boring to keep repeating yourself. I’ve been acting my whole life and I love doing it. If you’ve logged the hours, you’ve developed some kind of a range. I was always doing stage stuff that I was playing 900-year-old men called Cthusalem when I was 24, with fat pads on. That’s the great thing about being on the stage is you can play any character you want. I have all these different characters inside of me that I’m capable of doing. All it takes is someone who’s willing to sign off and let me do it.

The difference between the gay Versace salesman [in Rush Hour 2] and Ari Gold is the world - and I want to fill in the rest of it. There are some actors that are smart in the way that they have shown their versatility, so that you can’t count them out. I don't think there’s a roll that comes up and you go, ‘Mmm, I don’t think Sean Penn can do it,’ because he’s proven himself. He can step up. That really interests me. That’s fascinating to me. I think the best actor out there is a guy named Javier Bardem who’s unstoppable.”

Page 2: Jeremy Piven on Choosing Roles and This Season of Entourage

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