Art imitating Rob Weiss: 'Entourage' archetype knows 'How to Make It in America'
Rob Weiss may be a fresh face, but fans of "Entourage" know him well already -- his life experiences have been fodder for essential parts of HBO's zeitgeist Hollywood hit.
Now his upstart years in New York are the focus of the network's new series "How to Make It in America."
I caught up with the writer-director-executive producer to discuss his on-screen alter egos, his unique break into Hollywood and the shows that echo his real life.
Here are the Rob Weiss essentials:
He's Billy Walsh: Weiss is the inspiration for actor Rhys Corio's popular "Entourage" character, director-on-the-verge Billy Walsh, the man behind the show's smash-flop "Medellin." In real life, Weiss' 1993 festival hit "Amongst Friends" catapulted him to the major leagues, but with no sea legs for showbiz, he was quite the untamed auteur.
"The crazy director part is true. I had a lot of manic episodes in my early 20s," he said. "It's not as bad, but I'm still a perfectionist in a lot of ways."
He's the hustle in 'How to Make It': Brian Greenberg plays a cute-but-tough downtown NYC type, with DNA that's pure Weiss ambition. "The new show, it's the hustle that's most relatable to me. I was always looking to make a buck as a kid," he said. "I had the arts background but I ran with hustlers."
This included the fashion component that's the thread for Greenberg's character, who starts a premium denim line with hopes of hitting it big.
"I worked in retail across three or four different labels. It's a sexy world and really big business, but I found film," he said. "Not that there's any guarantees in movies, but once I was in it, I was like, 'I'm not going anywhere.'"
Weiss shares his fashion cred with creative partner Steve Levinson, one of the first people to import a fabric used widely in bicycle shorts. "After covering entertainment with 'Entourage,' fashion was an obvious next step for us.”
Just get him in the room: As a 19-year-old on Long Island, he was all about getting access to make it big. Weiss told me he and his friends attended every movie premiere they could find. They'd call studio publicists and ask for tickets, ostensibly for famous directors, listing themselves as associates.
"My boy would get dressed up like a bike messenger, go upstairs, pick up the tickets, then we'd get changed and go to 'State of Grace,' 'Goodfellas,' 'Steel Magnolias' -- we went to everything."
It was at the "Goodfellas" premiere that Weiss met a young Mira Sorvino, who would eventually star in "Amongst Friends."
He's just getting started: "Entourage" and "How to Make It" are only the first two products under his development deal with HBO. Weiss has optioned the rights to the seminal 1967 novel "Pimp: The Story of My Life" by Iceberg Slim (aka Robert Beck) and is also at work adapting "The Straw Men," a serial killer thriller by Michael Marshall.
-- Matt Donnelly
Photo credit: Eric Leibowitz.
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