By Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to thinking of Jeremy Piven as a manipulative Hollywood agent thanks to his role as Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage. However, Piven demonstrates a much more humble characteristic off camera. While Ari is wedded to money and is seen pushing a Lexus, or racing a Ferrari, Piven’s taste in rides is in fact geared more towards classic Americana (he lists Mustangs and Broncos as his personal favorites). His well-known affection for cars and humorous acting caught the attention of Hot Wheels (yes, the toy company) executives, who invited him to participate in their latest viral campaign featuring a four-man stunt-performance group (lamely) named, Team Hot Wheels. Piven won’t be driving himself off a cliff or screeching down a desert anytime soon, but has showcased his comic chops in a video produced by Funny or Die as a desperate hopeful who wants to join the mysterious driving team. At a kick-off event at the 2011 New York Toy Fair last Friday, Complex spoke to the Emmy-Award-winning actor about his favorite whips, hydrogen vehicles, and being a Jewish Buddhist.
Complex: How did you first get involved with this campaign to promote Team Hot Wheels?
Jeremy Piven: The Hot Wheels team approached me and asked, “Would you want to do a sketch with Funny or Die?” And I’m such a huge fan of Funny or Die it was kind of a no brainer. I grew up playing with Hot Wheels, and it’s also a great excuse to do some comedy. As it turns out it’s actually a pretty cool way to get information about something because you’re just laughing and having a great time. You can kind of look at it without really being sold something. My job is just to go in and do comedy. That’s what I did, so I had a blast.
Complex: What else do they have lined up for you?
Jeremy Piven: Nothing that I know of. This is it. This is the extent. I’m going to go check out their stunts just because I want to. They look incredible. They’re going to break records. So I’m just going to Indy 500 as a fan to check it out.
Complex: Are you familiar with action sports?
Jeremy Piven: I’m not fully familiar with them. I’ve seen them, but I don’t know all their names. Carey Hart’s the last guy I watched so I’m a little dated.
Complex: We’re told that you’re a car guy. What’s your favorite?
Jeremy Piven: You know, believe it or not, I have a 1977 Ford Bronco. I love it, and I’m still maintaining it at this moment.
Complex: Why Ford Bronco?
Jeremy Piven: I don’t know. I’ve always liked the Bronco. It’s up and off the ground, and there are huge wheels. It’s like a ragtop so you’re up higher, and you get the air and everything. It’s just a great cruising vehicle.
Complex: Did you pimp it out?
Jeremy Piven: Uh, no. Not really. I need to. I need to do something to it. I have a 1971 Oldsmobile 442, which is really cool. I was shooting I Melt With You in Big Sur not too long ago, and was at this car show. I bought this car there, and I fell in love with it. It has an 8-track player in it, and it’s really nice.
Complex: Do you prefer the older cars?
Jeremy Piven: I do like classic American muscle cars.
Complex: You have a green Chevy Camaro, right?
Jeremy Piven: [Laughs.] That was, um, I was just borrowing that for a moment. Chevy people just let me borrow it for like a day. Unfortunately, you can’t really go under the radar, and just drive a really beautiful and fast car. It was lime green so the joke was on me. It happens.
Complex: There have been reports that you’re an advocate of hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Jeremy Piven: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t have a lot of experience with electric cars, but I drove this hydrogen BMW, which was amazing. It was so smooth and fast you never would’ve guessed it was hydrogen-based. Basically, if each governor stepped up and made some hydrogen stations we can get a move into that. At the moment, I’m driving this amazing Lexus hybrid, which you’ll just never know that it’s a hybrid. The only thing you’re doing is saving gas.
Complex: Maybe promoting fuel-efficient vehicles could be your next thing after this.
Jeremy Piven: [Looks at his publicist.]
Publicist: He’s into vehicles.
Jeremy Piven: Yeah, I’d like to.
Complex: What was your dream car growing up as a kid?
Jeremy Piven: My dream car was a 1965 Mustang convertible. For some reason I was fixated with Mustangs.
Complex: Were you able to acquire it eventually?
Jeremy Piven: My father actually bought one, and we drove it for a while. It was amazing. When it ran its course my father took the body of the car and put it in our garden. It had tomato plants going through it, and I used it as a jungle gym when I was a kid. It had many different lives.
Complex: What’s the wildest thing you’ve done inside a car? Both legal and illegal.
Jeremy Piven: [Pauses, and looks at his publicist.]
Publicist: You don’t have to answer the latter part. [Laughs.]
Jeremy Piven: Umm, yeah, you know I…
Publicist: Typical teenage stuff.
Jeremy Piven: I think I get distracted too easily, so nothing really too exciting in terms of cars.
Complex: Did you ever impress anyone with your whips?
Jeremy Piven: I don’t think so. At least, no one’s ever told me that I’ve been impressive as any way, shape, or form as a driver. I’ve been told I’m unimpressive. I’ve been told that a couple times.
Jeremy Piven: I was just told that I’m not a great driver. I think I have potential as a great driver.
Complex: Well, everybody has potential.
Jeremy Piven: [Laughs.] Exactly.
Complex: In The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard you played a car salesman. Would you ever sell cars?
Jeremy Piven: I think it would be really fun, but I think I’ll probably hit the wall and be terrible at it. I don’t think I have a lot of endurance as a salesman.
Complex: My friend owns an ’86 Corolla. How would you sell that?
Jeremy Piven: I would say, “This is a sleeper hit of the season. I know what you’re thinking, ‘1986 Corolla? I’m a grown man. What am I doing driving that?’ But why don’t you take this car, which is actually over-achieving and go completely under the radar. Live the dream.”
Complex: That sounds awesome. I’ll tell him that.
Jeremy Piven: [Laughs.]
Complex: Is Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood super agent, which your character Ari Gold is based off, happy with your portrayal on Entourage?
Jeremy Piven: You know? I have no idea. I don’t have a clue. But I could tell you that if he didn’t like it, I would have heard about it. So I think silence is a good sign in that particular case.
Complex: You consider yourself a Jewish Buddhist. Can you expand on that?
Jeremy Piven: Yeah, I’m just a student of Buddhism, and I just want to learn more and more about it. I think no harm can come from meditating. Anytime you go in working toward the presence, and not rushing, then I think that’s a beautiful thing. I was born Jewish, both of my parents are Jewish, and I was Bar Mitzvah’d, but I think you can be whatever you want to be in this life.