TV and Movies and “Breaking Bad” Again

An “Entourage” movie was to begin filming in May, according to reports, but was postponed because cast members including The Guy Who Plays Vince, The Guy Who Plays Ari, and The Guy Who Plays Turtle want more money.

“Entourage” was about a handsome movie star named Vincent Chase (think Leo or Gosling) living in Hollywood with his three best friends. It was also about his psychotic, brilliant agent. The show was great for a while in the middle of its eight-season run, when compelling movie-star stuff was happening. Vincent Chase was working deals to star in an “Aquaman” movie directed by James Cameron, who appeared as himself. He was also trying to make a movie about Pablo Escobar called “Medellin.” The behind-the-scenes stuff was fantastic; my single favorite episode was a fake documentary about the filming of “Medellin.” Their young director loses his mind. It wound up bombing spectacularly.

Sadly, like other classic HBO shows including “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under,” “Entourage” kept going after it ran out of good story. By the end, the show thought its audience cared if Vince and his little buddy E found love. We did not. Maybe it’s a good thing “Deadwood” ended before it was done.

“Entourage” has totally colored the way I think about movies. An example: Bradley Cooper recently was announced to have bought the film rights to “American Sniper,” an autobiography by the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history. Multiple news outlets described it as a “passion project” for Cooper. He even got Steven Spielberg to sign on as director. I heard this and thought of “Medellin.” Maybe Bradley does movies like “Hangover 3” because it gives him power within the movie biz to make projects like “American Sniper.” Very Vincent Chase.

Spielberg has since been replaced by Clint Eastwood. The sniper, Chris Kyle, was tragically killed this year by a veteran Marine with, at least, PTSD. Because real life is crazier than fiction.

Peter Berg once appeared in a story arch in “Entourage,” directing Vincent Chase in the action flick “Smoke Jumpers.” Berg was portrayed as angry and a little nuts. It turns out, again, that real life is crazier than fiction.

In an interview with superstar sports-and-pop-culture writer Bill Simmons, who runs ESPN’s Grantland.com, Berg speaks of cussing out “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan from a Laker game. Gilligan wrote the original script for “Hancock,” the film Berg directed starring Will Smith as a drunk superhero.

“You wanna hear about my Vince Gilligan fight?” Berg asks Simmons. “Sure,” Simmons says, even though he actually wants to talk about his own comparisons and rankings for things. He doesn’t follow up any of Berg’s great stories with questions. Simmons was much better as “The Boston Sports Guy,” before he moved to Hollywood.

“Hancock” was originally called “Tonight He Comes,” Berg says, “It was about a superhero alcoholic who could not make love because if he . . . climaxed he would kill a woman with the power of his climax. It was this really dark, twisted script. . . ” written by “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan.

“I had heard Vince had this TV show he wanted to go and do, and I was like ‘Whatever, you gotta go and finish this script.’ . . . He finished the script and said ‘OK, that’s it, I’m outta here. I’m gonna go do this TV show.’ I called Vince, and I was like ‘What the hell? You can’t run out on us!’ I was at a Laker game, actually, so I was talking kinda loud, and I was, you know, a bit intense. I was younger and more immature than I am today. And I was raging on at Vince, and probably dropping a few F-bombs at him. There was a long pause and he kind of accused me of being drunk. He was like ‘Pete, are you drunk?’ And I was like, ‘No, I’m not drunk. How can you leave us to go do your television show, it’s this stupid idea.’ I basically said ‘Fine, F you,’ and I hung up.”

This story demonstrates an important theme in modern pop culture. Gilligan has a dark script about an alcoholic superhero. It gets watered down by movie makers into a generic, forgettable, PG-13 Will Smith vehicle. Gilligan leaves to make “Breaking Bad,” but not before getting cussed out from the front row of a Laker game by a big-shot Hollywood director. Without interference from demanding producers and stars, Gilligan creates a TV show that is more compelling on every level, including action-wise, than the films coming out of Hollywood.

I keep coming back to “Breaking Bad” on this blog because I just love it. I’ve never seen anything like it. The ending of last week’s episode was brilliant in the way it built suspense, held it, and then unleashed a hail of bullets. We watched Hank slap cuffs on Walt and read the Great Heisenberg his Miranda rights! He’s got him, and he’s so proud, and now he’s probably dead.

The show ended with two sides—lawmen and Nazis—blasting at each other in the desert. I don’t see how this next episode doesn’t open with Hank’s death. He and Gomey are too outnumbered. Hank’s phone call to his wife made it seem as though he is doomed. Then again, Vince Gilligan knows that phone call made it seem like Hank is doomed, and he doesn’t do predictable.

Ack! The wait is killing me. Real life is crazier than fiction, except for “Breaking Bad.”

A painting by Thom Ross, who sells out of Due West Gallery in Santa Fe, is hanging in Hank's house. Ross paints a lot of tough, old-school lawmen.

A painting by Thom Ross, who sells out of Due West Gallery in Santa Fe, is hanging in Hank’s house. Ross paints a lot of tough, old-school lawmen.

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