Circling Back is where GQ revisits the little things about the big things in pop culture.
Recently, the first trailer for Michael Mann’s highly-anticipated new movie Ferrari dropped. It promised a torqued-up good time: Adam Driver as the big man Enzo Ferrari himself, a passionate Penélope Cruz as Mrs. Ferrari, some very fast cars, and House of Gucci-style accents throughout. Bene, bene.
Later that same day, I was reliving the year 2009 in my house when I was confronted with a coincidence so uncanny it was enough to make me believe in the singularity. You see, I’d been watching the HBO bro comedy Entourage for the first time ever, enjoying the exploits, trials, and tribulations of young movie star Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) and his friends. And I had just arrived at the exact point where Vince is playing none other than Enzo Ferrari in Ferrari.
First, why am I watching Entourage in the year of our lord 2023? Let’s turn to the GQ article “Entourage Is For the Girls,” where the writer P.E. Moskowitz put it best. “I enjoy Entourage not despite it being a male-centered-fantasy-on-steroids, but precisely because it is one,” they wrote. “In an era where seemingly every piece of media is algorithmically catered toward one’s identity demographic … Entourage provides me with access to a world that isn’t meant for me. Watching it is the closest I’ll ever get to understanding what it’s like to be One of the Boys.”
It’s become fashionable for stars of old sitcoms like The Office or Friends to hand-wring and claim that their show “could’ve never been made today.” In Entourage’s case, this is actually true. But, watching it more than 10 years after it went off the air, I have appreciation of its unblinking, often remarkably prescient, depiction of the entertainment industry. (Also, I wish Johnny Drama was real so I could write a profile on him that’s full of pathos.)
Like Nostradamus, if he exclusively communicated his visions through an HBO show about “the fellas,” Entourage predicted the future several times before Ferrari. Vince stars in a number of fictional movies that have since been made reality: James Cameron’s Aquaman became James Wan’s Aquaman in 2018 and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom in 2023; Martin Scorsese’s The Great Gatsby became Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby in 2013; Billy Walsh’s Medellin became the Netflix series Narcos in 2015, and so on.
Ferrari, though, is a lesser-remembered plotline. It took place mostly in season six. At that point in the show, Vince had done the indie Queens Boulevard and then chased it with Aquaman, his big superhero blockbuster—long before Marvel dominated the box office. That primed him for his passion project, Medellin, in which he played the drug lord Pablo Escobar. When it bombed spectacularly, Vince floundered and flirted with bankruptcy, until The Great Gatsby came along and saved his career.
Vince is on an upswing when he’s filming Ferrari. After he finally gets his drivers’ license so he can drive in the movie, he takes his friends car racing, then uses his movie perks to give his buddy Turtle (played by Jerry Ferrara) a Ferrari for his birthday. “I’m playing Enzo Ferrari,” Vince explains, “So I got 10% off.” He also gets fitted for an old-school racing costume, before a storm in Malta destroys the sets and delays filming for 12 weeks. But it does eventually get made, and Vince gets all the way to promoting it at a press junket with Maria Menounos.
How does Entourage Ferrari compare to the actual Ferrari coming to theaters this December?
Now, the actual Ferrari was in development hell for nearly 30 years before it got made. The late, great Sydney Pollack was signed on as a producing partner to Mann. Christian Bale was in negotiations for the lead part. Over time, it shifted distributors and production companies. Hugh Jackman and Noomi Rapace were then in talks to play leads, until this current iteration came together. This is all the sort of industry minutiae that Entourage regularly spins into high-stakes drama.
So did Entourage creator and executive producer Doug Ellin know that the script was floating around and keep that in mind? “I would be lying to say that I actually remember, but we never really dealt with any of that,” he told me in a phone call. “The reason it came about then is I always loved Ferraris, and Adrian has an Italian look to him, and I just thought it would be funny. So that was really it.” (He’s also personally psyched for the actual Ferrari movie.)
Whether Vince’s movies would flop or bomb was not determined ahead of time. As the story goes, Ellin was going to have Aquaman tank, until James Cameron, who directed the movie in the Entourage universe, got involved. “James Cameron sent a letter: ‘You can’t make this movie bomb,’” Ellin said. “But he was dead serious, and we changed the whole thing because we obviously didn’t want to insult him.”
And, hey, never bet against Big Jim: the decidedly aquatic Avatar: Way of the Water grossed $2.3 billion worldwide last year.
Meanwhile, Medellin was going to be Vince’s prestige Oscar winner. Mark Mylod, best known for being the primary director of Succession, even made a whole trailer for it—which promptly got savaged. “When it went on the internet, everyone was making fun of the trailer that Vince looked ridiculous in this fat suit and all this stuff,” Ellin remembered. “So we changed it.”
We’ve yet to see how Ferrari will go down for Adam Driver, but in the world of Entourage, Ferrari came and went without much fuss either way. So how does Ellin think how it fit into the grand scheme of Vince’s career? “I think it was a hit,” he said. “And an artistic one for sure.”