Jeremy Piven revs up Hot Wheels ads
Jeremy Piven has won three Emmy Awards playing confident, can-do agent Ari Gold on HBO's "Entourage," so his turn as the bumbling, sycophantic coffee boy in Funny or Die's new commercial campaign for Hot Wheels is a striking departure from the veteran actor's most recognizable role. But which character does he resemble more?
"This character that I'm playing in this Hot Wheels thing is the antithesis of Ari Gold. Which guy am I more like? Believe it or not, I'm more like the coffee guy in the Hot Wheels thing than Ari Gold," Piven, 45, said during an interview at the 2011 American International Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York City.
Hot Wheels, with its die-cast cars, trucks and motorcycles, has been a staple of childhood for generations. With the introduction of Team Hot Wheels -- four masked daredevil drivers who'll star in commercials and make public appearances -- the company hopes to appeal to speed enthusiasts both young and old.
Targeting the valuable 18- to 24-year-old demographic would usually mean hiring a scantily clad supermodel, said Simon Waldron, vice president of marketing for Hot Wheels. Instead, the company went a different direction, partnering with Adam McKay and Will Ferrell of Funny or Die to create a commercial campaign starring Piven. His character aspires to be the fifth driver for Team Hot Wheels, and so he puts together a montage of video clips (all pathetically fake) that tries to sell the foursome on his qualifications to be a member of the team.
"The coffee guy who asks one too many personal questions, that's me," Piven's character says in the first video released in the Team Hot Wheels campaign. "I am an amateur stunt enthusiast, ya know, didn't quite calculate some of the trajectories of some of my jumps and burned down my first home. I digress."
After the video premiered at the Toy Fair, Piven discussed the genesis of the project with Hot Wheels.
"When [they] came to me with the idea, I just thought it was perfect because ... if you make it funny, then the promotion of the product is organic and it's not overt and didactic and that kind of stuff," he said. "There are so many commercials, and you understand why and how they're put together. With this, I think people are laughing and embracing the whole vibe of it without feeling like they're being sold something."
Piven, a Chicago native, said he was still licking his wounds over the Bears' loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, but was happy for the Bears' biggest rivals after their recent Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It was such an amazing game. I think for that people who don't really know football, it wasn't that exciting, that's what I hear. But if you know football, you're like, 'Oh my god, [Charles] Woodson goes down,' one of their best players goes down. Their roster is so deep and they've been doing it all year. It's like the Super Bowl was little bit of a microcosm of their whole season," he said. "They're rivals of the Bears, but you've gotta give it up to them, they stepped up."
The eighth and final season of "Entourage" will begin taping in April and will air this summer. Piven said he could neither confirm nor deny the possibility of an "Entourage" movie after the series ends. But if he doesn't get the opportunity to play Ari Gold on the big screen, it's not like he'll be scrounging for work. He just finished filming a movie with Miley Cyrus called "So Undercover," and his latest release -- "I Melt With You," a dark film about four 40-something friends who get together for their annual reunion -- premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was purchased by Magnolia Pictures, the film company owned by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. And if this acting thing doesn't work out, well, there's always the chance that Team Hot Wheels could hire him to be its fifth driver.
Cam Martin is a contributor to Page 2. He previously worked for the Greenwich (Conn.) Time and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate, and has written online for CBS Sports and Comcast SportsNet New England. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @CameronDMartin.