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Showbiz Today Star of Tomorrow

Jeremy Piven

 

(CNN) -- Jeremy Piven may look familiar to you from his time playing "Cupid" on the small screen, or for his television friendship with "Ellen" during her coming-out period. You also may remember him as the bachelor who got too frisky in "Very Bad Things" (1998) or from "Grosse Point Blank" (1997) with his old buddy and friend-in-film, John Cusack.

Piven, 35, hasn't slowed down since then, either. He co-stars in the recently released "The Crew" alongside Richard Dreyfuss and Burt Reynolds, then shares time in "The Family Man" opposite Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni.

Now he's in New York shooting "Serendipity," and his co-star in this film is -- you guessed it -- Cusack. Chicago residents, both got their start at a tender age at a school called the Piven Theatre Workshop.

CNN: How many films have you made with John Cusack?

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CNN's Lori Blackman spotlights actor Jeremy Piven

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Piven: I've made (five) movies with Johnny, but this is definitely the biggest role I've had. It's almost like a romantic comedy, but it's like a buddy comedy as well because he and I really share the screen for most of the movie. ... We've known each other since we were 8 years old and now we're playing best friends -- and nothing could be better, because you've got all that history with that person.

CNN: You've done 28 feature films, 12 television series and seven theatrical productions in 14 years. Do you ever not work?

Piven: This is the first year where I haven't done a series and then, with the three months off, done a movie. I've been doing that for 10 years and this is the first time I kind of stopped and got off the TV train and devoted my time to films, and it lends itself to a much kind of more human lifestyle. The idea that you can work and then take a break is new to me, so ... I feel like I just got graduated college.

CNN: You grew up in Chicago. Your parents had a theater school there.

Piven: The Piven Theatre Workshop. That's where I met John Cusack and we were doing, like, Chekhov short stories when we were 8 years old, and we had no right to do that -- just butchering them, you know? But at the same time, I thought that that's what every kid did. That was like my play time. ...

CNN: When did you and Cusack started your own theater troupe?

Piven: It's been 12 years. We started it in 1988, ... the New Criminals. And then it became New Crime Productions, which has gone on to produce films like "Grosse Point Blank" and "High Fidelity" (2000).

CNN: Was your first role Carol Burnett's "Carol & Company"?

Piven: Yes. I feel like I am a part of television history, because I started with Carol Burnett. Then I switched over to "The Larry Sanders Show" which I think kicked off all these great HBO shows. It paved the way for "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" and all that. ... And then I had my own show, "Cupid," which I think was an amazing experience.

CNN: That show had a huge cult following.

Piven: Yeah, people really dug it; we worked really hard. It was an hour show and it wasn't meant to be. ... I feel lucky that I got to do that, and then I was out and now I am doing movies. I feel blessed.

CNN: In "The Crew," you play the womanizing funnyman ...

Piven: I have played a few of those guys. Yes, indeed. It's a really funny movie; I was proud of it. ... I guess you can equate it with "Analyze This" or "Grumpy Old Men" or "Goodfellas." ... It's kind of a stylized madcap comedy that is kind of paced up and works and is original. I like it. I'm proud of it.

And then, with "The Family Man," it's a totally different vibe. And with "Serendipity" ... I play a guy who writes obituaries for The New York Times.

CNN: Some directors have said that you have a very dark side. We saw it very briefly on "Very Bad Things."

Piven: People say, "You're a comedian, right?" I've never ... said, "You know, I've been trained as an actor. I studied at the National Theatre of Great Britain, I am an actor and I've been lucky enough to do comedic roles." But there are other roles that people have not seen me do that I have done on the stage."

CNN: Do you have a favorite film role you've played?

Piven: "Very Bad Things" was the first time I ever felt in a movie that I really had a character with an arc ... that I got to be constructing. And that was fantastic, that was like a gift. ...

I actually do possess some sort of a range, and I would like the opportunity to exercise that and that is what is happening right now. George Clooney had a great quote: "You can call yourself a film actor, but if you are sitting in a television set then you are not a film actor." And this is the first year that I've said, "You know what? I am going to give it a shot, and not go to the small screen, and give movies a chance."

That's what I am going to be doing. And here we go.

RELATED STORIES:
Review: Sweet but uneven, 'The Crew' offers lightweight laughs
August 25, 2000
Review: Darkness in 'Very Bad Things' nearly works
December 03, 1998
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