Movie Times Vault

The Top 10 Jeremy Piven Movie Roles


Lucas (1986) Like some kind of hazy childhood memory, many of us can vaguely
recollect Piven’s film debut as Spike, one of the bullies who picks on poor
little Lucas. Watching it again now, it’s sort of funny, as Piven shows off an
early version of his all-attitude approach, without the freaky charm he would
cultivate years later. Hey Ari, leave Corey Haim alone!   9. Black Hawk
Down (2001) Despite an impressive cast, the real star of this film about a
harrowing U.S. military mission in Somalia was director Ridley Scott’s
storytelling. Piven barely makes an impression as Wolcott, but it’s worth
noting as a relic from the brief period in the late ’90s and early 2000s when
producers for some reason tried to peg him as a law enforcement/military type.
Thanks to a string of quirky performances, though, Piven managed to avoid the
typecasting that would have had him playing a cop ever other film—call it the
Tommy Lee Jones Factor.   8. Cars (2006) Just a couple of years into
Entourage, Piven provided the voice of Harv, who works for Owen Wilson’s
Lightning McQueen as…an agent. Okay, it wasn’t exactly a stretch for him at
that point, but it’s funny stuff, and great idea from co-writer-directors John
Lasseter and Joe Ranft. This kind of cleverness is why parents can stand to go
to Pixar movies with their kids.   7. PCU (1994) His first starring role,
in one of those movies it’s now hard to believe ever got made. Basically coming
in as a lower-weight-class John Belushi, Piven is Droz, the resident crazy guy
who wants to shake the PC out of PCU. Of course, the administration wants him
out, and all the campus activists want a piece of him, too. What can save
him—career counseling and improved study habits? Of course not, this is a
college comedy! Instead he calls on the funk of George Clinton. A bonehead role
in a goofy movie like this can sometimes make a career, but Piven didn’t nail
the vibe and the material was sub-Road Trip.   6. Old School (2003) Now
this is more like it. God knows what convinced Piven to take the role of the
anti-Droz, Dean Pritchard, but he turned a small, silly part into what Troy
McClure would call “pure comedy gold.” Old School is a better campus flick than
PCU in every way, it’s true, but Piven ironically finds a more memorable way to
approach the stock uncool role than he did the much bigger class-clown part.
Maybe it helped that Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, as the guys
trying to re-live their wacky college glory days, made for better adversaries
than PCU’s David Spade and Jessica Walter (who would go on to better things on
Arrested Development).   5. Highway (2002) This post-Tarantino drama about
Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal on the run from Vegas headcrackers is one of the
stranger entries in Piven’s filmography. As Scawldy, he goes truly wacko, all
drugged up one minute, then out of nowhere launching into an insane rant. He
sings the Nuge without provocation, and in general comes off even crazier than
the Motor City Madman. He did what now to the coke machine at the Motel 6? The
best part is that when Gyllenthal has to act like Piven is completely freaking
him out, he doesn’t look like he’s faking it.   4. Rocknrolla As London
clubowner and music impresario Roman, Piven is ju st one cog in director Guy
Ritchie’s incredibly complicated machine. But giving him a spot on his roster
of tough guys was sheer brilliance on Ritchie’s part. Along with partner Mickey
(played by Ludacris), Roman manages drugged-out rock star Johnny Quid. When
Johnny goes missing and the mob come knocking on their door, they have to go
looking for them, but they’re not prepared for what happens if they find him.
   3. Grosse Point Blank (1997) Piven and John Cusack roomed together
before they made it big, and they first appeared together in Say Anything.
Cusack got the lead and went on to teen-heartthrob stardom, while Piven had a
bit part as one of the guys hangin’ outside the convenience store. But this
pairing of the two actors worked out much better for Piven, playing Paul
Spericki, the childhood friend of Cusack’s hitman, in one of the best comedies
of all time.    2. Singles (1992) Director-writer Cameron Crowe gave
Piven his first chance to show off how spot-on his comic timing could be. Doug
Hughley is perhaps the greatest in Piven’s series of small but unforgettable
parts. Not only that, but his vocal blending of “Bring the Noise” and “What’s
So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding” predated the mash-up genre by 10
years.   1. Smokin’ Aces (2007) As the title character, “Aces,” aka Buddy
Israel, in this twisty crime flick, Piven is no holds barred. He owns this
movie. “What do you see right now? You see exactly and only what I choose to
show you.” A-magician-with-an-edge turns out to be a perfect showcase for
Piven’s talents. Oozing confidence and mystique, but demonstrating a range of
emotion that he doesn’t often get to show in his big-screen roles, he proves
he’s more than ready to be a leading man. The plot? Whatever.