Yeah, if I can't play my best friend, you know, when he is my best friend, I should just go and hand out towels somewhere, at like, the Y or something.
Jeremy Piven, on playing John Cusack’s best friend in Serendipity
Born: July 26, 1965 in New York
Family: Bryne and Joyce Hiller Piven, parents; Shira (married to Adam McCay, a head writer on SNL), sister
Raised: Evanston, Illinois
Maybe you know him from PCU. Or Ellen. No? What about Cupid? Remember that show? No? You’re not alone. Despite how fun he is to watch, Jeremy Piven seems to be one of the most often seen yet rarely recognized actors of his generation. At least, he is in my corner of this mitten-shaped wasteland.
Jeremy grew up with John Cusack. The two are best buddies, which is probably part of the reason why you often seeing them playing friends in various movies. They’ve shared an apartment together. Both grew up attending the Piven Theater Workshop in Chicago (John's three siblings are also alums), founded by Piven’s parents, Bryne and Joyce. Eventually, Jeremy and John opened their own theater company, New Criminals Theater Company, in Chicago. Their first production was written by Tim Robbins, directed by John, and starred Jeremy. During the show, he ran into the audience and straddled the head of some poor gentleman. Oddly appropriate, since one of the goals of the company is to shock people. "Unless an entire row of people got up in the middle of a performance and left the theater in disgust, I felt as though I hadn't done my job," said Jeremy.
In addition to his theater experience, Jeremy is well-educated. He majored in theater at Drake University, graduated New York University, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and attended National Theater in London, England.
In 1990, after touring with Second City (Jeremy’s mother was a co-founder), Jeremy got his start in television with Carol Burnett. Not a bad place to begin! Although Carol & Company did not turn out to be a long-running show, Jeremy also had appearances on The Larry Sanders Show in the early nineties. Eventually, he won the role of Spence Kovack on ABC’s Ellen, which really helped his career take off. Jeremy remained on the show until it ended in 1998.
Following Ellen, Jeremy was cast in ABC’s Cupid. The show revolved around Jeremy’s character, Trevor Hale, who believed himself to be the Roman god of love, and Hale’s psychiatrist, played by Paula Marshall. Each episode had Trevor helping lonely folks find love, with romantical tension growing between Hale and the skeptical shrink all the while. The show had a smallish but die-hard following and is still running in Australia.
Since his foray into television, Jeremy’s movie career has taken off. He’s starred in movies with various famous folks including John, David Spade, Kate Beckinsale, and Nicolas Cage. He’s played a wide range of characters, from the fifth- (or sixth-) year college senior in PCU to the effeminate (and show-stealing) Versace salesman in Rush Hour 2. No matter what type of person Jeremy is playing, he somehow he always manages to come off adorable. He’s just very likable on screen. I love watching him no matter what the movie is.
Sadly, Jeremy’s father, Bryne, passed away two days ago on February 19, 2002. He was 72.
Notable television and movie appearances:
- Black Hawk Down (2001) as Chief Warrant Officer Cliff 'Elvis' Wolcott
- Serendipity (2001) as Dean
- Rush Hour 2 (2001) as the Versace Salesman
- The Family Man (2000) as Arnie
- The Crew (2000) as Det. Steve Menteer
- Cupid (1998/I) TV Series as Cupid/Trevor Hale
- Very Bad Things (1998) as Michael Berkow
- Kiss the Girls (1997) as Henry Castillo
- Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) as Paul Spericki
- PCU (1994) as James 'Droz' Andrews
- Ellen (1994) as Spence Kovak (1995-1998)
- The Larry Sanders Show, (1992) as Jerry Capen (1992-1993)
- Carol & Company (1990) as skit characters
- Say Anything... (1989) as Mark, Gas N'Sip Boy