When Jeremy Piven signed on to Robert Rodriguez’s fourth “Spy Kids” film, he definitely knew in for something different with the technically-gifted writer and director. What the Emmy-winning “Entourage” star didn’t realize, though, was that Rodriguez was going to let him approach the film like a stage actor and put his greatest skill — imagination — to work.
“I got to play a handful of different characters and as actor, that’s what you hope to do — to challenge yourself and mix it up, explore and be allowed to use your imagination. That’s what Robert Rodriguez’s whole world is about,” Piven told me in an interview. “I grew up on the stage, where you just throw yourself into projects and don’t get in your own way. That’s exactly the way he works, so I feel like I was almost born to be a part of his team in a weird way.”
And what a decidedly different team it is. Known mostly for his roles in adult-themed comedies including the HBO series “Entourage,” and such R-rated films as “Old School,” “Very Bad Things” and the under-appreciated “RocknRolla,” “Spy Kids” introduced Piven to the world of the family movie and an audience made up largely of kids.
New on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World” (Dimension Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment) stars Jessica Alba as Marissa Cortez-Wilson, the wife of busy “Spy Hunter” TV show host Wilbur Wilson (Joel McHale). Frazzled trying to be a good stepmom to Wilbur’s 10-year-old twins Rebecca (Rowen Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) — as well as new mom to her and husband’s new baby — Marissa’s life becomes even more complicated when she’s called back to duty as a secret agent for the OSS, the agency where the now-defunct Spy Kids division began.
With the aid of Rebecca and Cecil as new recruits, Marissa’s mission is to stop the threat of Armageddon by the mysterious Timekeeper (Piven) — a supervillain who is angry at the world for squandering time.
The mantle clock-faced Timekeeper is only one of three roles Piven plays in “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.” He also plays Danger D’Amo, the debonair head of the OSS, and is virtually unrecognizable as Tick Tock, one of the Timekeeper’s cronies.
While Piven is happy that “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World” is filled with all of the zany action and cool gadgets ( this one adds a robotic dog, voiced by Ricky Gervais) that filmgoers have come to expect in Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” films, he’s thrilled that the film has some meaning, too.
“The whole film is about time because the villain wants to steal time to go back in time because he didn’t spend time with his father. It has some really beautiful, heartfelt themes,” Piven said. “We all deal with issues of time. The first thing you do in the morning is look at the clock to see what time it is. There isn’t a person that this movie wouldn’t appeal to or affect. That’s why I hope people don’t go, ‘Oh, it’s one of those kids’ movies and stay away from it, because it really is about something — yet it can be incredibly lighthearted and fun.”
On a personal level, Piven said he very much relates to the issue the Timekeeper faces in “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World” because his father, Byrne, passed away in 2002.
“The role really hit home for me,” Piven said. “When I read the script, it was so serendipitous. It made me think of a lot of things. I didn’t have to look too far for my inspiration. The character wants to go back and spend time with his dad, and he’s really remorseful for that. Who wouldn’t want to go back and connect with their father again?”