He’s best known as carefree movie star Vinnie Chase on HBO’s “Entourage,” but don’t mistake Adrian Grenier for his lackadaisical on-screen counterpart. The 36-year-old actor lends his talents as a producer to this weekend’s new movie “How to Make Money Selling Drugs,” a documentary that explores America’s failed war on drugs.
The Matthew Cooke-directed film offers a satirical ten-step process for becoming a drug dealer. Included are several interviews with former dealers, from low-level street sellers to million-dollar lords, many of whom have spent years in prison for committing non-violent crimes. The documentary criticizes the United States’ costly drug war, which has been spiraling out of control since its inception during Nixon administration, and urges viewers to rally for less-strict drug policies.
“How to Make Money Selling Drugs” features in-depth interviews with famous former addicts, including 50 Cent and Eminem. Celebrities notorious for supporting less stringent drug laws, including Susan Sarandon and marijuana-enthusiast Woody Harrelson, also appear in the flick to make their case.
I recently spoke with Grenier about his involvement in the film, his passion for changing America’s current drug policies, and whether he expects any backlash from government officials over the documentary.
Laura Hibbs: How did you get involved in this project?
Adrian Grenier: I’ve been friends with Matthew Cooke for some time. He brought the project to me by way of an idea board. I was at his office and he had all these ideas tacked up, and the one that stuck out said “How to Make Money Selling Drugs.” Of course, my eye went directly to that and I wanted to know more.
Hibbs: Did you know a lot about the drug war before you signed on to produce?
Grenier: I didn’t. There’s so much about the topic that I took for granted and was straight ignorant about. It took that title and the film to jar me out of my complacency and seek more.
Hibbs: How did you get huge celebrities, like Eminem and 50 Cent, to share their addiction stories?
Grenier: We are very much thankful to Eminem, 50 Cent, Woody Harrelson and everybody in the film for coming forward and speaking honestly and bravely about these realities. I think that everybody involved had a desire to make the truth be known. It’s because of a lot of ignorance surrounding current drug policies that the people interviewed have gone through so many tragic events. I think their willingness to come forward and speak out is because they want to save others from following the same path.
Hibbs: The film also features interviews with a lot of real-life former drug dealers. Were they hesitant to open up?
Grenier: One would think that it would have been the hardest part. Ironically, these are guys that want their stories to be told. They are cautionary tales. They want to have that open, honest conversation because they have been there. They are the ones who, after having gone through the prison system and experience the pitfalls and the life and death dangers of drug dealing, they are looking to make sure their story gets told.
Hibbs: What social change do you hope this film inspires?
Grenier: We have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, but we only have five percent of the world’s population. American people must be particularly evil. Or we just have policies that are misguided. I would say it’s the latter. These policies aren’t going away until we actually do something to ensure that they go away. These policies are responsible for destroying communities and the fabric of what makes our country great. We are a country of free people; we should not be a country of prisoners. We should support the weakest, downtrodden members of society and poor people, look out for those that suffer from addiction. We should figure out the smartest, best way to help them. Right now, we are just finding the weakest members of society, throwing them in jail and checking off a box to meet our quotas.
Hibbs: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem with America’s current drug policies?
Grenier: If you think about the money diverted to arresting minor drug possessions and the like, it really could be used to build communities, create jobs, create different opportunities, and help with rehabilitation and drug treatment. The most shocking, scary statistic is the fact that almost 50 percent of arrests and incarcerations are drug related, versus the eight percent which are violent crimes. So we’re not actually going out and doing the hard police work to bring the rapists and murderers to justice, because it’s a lot more difficult to do that work. But we are going out and were picking up people for smoking a joint on the street or minor possession and were throwing them in jail. And, really, it is a distraction to the real crime that we need to be addressing, that we should be scared of.
Hibbs: Why is this an important movie for Americans to see?
Grenier: It is an important movie because it is a movie that you actually want to see. This is a great movie. If there is one thing that this movie is going to do, [it] is excite people to pierce through the layers of this topic and see what they take for granted. We get unprecedented backdoor looks at the DEA and drug dealers. It’s as exciting as “Cocaine Cowboys,” but cinematically like “Star Wars.” It will actually be able to communicate to those who are distracted by pop media.
Hibbs: Have you had any backlash from the government over the movie?
Grenier: Not yet. But I’d just like to say, “Hello, NSA!”
“How to Make Money Selling Drugs” hits theaters everywhere on Friday, June 28. Click here to order tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.