Intellectual property disputes come a dime a dozen in the entertainment industry. Oftentimes, the claims are tenuous. But in the case of Entourage creator Doug Ellin and the concept behind Showtime’s finance drama Billions, it would appear his assertions are anything but.
The revelation was made public knowledge in the latest episode of Doug Ellin’s new podcast Hollywood Wayz with guest star Kevin Connolly (E). The seasoned showrunner recounts how post-Entourage, he’d sold a show about hedge funds to HBO simply dubbed Hedge with Brian Koppelman and David Levien attached (referred to as “these writers” who were also responsible for Rounders starring Matt Damon and Ed Norton).
As fate would have it, HBO passed on the show. Though the saga wouldn’t exactly conclude right there and then. Two years later, Ellin would encounter then-journalist and future third co-creator of Billions, Andrew Ross Sorkin, who wanted to adapt similar source material inspired by Steven A. Cohen for the small screen. The former introduced the latter to Koppelman and Levien soon after. Instead of looping Ellin in, however, the trio would eventually ghost him in spite of his attempts to reconnect.
A year later, during an appearance on one of their podcasts, Doug Ellin asked his then-mate if he was working on anything interesting, to which he replied: “a show set in the hedge fund world called Billions.” Here in Australia, that’s what the law refers to as a “dog move.”
“This was like kind of as low rent, lowlife shit as can possibly be done,” says Ellin, who compared the situation to cutting out Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson from being credited as executive producers for Entourage.
“I didn’t write a single word of either of the scripts, not the one for HBO and not the one for Billions. But it was my idea that got them paid, and it was my idea to connect them… I have given people producer credits for far less than what I’ve described.”
“I want nothing out of this. I want the universe to take care of itself and burn them in fucking hell.”
Elsewhere, when the clickbait headlines began circulating online, Doug Ellin clarified how the entire Billions saga went down for the record, free of vitriol and spin. Because sometimes, you need to lay down the facts twice for the people sitting at the back.
“Juicy headline. But to be clear, I wanted to do a show set in the world of hedge funds and I brought two of the Billions creators into HBO to write it,” he states via Instagram.
“They were paid to write a show called Hedge. HBO passed on their script. A year or so later, I met the third creator of Billions who had a book or a story that he wanted to turn into a TV show. I called the guys who wrote that original Hedge script and said, ‘Let’s all connect and rework that.’ They said, ‘Sounds interesting.'”
“A month later I tried again. They were still considering it, they said. I never heard about it again. I did not write one syllable of Billions. I have never even seen it. But basic human decency would be to have included me as a producer. Many have done far, far less than what I just described.”
“Again, I want zero from these people except exactly what I said. Let the universe take care how it sees fit… Watch your backs out there.”
How does that saying about keeping friends and enemies close go again?
Listen to the story for yourself in the episode of Hollywood Wayz below (starting from around 3:55).