‘I had this pat­tern of beat­ing my­self up’: Doc­u­men­tary chron­i­cles re­turn to wrestling in ef­fort to re­vive dor­mant act­ing ca­reer

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY RICHARD ROEPER, MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­times.com | @RichardERo­eper

In 1996, David Ar­quette was on the cover of the Van­ity Fair Hol­ly­wood is­sue, along­side other ris­ing stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughe­y, Will Smith and Beni­cio Del Toro.

Within five years, Ar­quette had be­come more of a nov­elty celebrity than a re­spected ac­tor — known for his mar­riage to Courteney Cox, play­ing the goof­ball Sher­iff Dwight “Dewey” Ri­ley in the “Scream” movies, some very pub­lic bouts with al­co­holism and tak­ing an Andy Kauf­man-es­que deep dive into the world of pro­fes­sional wrestling, even briefly hold­ing the WCW ti­tle in 2000.

Cut to nearly two decades later, with Ar­quette em­bark­ing on a quixotic jour­ney at the age of 48 to re­turn to wrestling in the strange be­lief it will re­sus­ci­tate his dor­mant act­ing ca­reer. It’s all chron­i­cled in the doc­u­men­tary “You Can­not Kill David Ar­quette,” premier­ing Wed­nes­day at the ChiTown Movies drive-in (with a live Zoom Q&A with the ac­tor) and open­ing Aug. 28 on demand.

“It’s a re­veal­ing and vul­ner­a­ble doc­u­men­tary and I let peo­ple into my life,” said Ar­quette in a re­cent phone con­ver­sa­tion. “It cap­tured my life at this point where a lot of things were com­ing to a head. I had this pat­tern of beat­ing my­self up for years. … I was do­ing stuff that could kill me … but I feel better now, like I fig­ured a lot of stuff out.”

The film posits Ar­quette’s wrestling ca­reer in the early 2000s was the pri­mary cause of his fall from Hol­ly­wood grace, but Ar­quette (now ap­pear­ing in the grisly so­cial­me­dia satire “Spree”) said it was a myr­iad of fac­tors.

“A lot of [it had to do] with per­sonal be­hav­ior choices and not be­ing as se­lec­tive in pick­ing roles as some peo­ple are. I don’t want to blame wrestling or ‘Scream.’ … There’s also get­ting your pic­ture taken out­side of [night­clubs] after en­ter­tain­ing [peo­ple] all night, be­ing on TMZ. … Plus, to give Hol­ly­wood its props, it’s a bru­tal busi­ness and they will get you, they will at­tack you.”

The doc­u­men­tary fol­lows Ar­quette as he trains in Vir­ginia and in Mex­ico and even­tu­ally in Los An­ge­les, wrestling in front of tiny crowds and get­ting slammed and pum­meled and suf­fer­ing in­juries in­clud­ing two bro­ken ribs. Were there mo­ments when he re­al­ized this was mad­ness and he should put a stop to it?

“There were mo­ments like that,” he said. “There is an el­e­ment to train­ing for wrestling … that gets you pre­pared to take pun­ish­ment to your body on a weekly ba­sis. But I was de­ter­mined to com­plete the goal I set out for my­self. I had a re­ally great sup­port group. My wife, Christina, has put up with so much and dealt with so much.”

Also ap­pear­ing in the film: Ar­quette’s ex-wife, Courteney Cox; Christina and David’s two young chil­dren, Char­lie and Au­gus­tus; as well as Ar­quette’s daugh­ter with Courteney Cox, 16-year-old Coco, who at first is mor­ti­fied by footage of her dad get­ting tossed about the ring like a rag doll but is later ring­side at a ma­jor match, flip­ping off the vil­lain and cheer­ing wildly. Cox says she was em­bar­rassed by David’s ob­ses­sion when they were mar­ried, but 10 years after the di­vorce, she and David re­main close.

“With a lot of di­vorces and cus­tody bat­tles, peo­ple tend to go to war with each other,” said Ar­quette. “And though it might sat­isfy your ego, the anger that’s left over is re­ally de­struc­tive, so we’ve al­ways treated each other with re­spect.”

In the doc, Courteney says: “We met on ‘Scream 1’, we hated each other on ‘Scream 2,’ we got mar­ried on ‘Scream 3,’ we got di­vorced on ‘Scream 4.’ ” Now it ap­pears there will be a “Scream 5,” with Ar­quette and Cox repris­ing their roles.

“‘Scream 5’ is hap­pen­ing,” said Ar­quette. “Courteney and I have signed up, we’re wait­ing to see if they can get Neve [Camp­bell], as she’s re­ally the heart and soul of the project. It’s go­ing to be re­ally dif­fi­cult with­out [the late] Wes Craven, but there’s a re­ally great group of film­mak­ers who were in­spired by Wes. … It’s a great team.”

In “You Can­not Kill David Ar­quette,” the ac­tor says his re­turn to wrestling forced him to be ready for non­stop pun­ish­ment to his body.

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