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