You can’t stop David Arquette. Throughout his thirty-year career, the 49-year-old has endured Hollywood ups and downs and came out smiling on the other side.
He’s appeared in fan-faves like Never Been Kissed, Eight Legged Freaks and Buffy The Vampire Slayer – and dodged Ghost Face’s blade as Deputy Dewey in four (soon to be five) Scream movies. His survivor spirit was put to the test in last year’s aptly-titled You Cannot Kill David Arquette, a hard-hitting documentary chronicling his attempt to re-crack the world of professional wrestling after an ill-advised publicity stunt in 2000 saw him anger the entire wrestling community.
Cut to 2021 and you’ll find him in Brea Grant’s dark comedy 12 Hour Shift which he produced alongside his wife Christina. Clearly, slowing down isn’t on his agenda.
“I’ve been acting professionally for thirty years and there’s all kinds of different reasons why you do things,” says Arquette of his varied career path. “Sometimes you’re doing independent films to help directors or to get people started as actors – but as a working actor, sometimes you just want to work.”
12 Hour Shift sees him star as Jefferson, a mysterious patient in a hospital with links to Arkansas’ underground organ trafficking trade. When disgruntled nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) and her street-smart sister Regina (Chloe Farnworth) get mixed up with small-town kingpin Nicholas (Mick Foley), all hell breaks loose as they try to secure a kidney and stay alive.
“I loved it,” grins Arquette, recalling his first encounter with Grant’s script. “I thought it had a really good tone. It has elements of horror, thriller and comedy – and I love working on projects with female directors. There’s just not enough of them.”
When it came to fleshing out the role, Arquette smiles and says he was inspired by the ‘Hot Mug Shot Guy’ who shot to viral fame back in 2014. However, it’s hard not to think that his own childhood growing up in Hollywood didn’t help.
The youngest Arquette sibling and brother to Patricia, Rosanna, Richmond and the late Alexis, he hails from an acting family that dates all the way back to the 1940s and his grandfather, Cliff Arquette. “I grew up in Hollywood – but a different kind of Hollywood,” he tells us.
“Some people have their impression of what Hollywood is but when I grew up in the 70s and 80s, it was pretty rough. There was some crazy stuff. We were running around all the time. I was a graffiti writer and trying to be a bad boy – and that still sticks with me.” He holds his hands up to his camera to reveal paint-covered fingers. “Last night for this little independent film we’re doing, I did a big graffiti piece for one of the sets,” he laughs. “It still comes in handy.”
Having been in the industry for as long as he has, Arquette has gained a unique first-hand glimpse behind the curtain and is keen to enable any small changes that ensure better representation on screen. It’s a topic that’s close to his family, especially following his sister Patricia’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for Boyhood in 2015.
“I think it’s all of our responsibility to support everyone – but especially to support female directors and making sets more diverse. You have to be more mindful of it,” he suggests. “It’s been so long where the status quo was not really representative of what the world has to offer, so it’s really important to think of that all down the line with different positions within a production. You really want to open it up so people have an opportunity.”
Displaying a confident style and devilish flair, Director Grant quickly sets out her stall as one to watch. For Arquette and his producing partner and wife Christina, the opportunity to help this new filmmaker realise her vision was too good to pass up.
“That’s one of the thrills of being in the business for as long as I have: you get to see different people coming up. We were just really lucky to work with her.” That said, adapting to his new behind-the-scenes role as Producer came with a few unexpected challenges for someone more accustomed to working in front of the camera.
“When you do these little independent films, you really have to go out of your comfort zone and it teaches you an element of being zen. There’s so many things piling up you just have to be like ‘this too shall pass!’ he chuckles.
“You do what you can to move the ball forward and contribute to the production.”
In the case of 12 Hour Shift, one of Arquette’s most notable contributions was calling in a favour from former-wrestler Mick Foley. “I called him and he was really gracious to do it,” says Arquette on how he convinced the star best known as World Wrestling Federation’s Mankind to appear as the movie’s main villain. “He’s such an incredible entertainer.” This blending of cinema and professional wrestling again spoke to Arquette’s strengths, especially following his recent return to the sport.
After a controversial WCW storyline awarded him the World Heavyweight Championship belt, what began as a publicity stunt for his 2000 movie Ready To Rumble quickly made him the most hated man in wrestling. Twenty years later, Arquette attempted to reclaim his integrity in a sport that he loved – and almost died in the process when a fluorescent light tube that’d been smashed over his head unexpectedly slashed his neck.
“It really captured my life at a point where a lot of things were coming together,” he says of You Cannot Kill David Arquette, the brutally honest documentary chronicling this vivid experience. I dealt with a lot of substance abuse in my past and had a lot of depression and anxiety and did a lot of therapy – so it captures the time where a lot of those things came together,” he explains.
“Even nearly losing my life and what that does to your outlook on life – you have a greater appreciation for it and learn how gratitude is a huge element of being at peace. I was really fortunate that I’ve been able to do all that work and be able to go to the therapies and try different techniques that deal with that kind of stuff. It was really helpful,” admits Arquette. “It really was life changing and focused me on what’s important in life.”
As someone who finds it hard to sit still, 2020’s enforced lockdown has provided an unexpected moment of reflection – but it hasn’t been without its hurdles. “Everyone’s really learning a lot about themselves,” he says of this universal experience.
“You really get to know yourself and your loved ones in very tight-knit ways. It’s been challenging but it’s also been really revealing in terms of what I need to work on in myself and how I handle elements of anxiety or depression and combat that. For me, doing some kind of physical exercise every day has really helped. Doing yoga and creative stuff has really been great to help get through it – even if it’s just sketching, painting or staying busy,” he says. “This whole thing has been a learning experience.”
Looking ahead, we’ll next see Arquette in a franchise that’s as dear to him as it is to horror fans worldwide. Due for release in 2022, the fifth Scream installment invites the directors behind 2019’s ace hide-and-seek horror Ready or Not, Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, to pick up where genre maestro Wes Craven left off in Woodsboro.
Arquette’s Deputy Dewey returns for the ride, alongside franchise regulars Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox – but how did he prepare to reinhabit his most iconic role? “Well, the moustache’s a big part of it,” he laughs.
“I’ve been playing the character for nearly 25 years now, so there’s a part of it that’s just inside me. There’s a few things I always try to lean back on; in my head he’s a big Clint Eastwood fan because he’s a quintessential tough guy. I always do these moments where he tries to be Clint Eastwood and then something goes wrong and he gets flustered,” he smiles. “At the root of it, he’s got a really big heart and he’s very human. He’s a sweetheart.”
As the first Scream sequel to be made without Craven, who passed away back in 2015, returning to this familiar world was a bittersweet experience. “It was tough to broach this role,” says Arquette, fighting back tears.
“We all have a deep love for Wes so it was really important we all learned where Matt and Tyler were coming from. Wes inspired them to be filmmakers. They really did honour his work and I think they did a great job. We fell right back into it, and it felt elevated.”
While he remains cryptically tight-lipped on exactly what we can expect, Arquette does hint that Scream’s infamous baddie may have a few new surprises lurking up his trademark black sleeves. “There’s some great things about Ghost Face and his costume,” he teases.
“There’s more technological advances you can use now, and the fabric we have in this one is probably a little more advanced than the fabric they had when we first did it…” he smiles.
“I’m really excited for it – and for the fans.”
FrightFest Presents and Signature Entertainment present 12 Hour Shift on Digital Platforms 25 January.