Since his breakout in the ‘90s, it’s always been a little difficult to pin down David Arquette. With a boy-next-door face, a sweetly infectious and signature chuckle, and twinkling eyes, he’s jumped easily from rom-coms to straight-up comedies, from cheesy horror to the occasional drama, all the way to a bloody wrestling stint catalogued in his 2020 documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette. No matter what the genre, Arquette exudes an easy lovability and positivity, making him something of a real-life Ted Lasso.
Consider, for instance, his latest project: a reboot of the beloved Bozo the Clown, studying and learning clownery, all in the hopes of bringing laughter to hospitals and households everywhere at a time when we are sorely lacking in joy.
All the while, he’s got his toes in it all, including the latest iteration of Scream, which reunites him with ex-wife Courtney Cox, Neve Campbell and Marley Shelton. Although this time around there’s no horror master Wes Craven at the helm, Arquette’s Dewey remains as endearing a presence as ever. Which is something, because here’s a little trivia for you: Craven never intended for him to make it past the first film, but Arquette was just too good to pass up. Seeing as how the actor’s got as big a heart as his beloved Bozo, it’s no wonder you can’t knock it down.
You’re kicking off the year jumping back into the world of Scream and reuniting with this amazing cast that really defined an era. What did it feel like stepping back into Dewey’s shoes?
We were all hesitant since Wes wouldn’t be helming this one. But we talked to directors Matt [Bettinelli-Olpin] and Tyler [Gillett] and they were inspired by Wes to be filmmakers, which really put us all at ease. I saw their film Ready or Not, and I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are so talented and seem like the perfect choice with their understanding of horror and comedy.’ They’re talented filmmakers and such great guys who had their hearts in the right place. I love playing the role of Dewey, he just has this big heart, and that made it easy.
Now, forgive me but I have to ask, what was it like working with Courtney again? You two, of course, have such a natural chemistry and fun dynamic, and she has noted that it was emotional shooting your first scenes together.
We co-parent our daughter Coco, so we have a great friendship. But then being able to act opposite each other is incredible. You know each other, so a lot of the times when you’re doing scenes, you can draw from your past. I can think about, for example, how my mom was sick during Scream 2. It all kind of makes it real in a way.
You really opened up about your rise as an actor in the ‘90s, your struggles after Scream, and your search for redemption in the wrestling world in You Cannot Kill David Arquette. It’s a moving underdog story. Was it a cathartic experience to tell it?
Absolutely. It really captured my life at a turning point. I had been beating myself up for a long time, and through the process of that film, I really figured out how not to do that. [Laughs] I decided to be kinder to myself and not put myself at risk like that, to give myself a break, recognize that critical voice in my head and understand how to quiet it down. And also how to take time for myself, and that’s through creativity, exercise, eating right, and sleep…but I actually haven’t been doing much of that with Scream coming out. [Laughs]
Acting and wrestling are, of course, two very different lanes. How do they each serve you?
I’ve learned so much about acting through wrestling. I learned a lot about being in the moment, about being aware, about not rushing, about your physicality, how to use your body as an instrument. It’s a really difficult form of entertainment, you have to think on your feet. In acting, you’re always trying to find this moment of honesty and passion while trying to feel truthful and connected. Wrestling is such an over-the-top thing, so to find those moments and that real beauty is a fine art.
I mean, there’s no denying that you make incredibly unique choices as an artist, but there’s an empathy to you that comes through with each one. Do you consider yourself more of an emotionally tapped in actor?
I try to stay connected. I feel a lot, I feel people’s pain. If I go into a room for an audition, I get all jittery. Or if I do a live performance, I feel like I’m sort of tapped into some kind of waves in the room. I can’t see them but I can definitely feel them and they put a kind of electricity in my body. So a lot of the time people think I’m weird on talk shows, but it’s just that, I’m just vibing! I have an empathy for people, and I want to do work that is helpful and not hurting.
You’re certainly an empath, and that seems to tie in well ith being a genre actor, which may be the best way to classify you in Hollywood.
Yeah, I’m really sort of a weird thing, I don’t think Hollywood really knows how to classify me. Because if I want to do a kid’s film so my kids can see it or, if I love horror, so I do the horror film, but I also love dramatic acting, and I love doing comedy, because you can end up just laughing the day away. And to me, laughter is like the great healer. The more we can get people laughing, the more we can get people in touch with themselves and to find humour in their struggles. My family, we grew up in a house full of actors who were highly passionate. I can see it in my kids, where everything is either so dramatic or so hilarious, there are big highs and lows. In understanding that, I can be more patient with my kids and help them understand and process their emotions constructively because of the way I dealt with a lot of stuff in my past.
Speaking of making interesting choices, for the first time in 64 years, the rights to Bozo the Clown were sold – to you, as a lifelong fan. How do you plan to take on this new legacy?
It took me 15 years to secure the rights. I met with Larry Harmon and we really hit it off. I’ve stayed in touch with the family, and finally was able to do it. The idea is to bring love, light and laughter back to the world. In Bozo’s story, he realizes it’s not about ‘me, Bozo,’ it’s about the Bozo in our hearts. [Laughs] It’s about letting that clown out, making the world a better place, a sillier place, and making it more fun for everyone. A lot of the comedy you see out in the world right now is a reflection of the world now. I don’t like humor that makes other people the butt of a joke, it’s a bully’s way of doing humor. If we can help people understand that it’s okay to laugh at yourself and to have others laugh with you, we can start having fun with some of this stuff. There’s so much going on in the world with anxiety, depression and mental health issues, that if we can start addressing some of this through humor, community and creativity, we can make a difference.
We’re working on a bunch of songs right now, I’m working with my friend Graham Wheeler, one we have in mind is “I Ain’t Scared of Clowns,” and a new theme song. We’re also doing a documentary about Bozo, and I’ve been working with Gabe Dell, a circus clown, and clown teacher Misha Usov. I’m going to study in February with Healthy Humor, which is an incredible group of medical clowns that go into hospitals across the U.S. and bring joy to people who are there with their families. As grown-ups, we lose this light in our eyes and this passion, but they’re always there. My hope with Bozo is to help people get in touch with it again, and to bring them together.
I love the joy you feel when you talk about this, it sounds like so much fun. Having been open about experiencing depression and mental health issues in your life, does getting to be creative with a project like Bozo bring lightness to your life?
Oh yeah, it’s been incredibly helpful. In the past, I really tried to numb stuff. I’m not going outside anymore to try to heal myself when my heart’s heavier, instead I’m trying to find healthy ways to get to a better place. That means finding laughter, finding people you feel really comfortable and safe with, having friends that really have your back and doing projects that are creative.
Your career is at a peak right now, and feels more you than ever. Is there anything left that you haven’t tackled?
Mainly the opportunity to work with great directors, writers, and producers. It’s hard though, I was recently up for a show and one of the directors was like, ‘I just don’t know if your personality is too big for this show.’ I think people may feel that way a lot of the time, but that’s more perception. When you get to know me, it’s more like an open book. [Laughs] On the surface, people could be like, ‘What the heck’s with the Bozo the Clown thing?’ But if you know me as a person who supports positivity, creativity and charity, I’ll make a little more sense to you.
We live in a world where being this tough, sexy guy is hot and beating each other up at a bar is a sign of masculinity, but I’m not about that. I can play it in a role though, because that’s an easy thing to tap into. If someone doesn’t believe that, they just aren’t aware of some of my past work or life experience. But in my personal life, I don’t want to be that guy. Even the way I dress or answer questions, I don’t play by those rules, I’ve always tried to do my own thing. Still, I think sometimes it does have an effect on your career because sometimes people don’t get it. But I feel like some are starting to try to understand who I am?
Yes, I think you’re incredibly special! It’s always such a joy watching you and it’s been a joy chatting with you.
Thank you, and I think you’re so special. Like that is the whole thing! One of the other things that Bozo realized is that we don’t look up at anyone, and we definitely don’t look down on anyone, we look everyone right in the eye. [In a Bozo-esque voice:] Because you’re the greatest in your world and I’m the greatest in mine, so let’s go out and make this the greatest world ever! [Laughs]