Also Credited As:David James Arquette
|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Music|
|David James Arquette on September 8, 1971 in Winchester, Virginia, USA|
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A descendant of American explorer Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame), he was born David James Arquette on a Subud commune in Winchester, VA on Sept. 8, 1971. Arquette's family included several famed performers - his grandfather was Cliff Arquette, who originated the folksy character "Charley Weaver" on 1950s TV, while father Lewis was a character actor and veteran improvisational comic and mother Mardi a stage performer, poet and activist. All five of the Arquette children followed their father into the acting business; sisters Patricia and Rosanna achieved the widest degree of fame, while Richmond was a busy character actor. Older brother Alexis also performed, though his fame was based more his cabaret act and transgender status than his feature appearances.
The Arquette family relocated to Los Angeles when Rosanna's career began to take off in the early 1980s. There, Arquette's interest in acting began to blossom after he began landing roles in school productions. With his family's encouragement, he began auditioning for roles and made his professional debut as jokester Two-Bit on the TV series "The Outsiders" (Fox, 1990), based on the S.E. Hinton novel and movie of the same name. His next effort, "Parenthood" (NBC, 1990), which was based on the Ron Howard film, suffered a similar fate. But Arquette persevered and eventually found his niche playing quirky sidekicks in features like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1992) and "Where the Day Takes You" (1993). He also got the chance to display his dramatic chops on occasion, most notably as an aspiring rockabilly singer in the Robert Rodriguez-directed cable feature "Road Racers" (1994). He was also effective as the wormy Jack McCall, who murdered Will Bill Hickok (Jeff Bridges) in Walter Hill's "Wild Bill" (1995).
Supporting roles in major features like "Beautiful Girls" (1996) led to greater exposure and even leads in independent films like "johns" (1996), in which he was top-billed as an ill-fated male prostitute. But his genuine "big break" came with his scene-stealing turn as the hapless deputy Dewey Riley in Wes Craven's horror-comedy "Scream" (1996). Arquette's turn as the sweetly awkward character won over audiences, who rescued the character from his demise and made him an essential part of the subsequent sequels. The project also introduced him to actress Courteney Cox, then the bigger star of "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004) and Dewey's unlikely love interest in the film. Real life soon echoed fiction when the pair became a couple offscreen as well.
Cox also aided Arquette through one of the most difficult passages of his life. Though he projected a carefree onscreen persona, the actor was struggling with a serious drug problem that had grown out of the depression he suffered after his mother's death from cancer. In interviews, Arquette cited Cox's tough love as the motivating factor for his recovery; the couple eventually wed in San Francisco in 1999; a daughter, Coco, was born in 2004 after many unsuccessful attempts to become parents. Though his personal life was on the mend at that time, Arquette's career was stumbling as he tried to assert himself in the late 1990s. His performance as Dewey Riley had virtually branded him as the go-to for screen goofs and ne'er do wells, which he essayed in such forgettable efforts as "Free Money" (1998), "Ravenous" (1999) and "Ready to Rumble" (2000). Attempts to break free of the typecasting - such as the indie drama "Dream with the Fishes" (1997), which marked his debut as producer, and "Life during Wartime" (1997) - were ignored by the viewing public. A series of ads for AT&T which saw Arquette mugging furiously as a living telephone also did not help matters. To say nothing of his eclectic wardrobe of wild prints and garish colors, which more often than not landed him on the "worst dressed" sections of tabloids.
A likable turn as Drew Barrymore's jock brother and guide to all things cool in "Never Been Kissed" (1999) signaled a turn in Arquette's fortunes and earned him a Blockbuster Award for Favorite Supporting Actor. But he was soon back to playing oddballs in "Muppets From Space" (1999) and Dewey Riley in "Scream 3" (1999). He pushed himself further into cartoon territory with a series of promotional appearances at WCW wrestling events for "Ready to Rumble." An avowed fan of the entertainment, he astounded and enraged longtime supporters by stealing away the Heavyweight Championship from Eric Bischoff in a 2000 pay-for-view event. His reign was short-lived and marked by much self-lampooning. Arquette distinguished himself with an impressive performance as a Nazi prison guard who questions his orders in Tim Blake Nelson's harrowing "The Grey Zone" (2002). He also made a plausible action hero in the sci-fi spoof "Eight Legged Freaks" (2002), which earned solid reviews from critics. Unfortunately, neither film made a dent at the box office, so he was soon back to playing doltish types in "See Spot Run" (2002) and "Stealing Sinatra" (2003) as Barry Keenan, one of the real-life bunglers who kidnapped Frank Sinatra, Jr.
Perhaps realizing that audience interest in his man-boy characters was waning, in 2002, Arquette began making strides to work behind the camera. He served as executive producer on several of his own independent films then teamed with his wife to oversee small dramas and television shows through their shingle, Coquette Productions. Among their efforts was "Daisy Does America" (TBS, 2005), a reality-TV vehicle for British comic Daisy Donovan, and Cox's short-lived tabloid expose series "Dirt" (FX, 2007-08). Arquette also directed two episodes of his wife's program. Among his other directorial credits was the slasher comedy "The Tripper" (2006), which earned respectable reviews from the horror community for its story of modern day hippies stalked by a killer wearing a Ronald Reagan mask. Arquette remained active as an actor while exploring the production side of the business, with relatively restrained roles as a suburban dad in Robert Rodriguez's "The Adventure of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D" (2005). In 2008, he turned up the quirk factor yet again by starring opposite U.K. comic Steve Coogan and Elizabeth Shue as a dreadfully dull tenant in the Andrew Fleming comedy, "Hamlet 2."
During the 2008-09 television season, Arquette appeared on the Barry Sonnenfeld-produced "Pushing Daisies" (ABC, 2007-09) and the low-brow comedy "My Name is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09). More work behind the scenes as co-executive producer with Cox on the comedy series "Cougar Town" (ABC, 2009- ) bore fruit when the quirky sitcom became one of the few hits during its first season. Unfortunately, the couple's professional success was not indicative of the state of their relationship. In October 2010, Arquette and Cox announced to a stunned public that after 11 years of marriage, they would be separating. Despite the turn of events, both Arquette and Cox vowed to remain friends and loving parents to Coco; a pledge evidenced by their appearing together in "Scream 4" (2011), in which the former couple reprised their original roles in the horror franchise. However, that did not prevent a quick downward spiral for Arquette. In the wake of the couple's trial separation - during which Cox stated the reason for it was because she was sick of having to be his "mom" - Arquette blabbed personal details on Howard Stern's radio show and admitted to having sex with another woman post-split. After seeming intoxicated at numerous events, Arquette checked himself into rehab in January 2011, much to his wife and family's relief. When it was announced he would be joining the cast of season 13 of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), it appeared that he had conquered whatever issues he had publicly dealt with in the wake of his split.