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David Arquette On Wrestling, Anxiety, and Co-Parenting with Courteney Cox

David Arquette threw himself into the insane world of wrestling, after undergoing heart surgery. Here's what he and his wife, Christina McLarty Arquette, told us about trying to live the dream.

If you think of David Arquette at all, it’s most likely in relation to someone else, someone more famous. He’s the ex-husband of Monica on Friends, with whom he has a daughter, 16-year-old Coco. He’s the brother of Oscar winner and equal pay advocate Patricia Arquette. And he’s part of the ensemble cast of the Scream franchise, which had him playing Sheriff Dewey Riley, a good-natured if a somewhat dimwitted officer with a high opinion of himself.

And yet, ignore the tabloid headlines and you’ll discover a whole other side to Arquette, one that’s equal parts discomfiting and exhilarating. In the new documentary, You Cannot Kill David Arquette, he’s a survivor, one who’s openly struggling with heart problems, crippling unease and uncertainty, and a decade’s worth of rejection from the industry he adores. “David is always in a state of such anxiety that he can never really calms himself down,” says his second wife and documentary producer Christina McLarty Arquette in the film. 

It’s why Arquette seems most at peace when he’s tenderly painting his son’s face, or playing dress-up — his wardrobe is a Fantasia of sequins and feathers and more sequins. “No one really wants to grow up. I love the way kids see the world. I hate growing up,” he muses somberly, rocking back and forth in an oversized chair straight out of a Tim Burton mindscape.

Yet Arquette also has brute determination, on full display in the doc that chronicles Arquette’s quixotic return to the ring after snagging the dubious title of the most-hated man in wrestling, thanks to a marketing stunt timed to 2000’s Ready to Rumble — Arquette “won” the title of WCW’s World Heavyweight Champ while pushing the movie. That’s in the wake of a heart attack, which almost killed him and made getting pummeled and kicked for sport perhaps not the smartest, or safest, career move. He did it anyway. 

In a joint interview with Fatherly, Arquette, and his wife McLarty Arquette, talk about co-parenting like pros with Courteney Cox and why getting in the ring was the right choice.

You guys are married with two kids. That’s already a big enough load. What made you decide to work together on the doc? Which, by the way, is incredible.

CMA: I could start it and then let David pick it up. Because when David was in the hospital, and he was having a heart condition and had two stents put into his heart, it was a really scary time. It was about three years ago and we’d just had our second son, I was still breast pumping in the hospital, breast pumping as he was going into surgery. And when he came out of surgery, he said, for whatever reason, he thought a lot about wrestling when he was in the twilight zone and then surgery. So he came out of this surgery, talking about wrestling, and I’ll let him pick it up from there.

DA: When I first told her about this, she didn’t get it. She didn’t understand what I was talking about. She didn’t really believe the idea and thought it was the dumbest idea ever.  

CMA: In the beginning,  he was about 50 pounds overweight, and he had just had this near-death experience. He nearly died.

And so I was like, ‘What, you want to come back and wrestle?’ I had been to one wrestling match with him back when we first started dating and people were so mean to him when he would show up.  First off, you’re a sensitive person. Second off, you just nearly died. So why do you want to come back and prove yourself and put yourself through this? And then of course, once the process started, I was like, Okay, fine. I’ll help you produce it.

David, what do you get out of wrestling? Because it was really poignant how you said in the documentary that you don’t want to grow up and you hate the thought of growing up and basically adulthood kind of sucks and yes, it does.

DA: It’s incredibly athletic, and you kind of live a little bit like you’re a superhero. You also are telling the story about good and evil, good guys and bad guys. I don’t know if there’s something about that whole world that I love and have I always loved. I always wanted to be a part of it and be considered one of the guys. So that’s kind of the main reasons I went back. I also thought it would be a fun documentary.

It is a fun documentary, but it’s also amazing, as a parent, to see how you three co-parent and that your ex-wife is in there and your oldest daughter is in there. How did you guys get to this point?

DA: I’d say never become enemies. A lot of the time when you’re going through a divorce or breaking up, there’s a lot of tension. And people tend to get a lot of anger toward each other, build a lot of resentment. So if you could avoid all of that, that helps a lot so that you don’t have this animosity toward each other. If you can hold on to the fact that you have this child and you know, you have to love the child. So you have to be kind to each other.

CMA: I think they’ve always been friends. They were business partners as well. So I think that because they have remained such great friends to this day that it was always an easier way to co-parent and also David just happens to pick wonderful women. Both Courteney and I are great women. He always thought about the kids first and getting along.

But really. What’s it like raising a kid with Monica from Friends?

DA: She’s a great mother. Christina is a really amazing mother as well. And yeah, I’ve been very lucky that way. Christina has been really understanding and I could see how hard it is when there’s conflict within relationships, and when it comes to kids, so it’s not always easy, but you will work through everything.

David, it’s really tough seeing you deal with and process rejection, and you’re so open about the toll it takes. How do you keep your chin up?

DA: I don’t know. It was really, it’s a really hard thing to do, to be honest, to just keep your chin up in life in general. I tended to beat myself up quite a bit. So that was where, you know, I do stuff to even beat myself up more or get mad at myself or hold this against myself.

The ultimate lesson that I learned from going back to wrestling was, you can do all this, but you have to love yourself. You know, that’s really the first part, learn how to love yourself so that you don’t have all these things being triggered all the time and all this sort of anger and that you’re not beating yourself up.

What happens when you’re beating yourself up and really down on yourself? And you start reading those things? You start to believe them.

CMA: I think that was a big point of the documentary too, all of the years that people were really hating him did have an impact on David. You see how he on a regular basis deals with anxiety and depression. One thing about David, the reason why he loves wrestling so much is that it’s like theater on steroids. And that’s also how he is in his life. If you come to our house, you’ll laugh because you’re going on our closet, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, look at Christina’ but that’s not my side. His side is all very like wild. He’s a costume collector. And that’s part of his personality.

You’re very open about dealing with anxiety and depression — something not many men, in particular, open up about. Why go there and be so public?

DA: Art in general comes from being honest. Being vulnerable. So though I was the subject, I wanted to be open. I don’t want to hide anything. I wanted to really have an experience that people felt like they were on this journey with me.

CMA: I thought it was really an important thing. To be able to talk about it, I think especially now we’re all having conversations around mental health and how important it is. I think also, there’s a lot of assumptions made when you read things about him or see things. And one of the things that was important is to really paint the full picture of David in this documentary.

Christina, what kind of dad is David?

CMA: He’s a great dad. He’s actually too cool of a dad. I’m the bad cop. He’s always getting them fun stuff and taking them on adventures. David’s really wildly creative. I’m way more the logical and conservative one at home. During quarantine, he was doing self-made at-home costumes just out of whatever he could find around the house. But because he’s such a great artist he makes up these incredible costumes and the kids just are both really fun wild creative kids and as is Coco. Coco is an incredible artist and she’s an amazing singer.

David, you also talk about your own fraught relationship with your dad in real life. How did you learn to parent your own kids?

DA: It’s an ongoing process. Quarantine was really hard. You’re not supposed to yell at your kids, but it’s really hard when they’ve really pushed to the limit. I hear my dad’s voice come out. It’s hard to have patience. One of our kids is particular is sort of similar to me and is kind of over the place. So you just have to find things that work.

My one son is more like me, in a sense. He likes a lot of time alone. And then he, he acts better for some of the other stuff. But kids want love and attention. So you have to figure out how to start balancing all those things. And it’s not easy.

Coco does these amazing Tiktok videos. David, are you allowed to be in them?

DA: I’m not allowed. I’m in the phase of not embarrassing her. It’s a sad fact but it’s necessary.

CMA: I do get a kick out of it. Occasionally we’ll have some agent or manager reach out. She’s 16!

What did each of you get out of working on this documentary together?

DA: It was a rough road. The whole thing was really difficult. I give all the respect to her. I had to figure out why I was being so mean to myself and the pain I had to face, so she put up with a lot.

CMA: For me, it was a double-edged sword. For our relationship, it was a really tough experience because of what David put himself through and almost dying at one point. So that part was really hard. As far professionally, this film helped me gain my confidence. When I had my first child I walked away from being a news reporter and was a stay-at-home mom for a few years and then went back to work as a producer. So this is like a second career for me and the second chapter in my life.

What’s happening with the new Scream movie? Any updates?

DA: Courteney and I have signed on. They have incredible directors on board and Kevin Williamson is on board but we’re still waiting on Neve (Campbell) to figure it out hopefully. It’s a business. I’m just an actor in these things. So it’s kind of easier for me — I just do what they write.

You Cannot Kill David Arquette will be streaming on-demand on August 28.