It’s the first Monday of the New Year, and David Arquette is in buoyant mood. “I’m excited about this year,” he tells me from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s the year of the ox, which is a very strong and stable animal. Last year was the year of the rat… I mean I’m just saying!”
At this point, the actor bursts into giggles, a moment which typifies his cheerful approach throughout our discussion – Arquette might be turning 50 this year, but he retains an infectious, boyish enthusiasm when speaking of his various projects, whether that be his long-standing association with the Scream franchise or his recent return to the world of pro wrestling. His latest project is on a rather smaller scale: a new indie movie titled 12 Hour Shift, on which he serves as both a producer and star.
Written and directed by Brea Grant, the film is part pitch-black ensemble comedy and part unhinged thriller, described by Arquette as like “going down a rabbit hole of craziness”. The entire film takes place over one night inside a rather ill-equipped hospital, following a drug-addicted nurse (played by indie horror darling Angela Bettis) who funds her habit by involving herself in a black market organ harvesting scheme. Throughout her increasingly chaotic shift, she meets a slew of eccentric figures, including Arquette’s deranged murderer Jefferson, who is a patient at the hospital.
Describing his character as a “James Dean style-drifter” Arquette tells me how much he enjoyed working on the film. “It’s just such a fun film to be a part of,” he says. “A little independent film, a sort of scrappy quick shoot where you’re doing a lot of hustling. And whenever you play a bad guy there’s a certain attitude that goes with it. A ‘doesn’t take any junk’ kind of attitude, tough, smoking, wearing a tank top. It’s just fun to lean into that kind of stuff.”
There was another thing, too, which drew Arquette to the film – the late ‘90s setting, which he says was “really like a character within the film.” He explains how Grant and the rest of the team behind the project have a real fondness for the time period, and admits that he himself finds comfort in looking back to those times. “Just sort of growing up during that time and looking back there’s something about that nostalgia,” he says. “Now especially there’s something that feels fun about it and there are certain things I look back on like old video games or old candies, where you figure out what you like in life. Just like putting on a pair of Air Jordans and then you’re good for the day!”
It’s easy to see why Arquette retains a fondness for the ‘90s – it was at that time, after all, that he first found fame, appearing in a string of successful films throughout the decade including Wild Bill and Never Been Kissed. Perhaps most famous of all was his appearance as Deputy Dewey Riley in Scream, a role he has gone on to play on several further occasions, most recently in the upcoming reboot of the franchise, which finished filming late last year and is currently slated for an early 2022 release.
The already animated Arquette lights up even further at the mention of Scream 5, saying that working on the project was like a homecoming after almost a decade away. “It’s really easy to slip back into the characters, they’re very close to my heart and there’s something really exciting about those films for me,” he reveals. “It changed the course of my life in general so it’s really fun to be in that world and do something. I felt very blessed.”
Of course, while several of Arquette’s co-stars, including Neve Campbell and his ex-wife Courtney Cox, have returned for the new film, there is one very major change behind the camera. Legendary director Wes Craven, who helmed each of the previous four instalments in the franchise, passed away in 2015 – and Arquette says that although the filmmaker was “really missed” on set, he remained close to their hearts during production. And he also assures fans that the series is in safe hands, with Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett – who were themselves heavily inspired by Craven – stepping up to the mantle.
“They’re incredible,” he says when asked about working with the directing double act. “We did it during COVID, so half the time I’m only looking at their eyes, but they’re great. They were inspired by Wes Craven and they’re filmmakers because of him partially, he was one of their heroes so it’s great to see these people work on the movie”.
The film is one of a couple of projects Arquette has shot during the pandemic, and he admits that lockdown filming makes for rather a bizarre experience – although he’s found some positives in it as well. “You do rehearsals with your mask on,” he explains. “And then you take the mask off and it’s your scene but it’s the first time you’ve done it face to face. And it gives you this other layer of discovery when you’re having a scene with someone and see their face for the first time. There are certain things that are really interesting about it, and others that are a real drag obviously.”
While his acting career has managed to continue throughout the COVID era, however, another of Arquette’s passions has had to take a backseat. In 2018, against advice from several of his nearest and dearest, he made an unexpected return to pro wrestling, joining the independent circuit and making a documentary about the experience in the process. The star has no regrets about having taken it up again but confesses that he’s not sure if he’ll wrestle professionally again in the future, even when independent wrestling is given the go-ahead to start again post-pandemic.
“Once you’re in the wrestling world you’re in it for life,” he says. “But I don’t know – it’s really painful, really intense on the body and so I don’t know if I’m going to be wrestling again. I do love it, I’ve been a fan, and watching WWE during this whole pandemic has just been really great, but I don’t know if I’ll ever wrestle again.”
Given some of the ordeals he’s faced in the ring, it’s perhaps not surprising that Arquette is unsure about his future in the sport. “I nearly died,” he says, referencing a nasty incident during a match with Nick Gage back in 2018. “So it really does put your life in perspective, and you start seeing what’s really important and what not to waste time with, how to give yourself a break and not beat yourself up.”
That new perspective is one that has proved useful during the pandemic, too. He explains that his wrestling return helped him work through a lot of pain he was going through such that by the time the pandemic happened he was in a much better place. “I’m glad I got through some of that stuff,” he says. “It made it easier to maintain a healthy family life and just focus on what’s important.
“I’m like my harshest critic so once I started being able to recognise my self-sabotaging then I could avoid that and find healthier ways to do things. Just going out and going for a hike or just doing some physical exercise has been really helpful.”
As for the future, Arquette says he’s reached a point in his career where he just “wants to bucket list some roles.” He fancies playing a “really great military character” at some point and would love a chance to act in a few westerns, as well as working across a broad range of genres. Mainly, though, he just wants to do more of what has always appealed to him. “I just want to find things that resonate with people and just really connect,” he says, “But that’s what I’ve wanted my whole career, just sort of hustling!”
12 Hour Shift is available on VOD from Monday 25th January 2021. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.