September 5, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by David Darg and Price James
Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the United States and in Mexico, the documentary film “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” has a predominantly white group of people (with some Latinos and a few African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class and upper-class.
Culture Clash: Hollywood actor David Arquette confronts his controversial past as a former world heavyweight wrestling champ by deciding to train and compete as a professional wrestler, despite his age and health problems.
Culture Audience: “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” will appeal primarily to wrestling fans and people who don’t mind seeing an often-comedic documentary with numerous obviously staged scenes.
If you’re a somewhat famous actor whose best career days are behind you, including a controversial win of a World Championship Wrestling (WCW) title back in the year 2000, what do you do if you’re desperate for attention? If you’re David Arquette, you decide to temporarily get back into professional wrestling and make a documentary about it. “You Cannot Kill David Arquette,” just like the actor who’s the star of this documentary, doesn’t take life too seriously and has an attitude that can be funny and pathetic but mostly entertaining to watch. Your tolerance in watching this film will depend on your tolerance of watching a middle-aged man who repeatedly says and shows in the movie that he doesn’t really want to grow up.
If you expect that the documentary will have a lot of very contrived and staged moments (just like wrestling), then this movie will be a lot easier to watch. Anyone expecting to see the inner workings of a major wrestling team will be very disappointed, since Arquette sticks to the minor leagues of independent wrestling to try to make a comeback into the public spotlight. This documentary is undoubtedly a vanity project that’s not only a look into the psyche of someone who’s having a mid-life crisis but also someone who’s a product of his showbiz upbringing. Arquette makes it clear throughout the movie that his entire identity and self-esteem are wrapped up in how much adoration and attention he gets from the public.
In case people don’t know who Arquette is, the movie gives a brief introduction to his career and family background. Born in 1971, David comes from a family of actors: His father Lewis Arquette (who died in 2001) was a character actor. Lewis Arquette’s father was comedic actor Cliff Arquette, who died in 1974. All of David’s older siblings (David is the youngest of five children) have some level of fame as actors: Patricia (an Oscar winner and Emmy winner), Rosanna, Richmond and the late Alexis, a transgender woman who died in 2016.
Patricia, Rosanna and Richmond are all interviewed in the documentary. The siblings describe their family as being unconventional (they spent part of their childhood living in a Virginia commune), and their mother Brenda (who died in 1997) as being sometimes physically abusive because she would choke or hit her children. David, who describes his father as his idol, says he’s had lifelong issues of wanting to be a people-pleaser, which stem from how he was raised as a child.
David is probably best known for his role as bumbling cop Dwight “Dewey” Riley from the “Scream” horror movies. It was through the “Scream” franchise that Arquette met his first wife, “Friends” co-star Courteney Cox, who co-starred in the “Scream” movies as the abrasive and ambitious TV reporter Gale Weathers. David and Cox were married from 1999 to 2013, and they have a daughter together named Coco, who was born in 2004.
Coco Arquette and Cox are both in the documentary. As Cox says of her relationship with her ex-husband David: “We met on ‘Scream,’ hated each other on ‘Scream 2,’ we got married at ‘Scream 3’ and got divorced in ‘Scream 4.'” When she finds out that David wants to go back into wrestling, she can’t really look at his “comeback” wrestling footage without cringing.
David’s marriage to second wife Christina McLarty Arquette (whom he married in 2015) seems to be very different from his first marriage, although McLarty Arquette and Cox look very physically similar to each other. McLarty Arquette used to be a TV journalist (with stints in local news and on “Inside Edition” and “Entertainment Tonight”), but she’s now mostly a homemaker and occasional movie producer. She and David have two sons together: Charlie (born in 2014) and Gus (born in 2017), plus the family’s three Bassett Hounds, who are all in the documentary. McLarty Arquette says that she has never seen “Scream” because “I hate scary movies.”
She might get squeamish about horror flicks, but McLarty Arquette seems to have a high tolerance for seeing people getting bloodied and hurt at wrestling matches, since there are multiple scenes in the documentary where she’s shown cheering David on at his wrestling matches. McLarty Arquette is a producer of “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” (which was filmed mostly in 2018 and 2019), so she had a vested interest in seeing David go through with this wrestling “comeback,” despite all the risks to his health.
What kind of health risks were there? Even though David’s intense training for his wrestling “comeback” resulted in him losing weight and having a toned physique, he had a heart attack the year before he decided to go back into wrestling. He has stents in his heart to prevent blood clots. The documentary includes footage of appointments that David had with cardiologist Dr. PK Shah, who gave the clearance for David to go back into wrestling.
David has also publicly admitted to being an alcoholic. He had a well-publicized stint in rehab in 2011. The documentary has footage of David’s appointments with psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mamoun, who worries that the physical pain in wrestling will trigger David into relapsing back into alcoholism. Although the movie probably cut out a lot of the worst unflattering footage, that relapse did happen at least twice during the course of filming the documentary. David admits it too, especially when he is obviously drunk on camera. There are also many scenes where he might not be completely drunk, but he’s slurring his words.
And he isn’t entirely drug-free, since there’s some footage of him lighting up a joint (presumably marijuana) while he’s riding on a horse. And there’s also a bizarre scene were Dr. Mamoun injects David with ketamine during a doctor’s visit, resulting in David hallucinating and being incoherent. He had to be restrained by several people, including his wife and Dr. Mamoun, to calm him down. There are some moments where McLarty Arquette says on camera that she’s afraid that David’s wrestling comeback will result in him dying. But she wasn’t fearful enough to stop production of the film.
Based on what’s shown in this movie, no one could have convinced David to give up his obsession to win back the respect of the wrestling world. This insecurity over not being accepted by the wrestling world started after he won the WCW world heavyweight title (when he weighed only about 150 pounds), and he was the target of hatred from a lot of professional wrestlers and their fans. The documentary includes archival and new footage of wrestling fans expressing their disdain for David.
Even though it’s common knowledge that wrestling matches are rigged and the outcome is already rehearsed by the wrestlers involved, David’s “outsider” victory was widely perceived as unearned and an insult to pro wrestlers and their fans. David’s WCW title was essentially a publicity stunt to promote his 2000 wrestling comedy movie “Ready to Rumble.” It was a stunt that backfired for a lot of people involved.
In the documentary, Eric Bischoff (who was WCW’s president back in 2000) is interviewed next to David in David’s home and takes full responsibility for this debacle. Bischoff says of the wrestling industry: “There were certain rules. One of them was ‘Don’t let celebrities take advantage of wrestling. Don’t expose the business to make it look like anybody—celebrity or non-celebrity—could come off the street and actually beat a wrestler.'”
Bischoff says to David about David’s controversial WCW world heavyweight title win: “That wasn’t your fault. That was my fault for letting it happen.” Bischoff also says that the idea for David to win the title originally came from Vince Russo, who was WCW’s head writer at the time. Russo isn’t interviewed in the documentary, but there’s archival footage of a TV interview where Russo admits that he “killed the business forever” by coming up with the idea of David Arquette to win a WCW championship.
David is still haunted by this wrestling fiasco too. He says that it hurt his credibility as an actor, and his acting career was never the same. David also talks about how the past 10 years of his life have been a series of auditions and rejections. A lot of viewers might have trouble feeling much sympathy for him, as he moans about his problems while sitting around in his big house with a beautiful wife and family. It’s one of the reasons why many people despise Hollywood celebrities for being out of touch with problems in the real world.
David’s wife is on his pity party train too. She laments that David is often sad because his career isn’t as big as some of the actors who shared the cover with him for Vanity Fair’s 1996 Hollywood issue. She names Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Will Smith, who were on that Vanity Fair cover, as examples of the actors who have the careers that David should have had.
What she forgot to mention is that DiCaprio, McConaughey and Smith’s talent is on a different level than what David Arquette has. And she also didn’t mention that Skeet Ulrich, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech and Michael Rapaport were on that Vanity Fair cover too. They’re not exactly A-list actors either. The other two actors on that Vanity Fair cover were Benicio del Toro and Tim Roth, who aren’t A-listers but they’ve carved out long careers as highly respected actors. Not everyone can be superstars.
Throughout the documentary, David keeps repeating that he wants to win back the respect of the wrestling industry not just for career reasons but also for personal reasons, since he’s a huge fan of wrestling. He says that some of his favorite childhood memories were watching wrestling matches with his father, who happened to be the voice of Superfly Jimmy Snuka in the 1985-1986 TV series “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling.”
David comments in the documentary about why he wants to make a wrestling comeback: “I don’t care about being a champ or anything like that. I care about respect.” And he says of wrestling: “I want to figure out this world.” His journey back into the wrestling world is volatile, painful and sometimes humiliating, but also has some moments of joy and triumph.
Of course, there are plenty of skeptics (including David’s ex-wife and his daughter) about his foray back into wrestling. Also weighing in with his opinion in a separate interview is wrestling legend Ric Flair, who’s shown commenting at the beginning of the documentary. Flair describes David as a “gentleman” who has his blessing as a person. But when Flair is asked if he would give his blessing to David as a wrestler, Flair replies: “Let’s not get carried away here.” Flair then adds with a smile, “He’s my hero when I look at his wife.”
A few of David’s low points in this film might or might not have been staged. David gets into a fist fight with wrestler Brian Knobbs of Legends of Wrestling when they argue about his idea to get back into wrestling. In another scene, David and his male friend Stacey Souther get some of his old wrestling costumes out of storage to so that he can pose for publicity photos that he plans to autograph at an upcoming wrestling fan convention. But when he gets to the wrestling fan convention, most of the fans there ignore him, and David is shown looking forlorn and embarrassed at his table where has no one lined up to see him.
There’s also a scene where David ends up practicing in a backyard with some wannabe male wrestlers he doesn’t know who are in their late teens and early 20s. It’s a scene that was meant to show that David is so humbled that he’ll wrestle anywhere he’s been invited, even if it’s in some obscure backyard with strangers. What the filmmakers and David probably didn’t expect was for David to get so injured and bloodied during this rowdy meet-up. The young guys who put him through the ringer say on camera that it’s a small example of the reality that’s in store when David goes out on the road as a professional wrestler.
There’s literally a lot of blood, sweat and tears from David in this documentary, which tries to push the narrative that he’s sort of an underdog, aging Rocky Balboa-like figure who’s going to make one last attempt at athletic glory. Before he starts competing as an independent wrestler, he trains at RC’s Wrestling School in Virginia. He also goes to Mexico to gets some training with some lucha libre pros.
One of the stunts that they do in Mexico is impromptu wrestling matches in the middle of streets during traffic jams, so people in their cars have no choice but to sit and watch the wrestling shenanigans. They try to do as many outrageous physical tricks as possible during these “traffic jam” matches and then collect money from people in the cars who want to pay them. At first, David doesn’t do too well, but then he gets the hang of it and actually starts to have fun and gets some small change out of it from people watching in the cars.
Some of the wrestlers who help David along the way include Rick Kelly, Peter Avalon, Tyler Bateman, Nick Gage and RJ City. (David is shown choreographing and planning his match with RJ City in a scene that pulls back the proverbial curtain on how these matches are rigged in advance.) David’s best friend Jerry Kubik is also along for much of the ride and offers a lot of emotional support.
And there’s a Death Match scene in which David gets severely injured and it’s definitely not a joke. David’s actor friend Luke Perry was there during that Death Match and helped David out of the venue to get medical treatment. Sadly, Perry died of a stroke in 2019. There’s a touching scene in the film when David pays tribute to Perry when talking with Luke Perry’s son Jack Perry, the professional wrestler who goes by the name Jungle Boy.
“You Cannot Kill David Arquette” directors David Darg and Price James are obviously fans of David Arquette and probably chose not to put a lot of the true low points of David’s life in this movie. But even they know that he often stoops to such levels of buffoonery that are too funny and should be put in a movie. David acknowledges that he can be the butt of people’s jokes, but he says he tries to be in on the joke as much as possible.
Although David is seen briefly in a moment of despair during his relapse where he wails that his life is messed up, for the most part, he comes across as a clown who’s desperate for people to pay attention to him. He says he lives for the connection he can make through personal interactions with wrestling fans. David says that even when he gets boos or insults from wrestling fans, it’s still better than nothing.
It’s a problem that a lot of celebrities have with their egos and self-esteem: Their need for public attention is like a bottomless pit, and they’ll never be satisfied. A lot of people watching this documentary will get some laughs and then won’t think much about David Arquette again. Since he’s made it clear that his acting career has become a disappointment to him, it might be a matter of time before he cooks up another scheme to get attention.
Super LTD released “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” in select U.S. cinemas on August 21, 2020, and on digital and VOD on August 28, 2020.