Affable Deputy Sheriff Dewey Riley wasn’t supposed to survive the 1996 horror-comedy Scream, but a last-minute script change saved the character’s life and allowed the actor who played him, David Arquette, to return to the Scream franchise for four popular sequels. “When you do something that connects with the audience, there’s nothing like it,” David, 51, tells Closer. “It’s why we do this. We try to live these different lives and tell these different stories. It’s a wonderful way that people can escape or learn something or feel something.”
David’s still taking viewers to new places and making them think. His most recent film, On Sacred Ground, which premieres on January 13, is based on the true story of the creation of and controversy surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
You play an oil company executive in On Sacred Ground. It sounds like you might be playing a bad guy?
“Maybe. Some of the time, the bad guys don’t even know they’re bad guys!”
What was the filming like?
“It was really quick. It’s a small indie film with a lot of heart. My character is ex-military, just trying to make a living, but he’s working for ‘Big Oil’ and clearly has an agenda.”
Is it true that you have a personal connection to the 2016 protests at Standing Rock?
“Yeah, my sister Patricia [Arquette] provided latrines at Standing Rock through her nonprofit GiveLove. She creates environmentally friendly latrines. And my sister Rosanna was also a protester there.”
What was it like growing up in such a creative family? In addition to your sisters, who are well-known actors, your father and grandfather were also in show business.
“There were a lot of highs and lows. There’s a lot of laughing, but there’s also a lot of crying! But we all loved each other. That was really the bond — that we care for one another. We all support each other’s success and really are all on the same team.”
Were your parents supportive of you going into the family business?
“Yeah, they were. We saw my father struggle as an actor doing industrial films, commercials and voice-overs just to pay the bills. The constant hustle of it, the constant rejection of it — we knew it was not easy. I had been rejected for years and years before I got my first role. But I had a wonderful drama teacher who gave me the confidence that it wasn’t just my family or my history, but I had something to say, too.”
What was it like making the first Scream movie?
“That was really a dream come true. To be able to work with Wes Craven — I was really impressed. He’s not what you’d expect, just this soft-spoken, generous, kind-hearted director. And I got to work with Courteney [Cox] — she’s such a wonderful talent.”
You and your ex-wife, Courteney, fell in love while making Scream.
“Yes. Today, we are great co-parents to our daughter, Coco. So that’s really beautiful.”
You also have two sons, Charlie and Augustus, from your second marriage. How are all your kids doing?
“Great. Coco is 18, and she just got her first car and is learning to drive. And then my two boys — my boys are just complete characters, both of them. I’m so grateful to Christina, my wife and producing partner. She’s just like the brains of the operation. The woman behind the man.”
You’ve been married to Christina since 2015. What’s your secret to a happy marriage?
“It’s tough. You have to figure out how to really make it work with each other, to hear each other and allow each other to be yourselves, but also to have your strong boundaries.”
Do you think any of your children will follow you into acting?
“It’s definitely natural for all of them. Coco loves musical theater, performing on stage and singing. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if she pursued that. My boys have their own senses of humor and their own quirks. It’s been a real joy to watch them grow.”
What do you like to do together as a family?
“A lot of the time it’s just a Little League baseball game. But just to be out there with your family, cheering them on, watching them grow and navigate the world, sometimes it ends up being one of the greatest moments of your life.”
What do you like to do for fun?
“I do enjoy golf. I love painting. I love working with different charities to try to help spread the word.”
“I am working with an organization called Healthy Humor that provides medical clowns in 15 hospitals throughout the U.S. And On Our Sleeves, which is another amazing organization that provides a database for parents that have questions about children’s mental health or are experiencing struggles in parenting. There’s a lot of resources at onoursleeves .org that parents can go to. I like being able to help elevate those charities and hopefully raise some money for them.”
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were just starting out?
“Not to beat myself up as much. To have confidence. Just do my best. Also have humility — I think that’s something I had to learn. The balance of humility and confidence really is the balance. It’s the biggest lesson of them all.”
What’s on your bucket list?
“Career-wise, I’m developing a Bozo the Clown project. It took me 15 years to acquire the rights. But it’s been a real mission of mine since I was a kid. The goal is to help shine a light on kind, fun, happy clowns. I think our society could use that right now.”