Actor grapples with inner demons, finds redemption in eye-opening documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette

After riding the peaks of Hollywood stardom in the late ’90s, David Arquette found himself in a pretty low valley.

It began with Wes Craven’s blockbuster Scream in 1996 — a role that generated leading offers in everything from the hit romantic comedy Never Been Kissed to the acclaimed cannibal-horror flick Ravenous.

That all ended in 2000 however.

That year saw the release of Ready to Rumble, a big-screen comedy about two pro-wrestling fans who, after watching their favourite grappler get screwed out of the wrestling title, attempt to help him win back the championship.

While the film never took off with audiences, it did set Arquette on a new quest. A real-life fan of the sport, Arquette was offered the chance to jump in the now-defunct WCW and try his hand at wrestling as a marketing stunt.

Quickly, he was handed the World Heavyweight Championship fulfilling a childhood dream, but also killing his respectability among the Hollywood elite. To make matters worse, he was soon branded the “most hated man in wrestling” by purists of the sport.

The following years would be a struggle for the younger sibling of famous sisters Rosanna, Patricia and the late Alexis Arquette. His acting career soon sputtered, his marriage to Friends-star Courtney Cox fell apart and he slipped in and out of rehab as he struggled with alcoholism. 

Two decades later and the man has climbed back into the ring, figuratively and literally.

Determined to redeem himself in his late 40s, Arquette took an opportunity to return to pro wrestling. For the actor, it was a spirited bout to reclaim his self-respect and reputation in the sport that, he says, taught him a lot about dealing with demons.

“It really pushes you to the limit,” Arquette says recently during an interview from Los Angeles. “Ultimately, what I learned was that I had been beating myself up for years and I had to learn to love myself and be kinder to myself.”

The experience didn’t necessarily go well otherwise. During a death match bout, Arquette was seriously wounded when his opponent sliced his neck with a broken light tube – an incident that caused the actor to later tweet, “apparently death matches aren’t my thing.”

“People are quick to write wrestling off,” says Arquette. “But it takes a tremendous amount of athletic ability. You have to be tougher than anything I can imagine. It is just such a painful sport.”

He says that sentiment is one of the main takeaways from his new movie You Cannot Kill David Arquette, an acclaimed documentary that spans his three-year journey to find redemption in wrestling.

“One of the crazy things about me is that I don’t let fear drive me at all. I’m not really afraid of many things,” Arquette says when asked what part of the experience he feared most – the return to a sport that detests him or capturing his frailties on film.

“I was also sick of being bullied. The thing about when people say mean things online, it really hurts if you believe it too,” said Arquette. “I was kind of telling myself the same things (online trolls) were saying and I had to learn through this process to stop beating myself up and really, as corny as it sounds, be kinder to myself.”

The experiment seems to have worked. Not only is Arquette receiving praise for the eye-opening documentary and his unabashed vulnerability on camera, he may even have a second life in movies. Currently cast to revive Deputy Dewey for a highly anticipated reboot of Scream with several other productions in the works, Arquette may have even jump-started his career with the documentary.

The only question remains, will there be a Round 3 in the wrestling ring?

“Whenever I wrestle alone I tend to get hurt,” laughs Arquette. “So I don’t know if I’ll be wrestling again anytime soon. I do love it but I do feel like this movie exists in its own world and it might just be best for everyone if I let it live there.”

You Cannot Kill David Arquette screens Aug. 28 at Crossroads Market as part of Off the CUFF Drive-in series.  It is also available on most streaming platforms.