Picture this. It’s Oscar night, March 26, 2000, and Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow takes the stage to present the Best Actor Award. The star-studded field includes legendary leading men like Denzel Washington, Sean Penn, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey.
With bated breath, Paltrow looks down and opens the Best Actor envelope as the room falls silent. And the winner is…. Macho Man Randy Savage.
Imagine the shockwaves that would rock the entertainment industry if some musclebound hack without so much as an improv class on his resume swooped in and captured Hollywood’s top prize?
As ridiculous as this little thought experiment sounds, this situation actually happened in the professional wrestling world.
On April 26, 2000, during an episode of WCW Thunder, 5”10 160-pound Hollywood actor David Arquette won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The moment went down in wrestling infamy. Fans call Arquette’s title win wrestling’s lowest moment – no easy feat for an industry that revels in problematic racial stereotypes.
Arquette didn’t hold on to the title for very long, but that doesn’t matter to wrestling fans. The damage was done. They consider Arquette’s title a slap in the face to all the wrestlers who tour 12 months a year and sacrifice their bodies, dreaming of a title shot. In an industry full of over-the-top heroes and despicable villains, Arquette became public enemy number one.
David Darg and Price James’ documentary, You Cannot Kill David Arquette chronicles the fallout from Arquette’s WCW title win. Arquette is a life-long wrestling fan, who was ecstatic to live out his childhood dreams in a WCW ring. So the venom spewed by fans hit Arquette harder than a Stone Cold Stunner. Now, after almost two decades, he decided to do something about it.
You Cannot Kill David Arquette follows the Scream star on his road to redemption as the wannabe wrestler embarks on the road to respect. Arquette changed up his unhealthy lifestyle, trained with pro wrestlers, and even busked on the streets of Mexico with a team of luchadors.
The beauty of this film is that we watch a man exercise his demons in real-time. Arquette literally puts his life on the line to prove himself worthy to wrestling fans. (He suffered a heart attack before returning to the ring). Watching Arquette take a pummeling in the ring is as harrowing as any work of fiction. Even if you despise pro-wrestling, it’s impossible not to root for him.
I briefly spoke to Arquette while he was promoting his new film, and I had to ask him how he deals with pro wrestling’s brutal emotional toll.
Victor Stiff – The documentary paints you as an anxious person. From my perspective, nothing seems more anxiety-inducing than getting beaten up in front of a wild audience. I’m wondering, how does wrestling affect your mental health?
David Arquette – Oh man, it’s… It really pushes you to the limit. You really have to… I’ve learned a lot through the process. Ultimately what I learned was that I’ve been beating myself up for years, and I had to learn how to really love myself and be kinder to myself.
VS – Growing up a wrestling fan, you learn pretty quick that wrestling is one of the most polarizing forms of entertainment. What do you think people that don’t enjoy wrestling could get out of your movie?
DA – I think people are pretty quick to write wrestling off as either for kids or not real, or whatever they want to say, but it takes a tremendous amount of wrestling ability. You have to be tougher than anything I can imagine. It is just such a painful sport. It really pushes you. It’s really difficult, the way these guys travel all the time and all that. I just have the utmost respect for them.
If anything, I would love to see guys like Ric Flair or Stone Cold Steve Austin get a regular job on a CBS drama. They’re such funny, full of life characters. It would really be amazing to give them an opportunity to act.
We had the great opportunity of working with Mick Foley on 12-hour shifts, and he’s a tremendous actor, a really great character, and I just think there’s so much room for these guys to break into Hollywood.
You Cannot Kill David Arquette is available on Digital and On Demand on Friday, August 28th, 2020.