David Arquette returns to Scream territory, but this time as a writer/director of The Tripper. In his feature directorial debut, Arquette’s sly thriller revolves around a group of friends headed to a weekend-long concert for some fun, only to be stalked by a deranged killer. But as Arquette explained to Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview, there’s more to his film than just pure thrills.
Question: Let’s talk about the reason why The Tripper was the one that you have chosen to direct for your first film.
Arquette: Well I first came up with the concept in 1989 when I was at this outdoor music festival called Reggae on the River, and it’s up in Humboldt County in northern California. It’s a reggae concert that’s filled with hippies – at that time probably about 20,000 hippies. And I thought it was be a crazy setting for a horror film if some psycho came out of the woods and killed all these hippies. [Laughter]. So that was the original thought and then I didn’t actually put pen to paper until 2004 when I was working on a film called Riding the Bullet and Mick Garris gave me a book called On Writing by Stephen King that really inspired me to just complete the script. The fact that I grew up in California where Reagan was the Governor and then the President also had a huge sort of impact on the direction of the story, and I really wanted to make a political horror film.
Question: What are the challenges, and even some of the pitfalls, of doing a horror film that is trying to do something that has not been done before?
Arquette: There’s not as many pitfalls as… you know, it’s more liberating because you kind of have this opportunity to do some comedy through sort of the real world and politics. You know, it’s essentially a political satire, so I’m definitely not the first person to do that. But it’s a fun world to go to because there’s so much sort of reality that’s unbelievable, and aspects of war and just sort of political decisions that add to the horror of it all.
Question: How much rewriting did you do before you were completely confident that you were ready to go?
Arquette: Well I wrote a first draft and then it was rambling and kind of all over the place. Then I got involved with Joe Harris, who is an amazing guy, and he really helped me to bring the script to a place where it had more political impact, a more structured story. He really grounded it and turned it into a real movie.
Question: Now was it always your intention to direct the script?
Arquette: Yeah, it was. I’ve always wanted to direct. I mean, watching Wes Craven on the set of Scream was always such a pleasure and the opportunity to watch him for three movies, I was always sort of taking mental notes. Plus working with people like Tim Blake Nelson and Walter Hill… just working with great directors is always such a wonderful opportunity. I just always wanted to do that.
Question: So were you storyboarding as you were writing? I mean were you sort of visualizing how you were going to shoot stuff as you were writing?
Arquette: Yeah. We kind of slammed the storyboards in there so we only ended up using some of them, but it gave a good concept of the direction of what it’s going to sort of start taking shape. But we really couldn’t, rely solely on the storyboards and we had to improvise quite a bit.
Question: What about acting in the movie? Did you want to act in the film?
Arquette: Just being an actor and being able to add a little to the sort of marketability of the film I wanted to be in it. I also had written myself two roles actually. [Laughter]
Arquette: One role and then my brother-in-law got involved so he was going to play the main role, and so I dropped down to this other role. And then we got Jason Mewes to play that role, so then I just sort of dropped down to a smaller role. I didn’t want to play too big a role, so then I don’t have to worry about that.
Question: How much did you learn about the business side of filmmaking – I mean in terms of raising money and getting this thing off the ground.
Arquette: Oh gosh, it’s a long, difficult process with so many people that say that they’ll do it and then all these sort of factors get involved. And just the physical producing of a movie is so difficult…
Question: David, I understand that you’re also involved in this new TV series, Dirt, that FX is airing.
Arquette: It’s great. Courtney’s playing an amazing part. She’s the Editor in Chief of a tabloid magazine. We’re executive producing it through Coquette.
Question: So are you and Courtney getting your own revenge on the tabloid press?
Arquette: [Laughter]. Not entirely. I mean, you know, she’s playing the sort of main character. But the tabloid world is crazy, and vicious, a huge part of this business, and sort of a necessary evil. So the main characters is in our film are involved in that whole world so it’s not like we’re just kind of slamming them, but we’re slamming Hollywood too and having fun with it. It’s a really energetic show, very dark and twisted. It shows the price of fame.
Question: Were you able to draw on your experiences?
Arquette: Oh, definitely. I mean the original concept for the whole show came from our experiences of the paparazzi during the period in which Courtney was pregnant with our baby. It goes into this sort of media frenzy when babies are involved for some reason. .
Question: What else is going on? Are you doing other acting stuff?
Arquette: Yeah, I’m doing a show that’s going to be a mid-season replacement for ABC called “In Case of Emergency”, and that’s with Kelly Hu Jonathan Silverman, Greg Germann and Lori Loughlin. It’s a really funny broad comedy. Single camera, half hour, like My Name is Earl.
Question: Why the decision to go into television?.
Arquette: For one there’s not a ton of them. I mean there are but there’s not a ton of great ones and the roles are really few and far between to be able to do a good one. This was just a really fun script and a really great group of people that I believed in and wanted to be a part of, and regular work is always a plus in this business.
Question: I guess you were around when your wife was involved in that little television show she was in for a number of years…
Arquette: Yeah. [Laughter]
Arquette: Something called Friends, yes.
Question: That’s the one. Did you ask your advice about the grind of doing network TV?
Arquette: Well Friends in retrospect was like the easiest thing that had ever happened to her – and me at the time. I mean I was just sort of the husband around the set, but our life in general was so much easier back then. Then we started this production company and it all just got a little more complicated. Throw in a baby too and it’s crazy.
Question: What about movie directing… did doing this film give you a taste, a real taste of that side of the business? Do you want to do more of it?
Arquette: Yeah, I’d love to do some more directing. You know, the greatest part was that I got to work with all my best friends – Lukas Haas and Paul Reubens and Thomas Jane and Balthazar Getty. So that was such a beautiful, wonderful thing.