It seems like the most unique combination: Patricia Arquette, very serious star of independent films, as Adam Sandler’s love interest in his hellish comedy Little Nicky? An ironic piece of casting given her recent turn in the more serious devil thriller Stigmata.
Arquette, beautifully dressed in a satin pants suit, admits to wanting to show off her funny side. “I’ve been looking for a broad comedy to do for a long time”, the seemingly shy and introverted actress explains. “I was sick of being typecast in Hollywood, and being told that I can only do such-and-such a role.” Always cast in off beat dramas, Arquette grew up with a family of comedians. “I grew up with a father who was in Second City and had a lot of contact with improvisational comedians. I think we’re the only animal that laughs, and I think it’s an important part of the living experience.”
Arquette describes her own sense of humour as “spanning from really silly goofy to satire and a little satire.” In Little Nicky, Arquette is cast against type as a plain, bespectacled, shy young woman who finds herself falling in love with the devil’s son . Sandler. ” A friend of mine was working on the movie and when they were talking about this character, she suggested they come to me. I don’t think they thought I’d do it.” But the 32-year old actress found herself laughing out loud when she received the script. “I also loved the character and I felt it was right for me to do this kind of movie.”
Arquette didn’t have the most conventional of upbringings. She, of the acting Arquette family – brothers David, Richmond, Alexis and sister, Rosanna – moved to a commune when she was 4. “I didn’t have any concept of materialism or what the city was like or what people expected and that kind of thing,” she says. “That way I got to grow up with nature and trees; lots of kids around me. That was a crucial part of who I am now. My little brother, David, was born there, and we had our club house. We were wild, running around, big pack of kids. It was great.”
She was there for three years and recalls that she was bound by inflexible rules that she still conforms to. “I’m such a black-and-white person,” she admits. “Things are so ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I’ve been like militant in my good and bad judgment and so puritanical in a way. I grew up with certain hippie principles: stand up for yourself and be an activist. If the government is doing something wrong, do something about it. . . One time a bus driver wouldn’t stop to take the time to let this handicapped man come on, it took too much time on his route. My mum laid down in front of the bus and wouldn’t move until he let this man on the bus. That’s the kind of person I grew up with. It was black and white. I had gone to Catholic school with all these different things. My dad was Moslem and my mother was Jewish – a lot of strict principles about God and right and wrong and lying and cheating and infidelity. Everything was so strict and structured. I was merciless in my judgment of people,” she says.
Arquette is a deeply religious person, and though she rarely allows her belief in God to somehow impinge on her work, in the case of Stigmata, for instance, she insisted that the script be re-written. “We had a director who was an atheist, and a film which was so heavy on God, I wanted to make sure that the subject matter wasn’t trivialised.” Even in the case of Little Nicky (in which a Jewish Harvey Keitel is cast as old Lucifer himself), Arquette wanted the film to be religiously respectful. “I just said to them: You have to be careful the way people feel about God. But these guys believe in God, they worship God and God is important to them. Of course we’re talking about a Sandler comedy here, and Arquette says that HER concept of God is one “with a great sense of humour. I think He’d approve of this movie.”
Being a part of a cynical movie industry, one wonders how challenging it is to equate her genuine spirituality with the less Godly state of Hollywood. “I don’t have any difficulties at all. I was raised with a bunch of different religions and information about things, so that was always a part of me. I go to work and I do my job. It doesn’t filter through every area of my life.”
Someone else who is bound to approve of her latest movie is her 11-year-old son by businessman Paul Rossi, “who now thinks I’m cool.” The actress reveals little else about her private life. She married actor Nicolas Cage five years ago, and according to news reports, the couple has been separated for four of those years with Cage recently filing for divorce. But Arquette won’t elaborate, “I’ve kinda decided not to talk about personal stuff anymore.” She has a philosophical approach to the celebrity aspects of her life. “There are obviously positive and negative aspects of that. It feels great going out on the street feeling anonymous. Most of my fans are really cool people, not BECAUSE they’re my fans, they just happen to be very nice people. They’re not invasive of me.”
The star of such movies as “Stigmata,” “Beyond Rangoon,” and “Flirting with Disaster,” Arquette has been a diligent mother since she was 19. “You are in the job of teaching moral things and you are in the position of showing by your behaviour what’s right and wrong. You want to be in the position of showing your child that racism is wrong and you say something about it. You say, ‘I don’t think that’s a funny joke’ or ‘You may think that, but I don’t think that’s cool.’ I try to teach my child that, and on the other side, I can’t just damn everybody to hell,” she shrugs. Ironic, since she is the only character in Little Nicky not damned to hell. “That’s what comes of being good”, she adds smilingly.