When someone mentions David Arquette, the mind goes to different places. Some think of Deputy Dewey from the “Scream” franchise, others think of that guy in the AT&T commercials. Those with a love for celebrity personal lives know him as Courteney Cox-Arquette’s husband. But now we’ve got a new way to look at the mighty force that is David Arquette: horror film director. On Friday April 20, 2007, David will be unveiling his directorial debut in limited release in theaters. With the theatrical premiere just days away, David took some time to talk to Film Threat…
Tell me about “The Tripper.”
“The Tripper” is a political horror film set in the Redwood Forrest at an outdoor music festival. The story centers around a group of young hippies as they set out on a drug-induced weekend of debauchery. Little do they know, in the woods lurks a crazed madman that is obsessed with Ronald Reagan.
I grew up in Los Angeles when Reagan was governor and then president. I saw first hand the effects his political decisions had on the world outside my door. I remember the destruction he caused to the air traffic controllers union, the homeless explosion that hit the streets after his cuts to mental health, and let’s not forget the fun we had when his administration traded arms for cocaine. All that being said, I still loved the guy and that’s a testament to his greatness.
So is the title a play on the drugs involved or…
“The Tripper” is a play on “The Gipper,” Ronald Reagan’s nickname. So, let’s kill one for “The Tripper”.
That’s awesome. And if used in mixed company, “let’s kill one for the Tripper” could cause fans of John Ritter everywhere to rise up and fight back! But I digress… what was the genesis of this project? How did it all come together?
In 1989, I attended Reggae on the River in Humboldt County, CA. As night fell, I found myself sitting on the bank of the Eel River under the influence of questionable substances. At that moment, it occurred to me how frightening it would be if there were a madman out in the woods that came out and attacked myself and all of the hippies. I talked to myself, “wouldn’t that be great?” From that moment on, I started putting the pieces of the story together. In 2004, while working on Riding the Bullet,” the director, Mick Garris, gave me a book called “On Writing” by Stephen King. This book helped me tremendously to focus my time and finally sit down and write a rambling first draft. I got further inspiration from Howard Berger (“Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”) of the KNB Effects Studio while sitting in the make-up chair watching horror film classics he suggested and essentially went to school on the genre. After I completed the first draft, my manager Steven Siebert, got me in touch with Evan Astrowsky (“Cabin Fever”) who, in turn, hooked me up with Joe Harris (“Darkness Falls”), who turned my rambling thoughts into a structured, politically-savvy, film-worthy screenplay. Then, we began a process of rewriting back and forth and when the script was at a place that we wanted to show to people, we sent it to Raw Entertainment and my brother-in-law, Thomas Jane (“The Punisher“) and his partner Steve Niles (“30 Days of Night”). With their involvement, we had a viable commodity. After that, we enlisted some of my closest friends, Paul Reubens (“Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”), Lukas Haas (“Brick”), and Balthazar Getty (“Feast”). After calling in those favors, we had a cast that any horror film would be proud of.
So was it an easier casting process because you were an actor and in most cases friends with other actors?
The casting was an easier process for me being an actor because of the relationships I have formed in my career. But, having such a solid group attracted some other amazing talent, notably Jamie King (“Sin City”) and Jason Mewes (“Clerks II”).
What made you decide to step behind the camera for this one? Do you think being an actor gave you additional insight into the filming process or working with the cast, or was it more challenging?
I’ve always wanted to direct. It’s such an amazing opportunity to really have your hands on the project as a whole. But, as an actor, I never knew how complex it actually is. For instance, I never knew how vital a role the first a.d. (Curtis Smith) plays. Or, how difficult a position the production designer (Linda Burton) is. And, not to mention how essential it is to have a director of photography (Bobby Bukowski) that can get the job done with style and dexterity. I do think my experience as an actor did help in other ways. In knowing how to interact with other actors and having the opportunity to watch master filmmakers, like Wes Craven (“Scream”) up close and observe their abilities.
What specific problems occurred during the filming to trip things up, no pun intended?
Filming in January/February alone is risky as far as rainfall goes. Although I wanted to shoot in Humboldt County, the final decision came down to “are we gonna shoot somewhere with 12 inches possible of rain or are we gonna shoot in Santa Cruz where 6 inches is possible?” We went with Santa Cruz for obvious reasons and hit a relatively dry couple of weeks. Being that we were limited with interior locations because it was set at an outdoor music festival, rain was a huge issue. It did rain in a couple of crucial scenes, so we ended up having to create rain in a couple of scenes to tie it in. That proves to be expensive. Throw that in with having to create fog, which is essential in a horror film, and we were helpless in watching the budget escalate. That’s about as scary as it got, but there was an actual unidentified severed finger found on the set, to which we never found the owner. An investigation is pending.
Okay, I have to ask this question for those who went to the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con and caught your “Tripper” panel: what really happened to the tape of footage? For those who don’t know, David showed up at the panel in a hurray, and when he got on-stage and went to pull out the tape of clips to show the audience, it was no longer there. Throughout the rest of the fest, conspiracy theories abounded as we geeks talked and… what really happened? Did an overzealous fan rob you?
No, there was no thievery involved. It was quite the opposite. In a mad rush to get to the convention center, I placed the Beta SP tape in a flimsy grocery bag filled with shirts we printed up that said “The Tripper” for the Comic-Con audience. We hopped in a cab to get there quicker and after hitting gridlock, we hopped in a bicycle rickshaw that got us as close to the convention center as it could get. From there, we made a mad dash to get to the hall where we were to present our trailer. Upon arrival, a member of the staff asked me for the tape. When I went to look for it, the tape was gone. So, I addressed the crowd and went into a rant about how big a moron I was. All-in-all, it worked in my favor because I got more press from losing the tape than I ever would have. And, once I got back to the hotel, the driver from the first cab had returned the tape. Since then I’ve wanted to post the trailer on the internet, but due to music clearance, I’ve been unable to. I still plan on posting a trailer very soon. So, stay tuned to myspace.com/thetrippermovie for any updates.
At the end of the day, what will it take for “The Tripper” to be considered a success in your mind?
What I really want from this film is for the audience to enjoy it. It’s a fun ride. It has some scary moments, some delightful gory moments, and some very funny moments if I may say so myself. But, I would be lying if I didn’t say I want this movie to make a lot of money. More so for the fact that I want the investors to be rewarded for having faith in me as a director. I would also love for it to be analyzed in a horror film course at some college someday.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Currently, I’m filming a television single camera half hour called “In Case of Emergency”. It’s slated to be a mid-season replacement for ABC. Courteney and I are executive producing “Dirt” for the FX network under the Coquette banner, which she is starring in.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Anything else you’d like to add before we end this interview?
I need to take a shower. I’m a dirty, dirty man.