Patricia Arquette Reflects On Her Career, from 'True Romance' to 'Severance'
Released on 06/08/2023
So we went to the back of the theater and these women,
they're screaming standing out there saying,
Kill him, kill him, mother [beep], like whoa.
I mean, it was touching kind of on something
that was beyond this movie.
[soft upbeat music]
Hello, I'm Patricia Arquette
and this is the timeline of my career.
I'm a fourth generation actor.
My great-grandparents were in Vaudeville.
My grandfather was in live TV and radio,
and my sister and my father were actors before I started.
So it was always a part of our life
and how we expressed ourselves,
and something that our family really valued a lot.
I remember auditioning
for A nightmare on Elm Street part three,
which entailed a lot of screaming.
I was pretty young and excited about that series.
I've always loved horror.
I never knew that I was gonna be recast.
I'm glad that Chuck Russell stepped in to intervene.
There were sometimes on the set they would get upset
with certain choices that I'd make.
Like I'd try a door handle in a dream
and then I'd turn and then I'd try it again,
but that was just my instinct
and they ended up using it in the movie.
They didn't use the other takes where I tried it once.
So sometimes I would get yelled at
for choices that I'd make,
but then they'd end up in the cut.
One important lesson that I learned on that set
was you have to be aware of your body
and listen to your body.
We were in this kind of B smoke all the time
and when we finished shooting,
I had these terrible, terrible pains in my ovaries
and I went to my doctor and I had these cysts
and then they dissolved and just went away on their own
and we went to do reshoots and I was in that smoke again,
and then I got that same attack and I was like
this stuff is really not healthy for you.
[Alabama] Mind if I smoke? No.
Listen, do you mind filling me in on what I missed?
[Film] Wait for me. No.
True Romance was such a pivotal film for me.
Tony as a director was kind of the ideal girl dad.
Every idea I'd have, he'd be like,
That's a great idea, let's do that.
He taught me very young, Listen to your instincts
you have very good ideas.
You know what your character's doing,
make suggestions, they're good.
Try them on screen.
And it was funny 'cause he wasn't
like that at all with Christian,
but I think that that has informed me every single day
of my work ever since.
[soft music] [door slams]
[laughs] Hi. Hi.
The scene starts with James Gandolfini's character
explaining to her what it was like
the first time he killed someone and by the end of the scene
she's killed someone and it's him.
It was very early on in my career
and someone said, You should go see it.
It's playing on Hollywood Boulevard.
So we went to the back of the theater and these women,
they're screaming standing on their seats,
Kill him, kill him, motherfucker, like whoa.
[Ed] What you making? Booties for my father.
Gets cold in the hospital.
Mm, has he been here long?
This is my 13th pair.
I got to meet Kathy O'Hara, who I portrayed in Ed Wood.
My sister Alexis was already dressing in drag
and doing shows in drag
but hadn't really come out as transgender.
And there was this whole storyline with Ed Wood
where he was a cross dresser.
And being able to talk to Kathy who accepted Ed, loved Ed,
didn't judge Ed for being a cross dresser in the 1950s
was really a beautiful thing.
And I remember she said to me,
You know, Eddie was so funny the way he looked at the world
and he saw beauty in everything.
And one day I showed up and I was meeting him
and I was wearing this kind of rust colored suit
and Eddie goes, Stop, stop right there.
I gotta get you something.
And ran down the street and then ran back and he's like,
Look at this gardenia.
It's exactly the color of your suit.
Now, of course that's like a dying gardenia.
It's like a rotting gardenia.
It was so beautiful.
Like Eddie didn't realize that it was something
other people would cast away.
He saw the beauty in this and she saw the beauty at Eddie
seeing the beauty in this thing
and the innocence of his vision of the world.
So beautiful to see somebody
who could love people like that.
[Fred] It's nice to know, I can still make you laugh.
I like to laugh, Fred.
And there's no filmmaker like David Lynch
and there's no filmmaker that for me as an actor
worked the same way David Lynch did and I'm sure he works
in different ways, but on that particular job, I would say,
All right David, am I playing two people or one person?
Is one a ghost?
Is this an illusion?
I don't know, what do you think Arquette?
The tremendous amount of faith and trust that he has
in his talent, his cast is kind of amazing and terrifying.
I knew that he wrote the script during the OJ Simpson trial
and watching OJ Simpson in that trial,
it seemed like all the evidence was pointing to him
killing his wife.
And yet when I'd hear him talk, I didn't believe him
but I believed he believed him at a certain point.
The way that I looked at Lost Highway was,
this man loves his wife
but he can't admit to himself that he's misogynist.
He kills her, but he can't remember killing her
because he can't see himself
as that guy who would kill his wife.
My interpretation of it was all the machinations
of the monsters that women were in his mind
and how he killed her and couldn't even admit to himself
he killed her.
The windows won't open
and the children and I would enjoy a breeze now and then.
I can fix that.
I got an opportunity to work on Holes
and Andy Davis was our director and he was lovely
and I really love the character of Kissing Kate.
She loved Sam the Onion man and he loved her.
And it was kind of magical being a part of that movie
because there's people of a certain age when they come up
and they're like, You are.
I'm like, oh, you saw Holes?
I see the truth. I see it.
It's like a freaking television show or a dream.
Dreams are dreams. Everybody dreams.
Well does everybody see dead people
standing around their bed?
I kind of saw that movies were going
in this direction already where it was moving towards
these tent pictures and less art films,
because movie actors were not doing TV then.
And I decided, let me try to jump into this thing
and see how it is.
Glenn Gordon Caron is really a very talented writer.
Jake Weber who played my husband is an incredible actor
and it was really the family story.
The real challenge of television like that to be the lead
in a one hour that you're in almost every single scene.
It was utterly exhausting to shoot 22 episodes of something.
It makes you fast, you learn your lines really fast,
it hones a lot of skills.
You also have to like jump into things
and that's kind of a great exercise in itself.
A lot of people watch that show with their family.
A lot of people were like,
That was mine and my mom's show. We'd watch it together.
and that's beautiful to be a part of that.
And again, my grandpa was in live TV.
He was on Hollywood Squares.
To be a part of the history of television, it's great.
'Turn back, turn back.
I don't wanna talk to Mooning Myrtle.'
'Who?' said Harry as they backtracked quickly.
Richard Linkletter gave me a call once.
I'm thinking about doing this movie, you know,
shoots a week, a year.
I was like, Okay, are you thinking about me for it?
He was like, Yeah, I'm wondering.
I was like, Yeah man, I'm in like, what's the story?
He was like, Well it's kind of about this boy.
And really him growing up.
And I thought first of all, I mean how do you get funding
for a movie that you're not going to see any returns on
for it was actually 12 years.
That's amazing that you've got funding
for something like that.
I knew that nobody had done it like that.
And I always wanted to work with Ethan Hawke.
I always wanted to work with Rick
and to have this opportunity to make this movie was great.
I just thought there would be more.
It was like one of the greatest experiences of my life.
It was like going to summer camp every year
going to work on Boyhood.
There'd be people who started, as, you know,
PA's the first year, by the 12th year
they were first AD's they'd come back as PAs on this.
You know, people would leave jobs
that they were in the middle of just to come back.
They'd take days off.
It was such an important art project
for all of us and it was so low key.
It was like, Oh, there's some cheese whizz and crackers
over on the table. [laughs]
It was super low-fi.
At one point Rick was ready to shoot
and he called the the movie company and they're like,
Oh, we forgot about it and we've closed our books
for the year and we don't have money for this year.
He's like, Well luckily my house just burnt
down and I just got an insurance check.
So I'll forward you guys the money for this year.
There's nobody like Richard Linkletter
and I mean he's a visionary
and if you look at his body of work
I mean he's really a true American original.
I'm lucky to be her mom.
I was born to be her mom.
[Interviewer] And are you excited to be here
and make new friends Gypsy?
[Gypsy] Oh yeah. You bet she is.
My mom was a therapist
so she would talk about different kind of behavioral traits
different people would have.
So narcissism, codependence, all kinds of different things.
When I was getting ready to play Deedee Blanchard,
I wanted to kind of figure out a way
to understand this lady.
I don't feel like I need to defend my characters.
I feel like as a woman, I've spent a lot of my life
trying to defend everything and defend my choices
and defend who I am as a person.
I feel liberated from that in acting.
I do need to understand my characters.
I have to have an understanding of them.
They may be the bad guy, but they don't see it that way.
I don't think she was conscious
that she had this need to be this codependent
to such a dangerous element.
I think she really did think
she was smarter than the doctors
and she really did think what she saw on the internet
must be what's going on.
Self-deception is a very dangerous thing in its own self.
I think once I find something that feels right
for the character and it fits into the logic for me
in the way they think, that's all I really need.
Oh, a handshake is available upon request.
Thank you. May I have a handshake?
Ben and I had done a movie called Flirting With Disaster
many years ago as actors and then he called me to do
Escape at Dannemora and he was such a great director.
And then he called me about Severance,
which is completely different character,
completely different feeling.
But I really had a lot of faith in Ben as a director.
Okay. [maraca rattling]
You got it.
I just wasn't sure
if people were gonna wanna watch Severance
'cause it's so claustrophobic
and it's so constrained and contained.
I wasn't sure if people would wanna go into that world
when we were all just locked down for a year and a half,
but I was happily surprised
that people really responded to it.
In general, people have grown up very indoctrinated
to certain belief systems and I think Harmony
is one of those people who's really committed to this.
A lot of times institutions,
they don't really have space for the individual.
In fact, everything that is the individual,
whether it's your instincts or your weird choices
or the way you look or any of that
is kind of drilled outta you.
The only thing that the corporation
or this entity wants you to do is to be like a worker,
to go by the rules to do all of these things.
And that's a big component of Mrs. Cobel.
Now when she's Mrs. Selvig,
she's kind of experimenting with what is it like
for people to be neighbors with people
and to have friendships and chum around with each other.
[Mark] Mrs. Selvig. Peace offering.
Are we fighting?
I just keep thinking about those dumb bins.
It's kind of new to her.
She's kind of trying on what is that like
to not be observed.
At the same time, she has an agenda
and it is for the corporation
and she is doing this in belief that this is her work.
Oh, I'm sorry, would you excuse me?
What the hell happened?
Hit and run. I'm never going to that Walmart again.
Was inspired by one of our show creators, Nancy Fishman,
her sister Marjorie who was a drug addict and loved opera
and all these different things and was a bit of a hustler
but who said to her at one point,
You know what, I should be a P.I.
And she was like, Well that's crazy
but that you would be an incredible pi.
Peggy was running away from a lot of her own pain
and avoiding it and keeping her life chaotic and disastrous.
So she didn't really have to look or feel all of that
feelings that she couldn't.
Her self-deception, her conning other people.
She is in this duality being a lost person, a disaster,
a destructive force, and also someone who picks up
broken birds and is codependent
and wants to take care of people
and make the world a better place
and fix everything for everyone.
She's both of these things
and doesn't know which one will win.
And I've found some of the most beautiful people
that I ever knew were addicts and that
they had this illness and they had beautiful qualities
and a lot of them lost their battle and didn't make it.
You love me, right Denny?
Are you kidding me?
I'm gonna be buried with this.
If you really love me
you'll gimme the one thing that I really crave
which is freedom, which is a divorce.
It could be easy to make her not an addict
and all these different things to clean it all up
and homogenize it, but I'm not really interested in that.
My whole career has been about brave choices,
brave filmmakers, brave writers,
and something that resonates the truth to me.
And while this is a farce and this is a comedy,
it's also based in some kind of reality, loss, pain,
a want for connection.
All these characters want family and connection in some way
but it is a counterculture comedy
and it is a farce and it is far out.
That's why I think loving people like that
is pretty beguiling when you have it in your life
and you don't know where they're gonna come out
if they're gonna come out on top or where,
but they all have beautiful hearts.
[soft piano music]
When I was 17, people would say,
Well, what do you wanna be?
I'd say, Well, I really wanna be a midwife or an actor.
At the end of failing for one year of being an actor
I was gonna go back to school and be a midwife.
I'm gonna give it my all for one year,
flop every day for a year, fail every day for a year.
And then I'll know I really tried.
And something mysterious happened during that year.
I got jobs and little by little I just got better
and I still kept getting opportunities.
None of that would've ever happened
if I was too scared to try.
There's no formula for it.
You gotta kind of follow your own heart.
[peaceful jazz music]
Starring: Patricia Arquette
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