As a member of a Hollywood acting dynasty, with a string of film credits to his name, David Arquette is still best known as the husband of Friends star Courteney Cox.
But with the release of his latest film, Eight Legged Freaks, where he battles huge mutant spiders, the actor looks set to come into his own.
Harking back to 50s B-movies, the camp horror film includes the latest in modern computer-drawn special effects to create the giant insects, with Arquette as the semi-disgraced prodigal son in Prosperity, Arizona, who rallies an odd bunch of townfolk to fight back against the attacking spiders.
In keeping with the genre, the rampaging car-sized arachnids are the result of a toxic waste accident.
But the 32-year-old actor hopes audiences won’t take the $28m (€45m) film too seriously.
‘‘Hopefully it’s something in its own category and people will be spooked and laugh as well,’’ he says.
And it was one of his throwaway remarks which led to the film’s tongue-in-cheek title. ‘‘I ad libbed, ‘Get back you eight legged freaks’ and when the original title didn’t work out they used this one,’’ says the actor.
The film’s director Ellory Elkayem agrees with his star that they don’t intend to terrify. ‘‘Our goal in Eight Legged Freaks was that whenever the film wasn’t scary it had to be funny,’’ he says.
Arquette, the youngest in the acting clan which includes sisters Rosanna and Patricia, as well as brother Alexis, certainly didn’t treat the part as a joke. According to his director, as soon as he was cast, the actor headed down to the gym to beef up his muscles for the role.
‘‘David took the whole action hero thing very seriously,’’ says Elkayem. But for Arquette, the appeal was the chance to play opposite the special effects, courtesy of Elkayem and producers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, better known for their work on blockbuster Independence Day.
‘‘When I knew these guys were involved I knew the computer graphics would be spectacular,’’ Arquette says enthusiastically. But while cinemagoers will find themselves cowering when faced with the massive arachnids, the cast had to flee from rubber spiders on tennis balls, which stood in for the threatening computer-generated mutants.
Arquette says the toughest part was playing against something which wasn’t there. ‘‘You have to kind of use your imagination in this type of acting and get into the spirit of it.’’
But he stresses that one thing which was very real was the green goo which explodes out of the mutants when they were shot though.
His co-star in the movie, B-movie veteran actress Kari Wuhrer, believes the true stars of the movie are the spiders. ‘‘The rest of us take a back seat to these giant spiders,’’ she says.
For Arquette though - who she describes as ‘‘a big kid but a man too’’ - she believes this could be the beginning of bigger things, and that he is set to achieve the same Hollywood profile as his two sisters.
‘‘He’s very intelligent and knows what he’s doing. I think now’s the time for him to show that and I think he’s about to,’’ she says.
While his best-known acting roles to date have been those of the small-town cop in the Scream films, Arquette’s high-profile marriage to Cox has done more than most of his film appearances to get him noticed.
For the actor, his marriage has been more life-changing than most. The former tearaway credits Cox with pulling him off the self-destructive Hollywood fast lane after they met in 1997 on the set of Scream, before finding themselves playing lovers in the followup Scream 2.
‘‘Courteney was there for me like no other woman I’ve ever been with,’’ he admits. ‘‘I was messed up but she didn’t give up on me. I was actually shocked that when the smoke finally cleared she was still there for me.’’
He calls his pre-Cox days his drug-using ‘‘free fall years’’.
‘‘People tried to help but I wouldn’t let them, I was just so messed up in myself.’’
And while the family grew up in Hollywood, with his father Lewis Arquette playing JD Pickett on the long-running TV series The Waltons, he says his early life was no bed of roses either.
‘‘There were often long periods between his jobs. We can play trailer trash so well because we learned it first hand.’’
Living on the seedier side of the tracks in Hollywood, he says: ‘‘I got to know some of the addicts and prostitutes better than I did my own brothers and sisters.’’
Now he and Cox lead a much more comfortable lifestyle as a Hollywood power couple. After a hard day tackling over-sized tarantulas, the actor would relax by playing on his Playstation 2 and smoking a cigar.
And when shooting was over, he got to relax in style. ‘‘After all the work on the movie we went to the Caribbean for a while and I’ve been reading a lot and having fun.’’