Over two decades ago, David Arquette starred as a wrestling-obsessed fan in ‘Ready to Rumble.’ The film, now gaining ground as a cult classic, was promoted through World Championship Wrestling during the height of the legendary ‘Monday Night Wars’ era of professional wrestling. During the run, Arquette would be crowned WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 2000 as a marketing stunt in an effort to promote the film. Unfortunately, it was a move that was poorly received by die-hard fans of sports entertainment. Ultimately, blood-thirsty wrestling fans turned on the rising star and deemed him the most hated man in professional wrestling. It’s a moment in Arquette’s life that haunted him and effectively stalled his career in Hollywood.
Determined to redeem his reputation and reclaim his self-respect, Arquette set out on an epic quest to earn his rightful place inside the squared circle. To document the journey, he enlisted the help of two seasoned veterans of documentary filmmaking — Price James and David Darg. This dynamic duo were granted unprecedented access to Arquette’s world to witness the resurrection of one of Hollywood’s greatest talents firsthand. The resulting film is one of the most powerful pieces of documentary filmmaking ever brought to screen about the world of independent wrestling. Most importantly, ‘You Cannot Kill David Arquette’ is eye-opening look at the power of one man’s determination to achieve his goals and rise to glory!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Price James and David Darg to discuss the making of the film, the challenges they faced along the way, and the undeniable passion of David Arquette.
You both have a passion for bringing unique stories to the screen. What drew you to the art of filmmaking?
Price James: Well, I fell into it. I was a musician in my youth, and I broke my finger on tour. Two years later, I was like, “What am I doing?” I went from there to music videos, TV commercials and short films, where I was leaning into comedy and genre. I went to art school and being creative, I guess, is the general catharsis.
David Darg: Same for me! Price and I used to be in a punk band when we were kids, around the time we were 17 and 18 years old. We started with music and making skateboarding videos. From there, my journey became a little different. I got into humanitarian work and I started doing more documentary stuff on various humanitarian issues around the world. We were on very different paths for a long time, but those paths converged on this project, which is really special for us because this is the first time we were able to collaborate on something.
Price James: Yeah, it’s funny. Our skill-sets are so complimentary, but our tastes are the same. It’s a perfect circle in the way.
How did you stumble into the unique world of David Arquette?
Price James: I met the Arquette’s through some humanitarian work I was doing in Haiti 10 years ago during the earthquake. When David wanted to do this project, he approached my company, which at the time was Riot Films. He asked if we might be able to help him tell this story. Amongst a slate of other projects we were working on, this immediately jumped out as something that I was very, very excited to take on because of the potential it had to be a very meaningful story but also a story filled with comedy and excitement. With my background, as I said, being based in more serious documentary work around some pretty heavy subjects, I wanted to bring in Price because a lot of his work has come out of comedy. He has that comedy expertise, so I knew that we would complement each other in that respect. We have different nuances that we are experts in and together we were able to tackle this subject because it’s definitely a combination of those two worlds.
You did an amazing job capturing the atmosphere of professional wrestling in its different forms. How familiar were you with that world before this documentary?
Price James: I was a super fan when I was a kid, to the point where I had the posters on the wall, a subscription to WWF magazine, the toy wrestling figures and all of that kind of stuff. Classically, at 13 years old, I was like, “I want to play punk music. Also, I think I like girls now!” [laughs] It was one of those things where you just sort of drift out of it. During the production, I feel like we all fell in love with it again! Especially bar wrestling in LA, which is basically a very cool art scene where Macaulay Culkin shows up and you have this interesting crowd that is very mixed. It’s LGBT and it’s more cabaret. It’s a show and not just the sweaty hulks, even though I love that as well. Yeah, man! It’s an absolute riot! What’s not to love!
David Darg: Growing up in England, we both had very little access to that taste of American culture, so we fully embrace the beauty of American kitschiness now that we have access to it. We love exploring the counterculture of The States. Wrestling has always been sort of on the periphery for us as something fun, cool and kitschy but then we had the opportunity to do this project, we uncovered a world that I didn’t even really know existed, which was the independent scene. Wrestling to me was always WWF and, obviously, the transition to WWE, but to fully explore the indie scene really opened my eyes to the fact that there was this amazing underground counterculture. It’s also not the typical people I thought were attending these matches and wrestling events. There is such a range of personalities at these things! You have metalheads next to hip-hoppers next to grandmothers in these school gymnasiums! It’s a crazy mishmash of people that wouldn’t ordinarily come together that bond every weekend across America in these theatrical pantomimes that are happening. It’s this really wonderful thing that I think needs to be explored more; beyond this film even.
David Arquette’s lived almost his entire life in the spotlight. This film opens up his world to the viewer. I imagine that isn’t easy for everyone to do. Was he open to the process?
Price James: Yeah, man! He was an open book pretty much! He is very generous with his time, his personal life and his family life. The same can be said for his entire family. We basically had access to everything. We knew that would be very important in telling a very rounded story. Without that, the film would’ve lacked. I think it really comes through on screen, how much access we had and how willing he was to be open to us and the process of making the film.
David Darg: I feel like we got to David when he was almost at the end of his rope. All of his dirty laundry was out there, and everyone knew. He had this very public persona of negativity. When we started the project, he was fully overweight, not in a good place in life and kind of unhappy. However, he had this desire to do wrestling for multiple reasons. He wanted redemption in the ring, but I think he mostly just wanted to get his life back on track. His willingness to pick up the pieces and start afresh and do this thing meant that he knew that he had to let us get full access into his story and his life. The results are on the screen! I think it was an amazing opportunity as filmmakers to have full access to someone’s life with very little restriction and a lot of emotion!
Price James: Yeah, I totally agree. It’s like, if you commit to something so intensely, it’s going to have an effect on the rest of your life. I think that was apparent with David. He’s killing at the moment! He’s got a couple of films out that are great, and one thing leads to another!
What were your biggest challenges of making this film?
David Darg: The very first day of filming, we had both of our cameras smashed by mad wrestlers in a bar fight and almost had our heads torn off! That was the first logistical challenge and it all went downhill from there! [laughs] It was the classic fly on the wall filmmaking and a crazy situation. David was wild at the start of this thing as he was still struggling with a lot of stuff. We were following him into some really dark places, whether it was alcohol or a strip club. He was looking for an out in different ways. We touched on that a bit in the film,
Price James: Also, we nearly died shooting Mexican street wrestling in Tijuana. We were in the middle of eight lanes of crossing traffic with police running past and gangs, all while we were in the middle of traffic capturing the footage. As you see in the film, they are busking by wrestling at traffic lights. It’s one of the best sequences in the movie but talk about putting your life on the line. We did it! [laughs]
David Darg: Filming wrestling matches, by nature, is a bit of a struggle. You obviously can’t pause the action. Making sure you are capturing everything and along with the energy of the crowd in the arena was a big challenge. We definitely had to learn how to be wrestling filmmakers as well, which was kind of fun and a unique challenge as well.
Price James: Personally, working with Darg on our first project together, everything just clicked. Our similar passion and tastes but with contrasting skill sets, as I mentioned earlier, made for a unique pairing. As far as wrestling, it’s an amazing world and we are superfans now. I think it’s hard not to be. What we don’t want is people watching the film, possibly adults who are having a drink, jumping off the couch thinking they are going to recreate David’s aerial moves and then suing us! [laughs]
David Darg: For me, every project you work on is different and has its own unique challenges and ups and downs. I’ve made films in really difficult situations. For example, I made a documentary in the Ebola Zone in 2014 and that was really tough. There is a magic in this film in terms of the access and the resolution that it comes to, that I may not ever get again on another project I work on. I will be OK with that. I think there is something beautiful and very unique about seeing someone, who’s been so much in the social eye and has the celebrity profile of David, open their life up to the camera to this level. I think that’s very rare. It brings a lot of magic to this film that sets it apart as a very unique exploration into the life of a celebrity that I don’t know will be repeated anytime soon. It was very special to work on it from that perspective.
As you said, this film has an amazing resolution and you can’t help but be inspired by David’s journey. Will we see David Arquette entering the squared circle again soon?
David Darg: If the WWE is smart, they will hook this guy up. He comes with such a built-in persona and following. He also has that amazing backstory of how he was hated but is now so loved – it’s such a great promo for wrestling. I’d love to see him get really hooked up on the wrestling scene. The guy truly loves wrestling and he was dealt a rough hand by the wrestling community and it wasn’t his fault. Hopefully, this film will prove that he is real, loves it and earns him respect full-on in the wrestling community.
Where are you headed in the near future when it comes to filmmaking?
Price James: We’ve got some plans for some other features; things we are talking about. Our tastes meet in the underworld of Americana. We are really excited about the things we have planned!
That sounds intriguing! I look forward to seeing where the road takes you! Until we meet again, I’ll be out spreading the word!
David Darg: Thanks, buddy! We appreciate it!
Price James: Cheers, mate!
‘You Cannot Kill David Arquette’ is now playing in Drive-In Theaters and hits Digital and On Demand August 28th, 2020.
MORE ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS:
David Darg is an Oscar nominated and Emmy winning director, cinematographer and film editor. He received critical praise for his documentary “Body Team 12,” which garnered him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 88th Academy Awards. Darg is the co-founder of RYOT, a US media company acquired by Verizon in 2016. He was named one of Esquire Magazine’s 2012 Americans of the Year for his work in Haiti as well as a Hollywood Maverick by Details magazine for his documentary work in crisis and disaster zones. In addition to his Academy nomination and Emmy awards for directing, Darg is an Emmy winning editor having won in 2017 with “Body Team 12” and nominated in 2018 with “Fear Us Women.” In 2020 Darg received the SXSW Adobe editing award for “You Cannot Kill David Arquette. His films have won numerous film festival awards including Tribeca where he has premiered five documentaries. In 2019, Darg was Oscar nominated as a producer on the documentary “Lifeboat.” His commercial work includes branded content for Gatorade, Sony Ericsson and commercials for Uber and P&G. Darg spent over a decade as a first responder to natural disasters. He lived in China for a year following the 2008 Sichuan quake and lived in Haiti for two-and-a-half years after the quake there. As a journalist and photographer Darg has been published in National Geographic, BBC, Reuters and numerous US publications. Darg is the recipient of the 2015 Nelson Mandela Changemaker of Peace award.
Price James is a comedy director and scriptwriter based between Los Angeles and London. Commonly known for comedy, genre and creative concepts, his high energy performances veer into fantasy and action movie satire. Price cut his chops at Ridley Scott Associates for a decade, directing commercials & music videos. He now works in short and feature length narrative and documentary work. He is known for “Action Man: Battlefield Casualties” (featuring Matt Berry) and “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” (2020).