“Bozo is my hero,” said David Arquette on a chilly Sunday morning, as he painted a red circle the size of a Frisbee on a brick wall of a warehouse in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. “We want to let that clown out.”
Dressed a bit clownish himself in a Bozo trucker hat, Mickey Mouse-patterned Vans and white jeans with pink tiger stripe wrestling tights, Mr. Arquette, 50, who used to run with a graffiti art crew in Los Angeles, put the finishing touches on a six-foot rendition of Bozo the Clown.
Bozo is today not only Mr. Arquette’s muse, but also his business. Earlier this year, Mr. Arquette, the youngest member of Arquette’s acting clan, holds the rights to the character once billed as “the most famous clown in the world” from Larry Harmon’s estate, which popularized the character.
“We must first help rehabilitate the image of a clown,” Mr. Arquette said, stepping back from his painting and pursed his lips in approval. “I want to help bring back friendly clowns and change the discourse. You know, helping people understand that being crazy is cool.”
The way he sees it, clowns have been unfairly maligned. “There’s a lot of negative history,” Mr. Arquette said. “There was ‘Poltergeist.’ There was Stephen King and ‘It.’ That was a real problem. And then the Joker and Krusty the Clown.”
“Clowns,” he added, “are a reflection of society. And right now the scary clown is kind of where we are.”
He would like to bring Bozo back on TV. For decades there were several children’s television programs that featured the clown in the red wig. For a moment, he nearly managed to bring Bozo to life in the Empire Circus, a new interactive carnival adventure that should open this month at the Empire Stores in Brooklyn, before supply chain disruptions put it on hold.
In a sense, Mr. Arquette himself as Friendly Clown Test Case No. 1. “All my humor comes from being the butt of the joke,” he said. “All my flaws and my stuff.”
In the 1990s, he found himself in the celebrity circus, thanks to scene-stealing roles as Dewey Riley, the charming, albeit quirky deputy sheriff in the “Scream” slasher movie franchise, and his off-camera role as the charming, albeit quirky husband of his “Scream” co-star Courteney Cox.
Scruffy, clumsy, and recognizable to any dude, he was the perfect anti-Hollywood mascot for Generation X.
Or maybe he was a little too Gen X. Feasting on the desolation of a Seattle rocker, Mr. Arquette against alcohol abuse made headlines with drunken binges and saw his divorce play into the tabloids for a second career as a professional wrestler. a move that may have tarnished his reputation in both professions.
But now he’s back – maybe. In January, Mr. Arquette takes on his Dewey character in the 25th anniversary reboot of “Scream,” which also sees Ms. Cox (they’re now divorced) and Neve Campbell, another original cast member, facing off against a new ghost face. killer for Generation Z.
Remarried, sober and living a quiet life in Nashville, he said he hopes to jump start a film career that had largely descended into supporting roles and voiceover work. And this time, Mr. Arquette said, he’s emotionally equipped to handle it.
The youngest brother of five siblings in a fourth-generation acting family, which included his sisters Rosanna (“Desperately Seeking Susan”) and Patricia (“True Romance”), he was ambivalent about the family business: “I always felt, “Uh, my sisters do it, my father does it. I don’t know if I have talent.’”
One path that seemed open was to fool around and eventually find fame as the eccentric among the eccentrics in the “Scream” movies, themselves highly meta-broadcasts of ’80s slasher movies.
Looking back, he said he was emotionally unprepared for the Hollywood glare. “I’m socially awkward,” Mr. Arquette said, “so I walked into a situation and dressed really flashy and said, ‘Okay, look at me, talk about me, look at me.’ Whether I would drink to be scandalous or different, it was coping mechanisms.”
His detour into wrestling was his most outrageous move of all.
It wasn’t insincere. Arquette was a lifelong fan who was able to fulfill a dream after his starring role in Ready to Rumble, a 2000 wrestling comedy. It was a real joy for me,” he said.
However, wrestling fans were thrilled when the world wrestling champion anointed him with the heavyweight title in 2000. So did his Hollywood agents.
As the acting roles began to dry up, he struggled with anxiety and addiction, as he recounted in the documentary about warts and all 2020 of his wrestling career, “You Cannot Kill David Arquette.”
The low came when a wrestler named Nick Gage accidentally Mr. Arquette was stabbed in the neck with a broken fluorescent tube in a 2018 match, causing him to gushing blood and yelling at ringside friend Luke Perry to ask if he was dying.
Since then, his life has calmed down a bit. Arquette lives with his new wife, Christina McLarty Arquette, a film producer and former Entertainment Tonight correspondent, and their two children, Charlie (7) and Gus (4).
After he finished spraying Bozo (with the permission of the building owner), Mr. Arquette strolled through the graffiti-covered neighborhood, pausing to admire the street art.
“I haven’t seen anyone, I’m not going out anymore,” Mr. Arquette said, stopping at a lamppost to affix a sticker for the upcoming “Scream.” “I mean, if you’re not drinking and you’re not looking for girls, there’s nothing out there.”
The reboot meant he had to work with his ex-wife again. “I mean, we’re co-parents, so we see each other a lot,” Mr. Arquette said, referring to their 17-year-old daughter, Coco. “But when you work with someone you have a history with, there’s a built-in, natural one — it’s not acting in that moment. You really experience emotions and life.”