Most actresses seem happy to shed their clothes in the movies today. Patricia Arquette is no exception… but with one slight difference.
Cinema audiences might be forgiven for assuming that actress Patricia Arquette rather enjoys whipping off her clothes and romping around starkers.
After all, she’s dropped her drags in most of the movies she’s made thus far, and she flaunts quite a bit of naked flesh in her latest movie, The Lost Highway, as well. But the plain truth is that Nicolas Cage’s wife can barely look at her own bare body, let alone have others gawking at it. She professes to having “a real phobia about nudity. I usually take a bath with the lights off!”
Then why on earth would she allow her body to be splashed naked across the big screen?
“I’ve tried every gentle approach to overcoming this fear of nudity which I’m so messed up about, so I decided to just go through the gates of hell and confront it,” explains the petite blonde bombshell when we meet in her Paris hotel room.
And for Patricia, simulating sex in front of her director, the enigmatic David (Twin Peaks) Lynch, as well as a dozen crew members, it did feel like sheer hell itself.
“It was really weird because I’ve never had sex without love, and now I’m married, I’m in love and I’m intimate with Nicolas, and then all of a sudden I had to do love scenes with 15 people in one day, who were all touching me and I didn’t even know some of their names!”
Visibly shaken by the ordeal, she pulls a cushion onto her lap in a vain attempt at comfort. Above her head hangs a portrait of screen diva Marlene Dietrich.
“She’s protecting me,” Patricia quips. “Just call me Baby Marlene.”
The name suits her well. Curled up on a large sofa, Patricia looks too tiny, vulnerable and young to be anything other than an infant. She certainly doesn’t look like the mother of an eight-year-old son and the wife of one of Hollywood’s favourite stars.
But motherhood and marriage are a serious deal for this diminutive actress. When she and Oscar-winning Cage were first introduced to each other in a coffee shop one afternoon, he immediately wanted to marry her. She made him wait eight years.
“When we met I was overcome by a flash of karmic memories and I knew then that one day we would marry,” she grins. “But after a month of dating him I backed out because I was scared that I’d become invisible to myself and that his success would overshadow me.”
Eight years and numerous movies later, Patricia phoned Cage late one night. Her message: “I’m ready to marry you.”
Within days of that April 1995 call they were secretly wed in California and have been living happily ever after, contrary to newspaper reports that habitually claim their marriage is on the rocks.
“Friends call us in the middle of the night because they’ve just read we’re getting divorced, and I have to pass the phone to Nicolas so they can see we’re still together,” she sighs. “The first few times you laugh, but then it’s like: ‘Damn it! Who keeps saying these things? Can’t you just leave us alone?'”
Ever since Nicolas won his Academy Award for Leaving Las Vegas, the intrusion on their personal lives has intensified.
“If we take the kids to Disneyland of something, Nicolas becomes the attraction. People swarm around him. It’s so scary.
“When you reach a certain level of fame, people start to party off you. All of a sudden everyone wants to be your friend. They hang around you. It’s like a feeding frenzy. What becomes enjoyable is staying home, cooking dinner and knowing we’re not being wanted for somebody else’s needs.”
She knows the problem is compounded by both of them being famous. “But I wouldn’t trade Nicolas for anybody else, so it’s OK. And I love staying home with him. I don’t need a big show to make me feel romantic. Just being together is. I’m excited by Nicolas and I’m always going to be intrigues by him.”
It’s the obsessed fans that really freak her out.
“Once we were sleeping in our hotel room in Cannes and this intruder came into our room. Nicolas leapt up nude and chased him out, but I was sobbing. Even the fans who stand outside this hotel all night scare me. I’ve got family to protect.
Nicolas and Patricia would love to have more children, but right now they’re too busy making movies (and yes – they would love to do one together if they could find the right script), and bringing up her son Enzo and Nicolas’ son Weston (6).
“Both boys still need lots of individual attention, but maybe when they’re older we’ll adopt more kids. Family is very important to both of us, but I don’t need another child to come out of my body.”
The couple caused something of a stir recently when Nicolas was reported to have moved back in with his former partner, Kristina Fulton, the mother of Weston. His concern for Weston’s welfare was apparently the reason and Patricia did not appear to have had any problem with this. They have kept separate homes since their marriage, an obviously suitable arrangement, and one which did not prevent them from attending this year’s Oscars together.
Perhaps all that magnanimity is also due to Patricia’s changed perspective on men, thanks to having a son.
“Trying to raise a son is about getting rid of that fear or anger that you have about the opposite sex, because I do love men and I want my son to be proud of being a man; I want him to respect woman.”
As long as Enzo (who’s played her son in various movies) doesn’t turn out to be a misogynist like her co-star Bill Pullman’s character in Lost Highway, Patricia will be happy.
The movie opens a window into the mind of a man who hates women. “I was once in a three-week relationship like that,” says Patricia. “The guy was just projecting his hatred and distrust of women onto me. It’s a mad, obsessive, craziness in the minds of such men, and that’s another reason I did this move – I wanted to see this kind of relationship on film, even though it was terrifying and painful to make.”
On the day Patricia had to shoot a scene in which she does a striptease for some sleazy guys, she finally cracked. “I just lay on the ground and started crying. I told David (Lynch): ‘You’re Satan.’ And he went: ‘Ah, Patricia.'”
She didn’t really mean it about Lynch being the Devil himself. She adores him. She’s do anything for him and has no regrets about the nudity – “It was the right thing for me to do as an actor and as a person.”
The fact that Lynch, as usual, refused to tell any of his stars what the movie was really about didn’t faze her either. Patricia knows she definitely plays the blonde wife of a misogynist (Pullman), and that she might be the brunette girlfriend of a youngster (Balthazar Getty). But then again she may be a hallucination in Pullman’s mind and Getty might really be Pullman in another body.
Sound confusing? It is. It’s a typical Lunch movie where you’re never too sure if what you see is really what you’re seeing. As always with the Twin Peaks director, you just have to let go and enjoy a weird and wacky ride into another realm.
Although her body’s on display in the film, Patricia refused to work out for the role because “when these misogynists become obsessed, it has nothing to do with the woman being a beauty. It’s just about obsession, power, control and hate. Every time I had to do a nude scene, I’d say: ‘Bring me more ice-cream!’ And what anyway, is working out what sexuality is about? Is that really beauty? I don’t think so!”
When the film was completed, Patricia insisted on having a special screening. “I had to see it alone with Nicolas – and I had to be drunk!” she shrieks, covering her face with both hands and rocking from side to side. “Nicolas was cool, though. He said I was very brave and that I should be proud of myself.”
His words echo those of everyone who knows Patricia. She’s the girl who had the courage to step in and film Beyond Rangoon when Meryl Streep and Michelle Pfeiffer balked at the rigors of filming in a Malaysian jungle.
Born on April 8, 1968, Patricia was destined to be brave. She was conceived on the site of an American Civil War battle. Her parents go an inkling their daughter had guts and determination when, at 11, she smashed a window, with her bare hands because it wouldn’t open, and at 12 she ran away to a carnival (but returned two days later).
That Patricia would become an actress was inevitable. Like the Baldwin family, all four Arquettes – Patricia, Rosanna, Alexis and David – are actors. It comes from having parents and a grandfather (Cliff) who were actors too.
“It’s either a lack of originality or absolute madness,” laughs Patricia.
Growing up for a while in a hippy commune in Virginia seems to have left an indelible stamp of eccentricity on Patricia.
When she was arrested at 12 for shoplifting, she demanded that her parents send her to therapy because “I had such a good-girl complex that I thought I must be punished.” And at 16 it was she who forced her closest male friend to take her virginity.
Tragically, he became a heroin addict and died three years later, which left Patricia devastated. In the same year she found herself unexpectedly pregnant by musician Paul Rossi, which meant relinquishing her role in Last Exit To Brooklyn to Jennifer Jason Leigh. Jennifer’s career was launched while Patricia gave birth to her son, Enzo.
But everything’s turned out rosy. She’s now got a wonderful son, a fabulous husband and, since her star-turn in the Quentin Tarantino-scripted True Romance, her career is soaring.
Her life’s been like a Hollywood movie, except don’t tell Patricia that. She hates neat, happy Hollywood endings almost as much as she hates the ambition-driven values of the ’80s and ’90s.
“It’s like people don’t want to think any more. Life’s become a race: finish high school, be a businessman, get a wife, have a car, have the kids, make some money… and whoever dies with the most wins,” she snarls.
It’s time for people to start reading their Bibles, she reckons.
“The Bible is like a code book on how to be a good person. People today are so competitive and judgmental, but look at Jesus. Look at how he loved Mary Magdalene and never judged her on her sexual past. That’s what I want to teach my kids – to never feel bad about their past, as long as they’ve not hurt people along the way.”
Life’s become a race… and whoever dies with the most wins
Throughout our interview Patricia has smoked tirelessly but always considerately, tilting her head to blow streams of smoke behind her. As a schoolgirl she would dream about being rich enough to throw lavish parties where cigarettes were distributed to guests at the door. Somehow Patricia Arquette’s dreams and aspirations have risen, like her final puff of smoke, above and beyond that.
PERSONALITY June 6 1997