Patricia Arquette is married to rebel-turned-Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage, one of the sexiest men in Hollywood. Yet unlike most of her peers, Patricia has none of the airs, graces and “I don’t discuss that” attitude of a typical twin-star marriage.
She’s petite, pretty – but not a classic beauty- and prone to making outrageous statements. This is definitely not the Bruce and Demi show.
Her new film, the quirky romantic comedy Flirting With Disaster opens this week. Arquette plays a neurotic young mother who, amongst other things, spends hours placating her baby. Plaudits have been rolling in but Patricia’s not too keen to talk about this.
She had a son Enzo, now eight, by rock musician Paulo Rossi before she married Cage in 1995, and in the meandering way an Arquette conversation goes, we’re on the subject of how children revolutionize your life. “Becoming a mother changed my whole perspective on me,” she announces.
“I always used to feel, before I was a mother, that an erection meant you wanted to have sex, but now I see a little baby gets an erection. It has nothing to do with sex!”
Patricia grew up in Virginia, as one of five children. Her brothers Alexis and David are actors, her elder sister Rosanna starred opposite Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. Their grandfather was an actor. Their father Lewis set up an experiment theater group in New York, their mother was a bit-part actress turned therapist.
“There wasn’t a day when we weren’t improvising our own little sketches, or tie-dying,” she recalls, apparently without realizing how kooky this sounds.
“There was a normalcy, an openness,” Patricia explains, straight-faced. “My father converted to Islam when we were little, my mother is Jewish, my brother lived in Thailand for two years and he’s a Buddhist. I went to Catholic schools…” Within minutes you get the picture that this was no ordinary childhood.
Now 28, Patricia’s first public performance was aged six, playing Henny Penny in a play at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. She was so shy that she pulled her dress over her head. But at 18, against her parents’ advice, she insisted on going into a business appearing in a string of schlock movies such as Nightmare On Elm Street 3.
Her big break came in 1993 in Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance, playing Christian Slater’s crazy ex-hooker wife. “She has a very real desire to act coursing through her veins,” Slater then remarked. “She may also be the most different woman on the face of the planet.”
Since then, her career has built steadily, with major roles in John Boorman’s Beyond Rangoon and Ed Wood, opposite Johnny Depp. Patricia has come a long way from playing a Freddie Kreuger victim. But she still favors offbeat projects. What the public, and the critics, think doesn’t bother her too much.
Patricia maintains that she never reads her own interviews or reviews. “Even if they’re right, it’s not put in a constructive way. They say, ‘she looks ugly in this, she looks pretty in that’. I don’t care or think about what I look like, but you don’t hear, ‘he looks ugly’ about a man!”
Her next film is Christopher Hampton’s The Secret Agent with Bob Hoskins, but she recently finished David Lynch’s The Lost Highway, with Bill Pullman as her obsessive husband.
“He’s a Nineties guy,” she says of the character, “he would never dare say ‘Where were you? You went to the store to get cigarettes – I know you’re f****** somebody’. But he’s so jealous. It’s looking into the mind of a man who hates women, at his image of women – the dark, dangerous, carnivore, sexual, frightening side.”
Being Lunch, The Lost Highway is sexually explicit and features several nude scenes. In the past Patricia has turned down roles for which she would have had to strip but trusted Lunch not to be “some hack” about it.
“I have a real phobia about nudity in my everyday life. I usually take a bath with the lights off!” she admits. “But I wanted to confront this fear which I’ve fought my whole life, so I was just gonna go through the gates of hell and see what it is.”
It will be a while before Enzo gets to see his mother in these kind of roles. But Patricia is adamant that she will raise him, and Cage’s son Weston, five, with a liberal, informed attitude to sex.
“I believe in love with sex. I’ve never had sex without love,” she says. “I’ll tech my kids that everybody want to have sex, to see that naked body. I don’t want them to feel bad abut that, but sex and love are best when you can have them together.
“I’ll tell them that whatever you do with someone, male sure they want it equally or don’t do it at all. And that you don’t have to explain yourself to anybody. You’re gay, straight, had a hundred lovers – who cares?”
Bearing in mind her eclectic religious background, she has a fascinating interpretation of the Bible. “It’s a code book to be a good person,” she says. “Like Jesus loved Mary so much. He wouldn’t judge a woman on her sexual past. Who cares if she was a whore before you met her? It’s not for you to decide somebody else’s past was right or wrong.”
As for her own relationship with Cage, she resists the pressure on them to behave as one of Hollywood’s golden couples.
“People are always looking at you,” she says. “We don’t go out a lot, but if we do and we’re in a crabby mood, people look at you and go ‘Ooh, are there problems?’ Friends call in the middle of the night because they’ve just read we’re getting divorced. I pass the phone to Nicolas so they can hear we’re still together.”
The couple first met in a Los Angeles deli in 1987. For Cage it was love at first sight. He asked her to marry him immediately. She refused. To win her round, he asked her to set him a quest worthy of a medieval knight.
Patricia, a woman of no little imagination, asked for a back orchid, JD Salinger’s signature, a wedding dress from the Lisu tribe in Northern Thailand and a Bob’s Big Boy statue. He managed the first two, but the wedding dress stalled him. He decided to sweep her off to Cuba to get married. Unfortunately he was help up at the airport and threw a massive tantrum. Patricia was so angry, she went back to her old boyfriend. It took eight years for them to get back together. This time, she proposed.
Both have had their well-publicized share of LA partying, but these days a perfect evening is to stay in a watch a video. “What becomes enjoyable is to stay home, cook dinner and avoid everybody. When you get a certain level of fame, suddenly everyone want to be your friend. It’s like a feeding frenzy.”
If you’re a Hollywood star, married to another Hollywood star, you can’t avoid that kind of thing. But she and Cage have always been on the edge, more Venice Beach than Beverly Hills. “Some of our friends are wealthy, some don’t have a job, some work at a record store, some at a gas station.”
Which, much as Bruce and Demi would like it, is not what you expect of a major player. But that is what makes Patricia Arquette so interesting.
THE EXPRESS, January 24, 1997