Courteney Scared Shirtless
[from Details, 12/97]
ALTADENA, CALIFORNIA, 1997
(EXTERIOR:A dark, forbidding night at a spooky Victorian mansion, the home of the Omega Beta Zeat sorority. A body is sprawled on the ground, drained of life. Police cars and paramedics clog the driveway. Pull back to reveal we are on the set of the sequel to Scream. Courteney Cox barrels onto the crime scene. Director Wes Craven stops her.)
This time you've gone too far.
COURTENEY POINTS TO THE SPOT were she's standing several feet away from where she was supposed to stop. "Why am I not up here?" she asks. "I'm quick." So is Craven. "You just arrived," he explains. "you had to go to the bathroom." Courteney laughs. "I gotta tell ya, I love a man whit an idea." they belong to a mutual admiration society. Wes and Courteney. According to Craven, she has her character stone-coldnailed. "She definitely has opinion," he says, acknowledging that they're not always the same as his, "but she's always right." Courteney is as nasty as she wants to be in Scream 2, reprising the role of Gale Weathers, the pushy reporter who sensationalized the spree killings that devastated the student of a small town in the first episode of Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson's Scream trilogy. It's a welcome departure for Cox. "It's fun being bitchy," she admits. The original Scream asked the question "Do you like scary movies?" Hell yes, young America replied. The movie murdered the competition during the 1996 holiday season, eventually ranking in over $100 million. For the fifty-eight-year-old Craven, who has perpetrated a terror-based mind-fuck on the American teenage psyche for years whit such cult films as The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream was both an artistic validation and a wake-up call to moribund studio execs.
Now every major film company wants more gore, and Williamson (who also wrote the screenplay for this fall's I Know What You Did Last Summer) has a multiproject film-abd-TV deal whit Miramax. This time around, Craven has assembled the survivors-Neve Campbell as the resourceful former virgin Sidney Prescott; Jamie Kennedy as Randy Meeks, the geeky video-store clerk; David Arquette as the bumbling sheriff's deputy Dewey Riley; and Courteney Cox as the hard-as-her-manicured-nails TV reporter Gale Weathers-and pushed the fast-forward button. It is two years later. Sidney is now a college student; Gale has written a best-selling book, called Stab, about the events of the first murders, and produced a film version of the story. When two murders are discovered on campus, Sidney and Gale, who were at each other's throats in Scream, are reunited. The crimes also bring Dewey Riley, now retired from the police, back in Gale's life. (In Scream, the on-screen chemistry between the two characters prompted meny a gossip column to link Cox and Arquette. Not true, says Courteney. "He's my goofball bud." "Gale loves Dewey," she explains. "Only Dewey has a little problem, because Gale wrote some bad stuff about him in her book." "She totally dissed me," David Arquette says. "And then she finds the terror in her ways and we have a little thing. Not enough, though," he says, chagrined. "I wanted a full-fledged love scene, but Wes Craven doesn't like to exploit sex too much." Not when there's pretty blood to be shed. In the sequel, Craven brings together an impressive crew of rising young stars as potential victims/suspects (much like he did whit Rose McGrowan and Skeet Ulrich in Scream). This year's cast includes Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Jada Pinkett, and Jerry O'Connell. No one is saying who gets out alive, but Cox's role is pivotal, Craven tells me, "Gale has that glossy veneer, but at the same time you needed somebody who could be very down and dirty." Cox snagged the role in the original, he says, because "she just seemed to have that spark. She's from real salt-of-the-earth people, there's just no pretension about her. She can be totally tough and in the next instant completely human." Will she live to tell the tale in Scream 3? "If she survives, she will," Craven answers in his best horrormeister drone. "And if she does not, she will be remembered fondly." Courteney says she's "sworn to secrecy" about her fate in Scream 2, but promises this much: "It's going to raise the hair on your back." Then she makes a face. "But who wants hair on their back?"
FLASHBACK TO 1984
(INTERIOR: An audition hall. Hundreds of young girls-lithe, leggy babes-wait to strut their stuff for horror-movie genius BRIAN DE PALMA, who knows a good actress when he hears her scream bloody murder. CLOSE-UP on one hopeful in a sleeveless T-shirt and pixie haircut: COURTENEY COX is scared to death, but has nothing to lose,)
What experience do you have?
Two days on As the World Turns. But you can change that.
DOES HE EVER. De Palmer casts her as the girl who grooves whit the Boss in his video for Bruce Springsteen's 1984 hit "Dancing in the Dark." Hollywood says come hither Courteney becomes a telekinetic teen on Misfits of Science, makes straight-to-video movie and a Judith Krantz miniseries. It isn't all lame: She also plays Michael J. Fox's girlfriend on Family Ties and makes love to Jim Carry's Ace Ventura as his pets detect their every move. Then, three years ago, Courteney finds herself in a rehearsal studio in Burbank whit five strangers who have come together to become Friends. Introductions are made. As is her custom, Courteney takes the bull by the horns. "She was the only the only one of us who was a celebrity," Lisa Kudrow recalls. "And she made it very clear from the beginning she was just one of the gang." As Monica Geller, Courteney found success by being herself: a type-A-plus mother hen to the group of Coffee Underachievers on Friends. "She's a lot more anal than I am," Courteney is quick to point out. But for all of her neuroses, Monica also gets the best slapstick and sexiest story lines. And a post-Super Bowl special episode, Courteney became the glue that held the cast together, keeping their morale up when they were locked in their very public salary negotiations whit Warner Bros. Television almost a year and a half ago (which would result in each cast members eventually earning over $100,000 an episode). "The six of us have a little ritual every show," says David Schwimmer. "We get in a little huddle and exchange kisses." Awww. He says Courteney's kiss tastes like "that dessert whit bananas and cognac set on fire." A year ago, that cast started busting their moves on the big screen. As leading men, the boys went bomb, bomb, bomb. Jennifer and Lisa went bomb, bomb. Courteney took her time returning to film, starring in a black comedy that nobody saw (Commandments) and then the horror comedy that a lot of folks saw again and again. The success of Scream was no surprise to Cox, who says she realized its potential the first time she read the script. But even if she returns for chapter three, she has other fish to filet. Now thirty-three, she's been in the game nearly fifteen years. "Whoa," she says. "That sounds really depressing. I'm just so far from where I want to be.
I'm sure I'm considered very commercial for TV, but I have to battle that if I want to be in weird independent movies." And she does. "I'm not a huge fan of romantic comedies. My taste goes much more to the offbeat and dark. I would really love to sink my teeth into something like Fargo."
BEVERLY HILLS, 1997
(EXTERIOR: A poolside cafe CLOSE-UP on COURTENEY. She looks like the cover girl she was on People's 1995 "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" issue: high cheekbones, perfectly balanced features, eyes the color of blue curacao, killer dimples. Her allure is cool but accessible. She does not tick like sex bomb, she smolders whit the emotional complexity of woman we all know-sisters, girl next door, power-suited business associates. She is having a dossier as she picks at her friends chicken salad. He's been checking her out. Talking to her friends. But she can hold her own. They face off.)
REPORTER (pointing to a document)
It says here you have an eating disorder.
I think I look very healthy. You've already seen what I've eating, so I couldn't be anorexic, and I wouldn't throw up if you paid me $1,000, so I'm not bulimic. Okay, for $1,000 I would stick my finger down my throat, but throwing up is the worst thing in the world.
Worse than getting older in an industry obsessed with beauty and youth?
Who cares? I'm not trying to be Charlie's Angels. So I won't be playing the young pretty girls-I'll be playing the interesting older woman.
Would you ever consider cosmetic surgery?
I'll apply almost any product to my face to make it look better, but I don't know about the knife. I've never really seen a good enough face-lift to say "Oh, that works."
You're kind of a wise guy, aren't you?
A lot of my humor does come from anger. It's like, you're not gonna pull one over me-which is pretty much my motto anyway.
FLASHBACK: THE LATE ' 60s
(EXTERIOR: The backyard of a home in suburban Birmingham, Alabama. Night. Mist rises from a swimming pool. Moonlight shines on the nubile bodies of a naked teenagers. They frolic and shriek, unaware of a pair of eyes trained on them from the shadows.)
THIS IS COURTENEY COX'S first memory: "My sister and her friends were all skinny-dipping. I couldn't believe they were doing that. So I hid there clothes." She was the baby of four, born June 15, 1964, in Mountain Brook, Alabama, an old-school society town where girls came out as debutantes. Her eldest sister, Virginia, and her brother Richard were "hippie types"; Dottie, her two-years-older sister, was "the Little Angel, and I was the Little Conniver." Courteney was a tomboy, a climber of trees. kicker of cans, player of Marco Polo in the family pool. She got a Kimball upright piano from the S&M Green Stamps store ("Me and my grand mom licked those suckers for days"), and the first song she learned was "Stairway to Heaven". Courteney worshiped her father: "I used to love getting the lint out of his belly button." She also had the usual puppy loves: David Cassidy and Michael Landon (in Bonanza, not Little House). Her parents divorced when she was ten; Courteney grew up whit her mom and sisters. Like a lot of kids, she balmed herself when her parents busted up. She wanted them back together. When her mother was going out with her future stepfather, Courteney narked her out to him for kissing another suitor. Eventually, both of her parents remarried; Courteney was suddenly the youngest of thirteen. Sometimes, at the dinner table, she had to shout to be heard. It toughened her up. She pierced her ears and dated on older boy. She was "good" bad, but not easy. Recently, a tabloid incorrectly claimed she'd her virginity in the back of a bus in high school; Courteney says she was "a very late bloomer," losing it at nineteen. She only dabies. "The first time I smoked pot I didn't get it. The last time I wanted everyone to not talk to me but not to go anywhere."
FLASH FORWARD: 1976
(EXTERIOR: A grassy football field. The captain of the cheerleading squad is announcing the final cut. CLOSE-UP on COURTENEY. She's it. She runs home elated. CUT TO: The first cheerleading practice session. Someone has mysteriously disappeared from the lineup.)
WHEN COURTENEY MADE the cheerleading team and had the choice of going to practice or visiting her father in Florida, it was goodbye pompoms. "I was always trying to prove myself to my dad, wanting his approval big-time." This is how it was for Courteney. Mom made the rules; Dad encouraged her to bend them. From her mother she learned grace and poise; from her father, a swimming pool contractor, she learned the value of salesmanship. In eleventh grade she joined a work-study program-school was boring and she wasn't popular-and spent her afternoons selling pool equipment earned enough to buy a Datsun 210; To day she drives a silver Porsche Carrera. She was already a looker and got noticed for it. After appearing in a ad for a local department store, she spent her seventeenth summer modeling in New York (the highlight: a cover of Tiger Beat). That fall, she went to Mount Vernon College, a women's school in Washington, D.C., to study architecture. She lasted a year. Her stepcousin Ian Copeland gave her an office job in his New York new-wave-music agency; later they become romantically involved. As a model, Courteney become something of a female Fabio, posing for illustrations for a juvenile paperback series."I thought I was acting, though. I thought I was shit." She did beauty commercials and was the first woman to utter the word "period" on TV. "I remember Dynasty was at its peak, and there I was, saying, "Do you ruin your life once a month because of your period? Still using pads? Well, lemme tell ya... let me put it to you straight. Tampax is..."-she rolls her eyes and delivers a suitably updated punch line- "...dope."
Los Angeles, 1997
(INTERIOR: The office of a nosy reporter. The desk is littered whit newspaper clipspings. There is a file marked COURTENEY. Inside there are photographs of a happy couple caught in the flashgun glare of the paparazzi. CLOSE-UP: A magazine photo. It rips in half.)
COURTENEY COX MET Michael Keaton in 1989. He was thirty-eight, not yet Batman; she was twenty-five, fresh from her stint on Family Ties. In the years that followed, she was so proud of him she didn't care about her career or being in his shadow. "When we were together," she has famously said, "I just didn't get noticed. I could have been naked or grown antlers and it wouldn't have made any difference." They broke up two years ago. "I'm still trying to figure it out," she says. "It wasn't something specific, or because we're in the same business. A lot of it had to do with my insecurity at the same time. I'm not one big ball of trust." It has caused a sadness no amount of success can cure. "I thought that relationship was it. The last one." But sometime the memories haunt her. "I'll always love him. It's interesting-someone was saying the other day, You know you're really over a relationship when you want the other person to be happy. I want the best for him, but I don't know if I would be so psyched to hear that he was in a relationship. I don't want to speak for him, but when you realize that you both want the same thing but you can't seem to get that together, It's kind of tragic."
She does'nt like to talk about it. I put in a call to Keaton, and he declines to be interviewed. When Courteney discovers this, she busts me good-naturedly. Right now, she says, she is finding solace in therapy. "I was used to one kind of man, the whole olderman complex I've got going. My father, my brother, my main love of my life were all very charismatic. I found myself really wanting them to love me, and I was afraid maybe I'd be boring." She is trying to erase "the old tapes in my head." In doing so she found these truths to be self-evident: Monogamy is a must. ("otherwise you are in big trouble.") The past is the past. ("I don't mind that anybody I've been with has been with a thousand other people-good, get it out of your system.") But there is a double standard. ("Men like to think that woman have never been whit anyone but them.") Courteney believes there are more important things in a relationship. Sort of: "Yeah, but I'm sorry, I have to be physically attracted to someone. On the other hand, I can't just be whit someone just because it's great sex." She smiles, slyly. "Because orgasms just don't last long enough."The thing that turns her off is laziness. The key to her heart is her family. "It's a dame three-ring circus, but being willing to hang out whit my family-wanting to impresses me." She would like to start a family herself, but is moving cautiously. "If it were all up to me to pursue a relationship," she tells me, "I would never have one." The current wisdom is that she's going out with Adam Duritz; she recently appeared in the Counting Crows video "A long December." "Just good friends," Courteney says. There's also a rumor linking her with Scream's Liev Schreiber. "Even if you were dating someone, I bet you wouldn't tell me," I say. "To be honest with you, I wouldn't. Who needs that added extra pressure?"
LOS ANGELES, 1997
(INTERIOR: A white tiled shower. COURTENEY, topless, clutches a white vinyl curtain around her, covering the Gemini symbol tattooed in white above her navel. She blinks and shivers in the air-conditioning. A phone rings. COURTENEY picks it up.)
Do you like scary movies?
SHE DOES. She rented The Omen just the other night. "My favorite thing that Michael used to do was like in Halloween-I love to be chased around the house. And I'd know it was Michael, but it was the exhilaration, that rush that I'd get." For the time Courteney lives alone on Los Angeles with her two dogs, Rags, a Border collie, and a German shephard called Mac. If she's lonely, she's never idle. She has bought, renovated, redecorated, and profitably sold four houses in the last eleven years. She is Martha Stewart and Bob Vila rolled into one, a self-taught handywoman who writes a household-hints column for Jane magazine (To remove water rings from wooden tables, she says, rub in mayonnaise with a little cigarette ash). On her nightstand there's a journal and a copy of The Alienist and "a really big bottle of Advil for when I'm stressed. Inside the drawer is where it all happens," she purrs. "That's where all the paraphernalia is." If you were to crawl into bed with Courteney Cox, you'd be on the left. She'd be sleeping on the right edge. her head nestled on the feather pillow she's had since she was a young girl. She wouldn't snore, but she might toss and turn. Right now #everything is up in the air." It's a transitional period that Courteney is navigating with all of the courage and attention to detail she can muster-which is plenty. There are at least another two years of Friends and a burgeoning second act as a movie star. There are habits to be broken and houses to be fixed. There may even be marriage and motherhood: "I really felt my clock ticking at twenty-nine. At thirty-three I fell okay. I know eventually I will be in a good relationship and have a couple of kids." And, because she is Courteney Cox, organized and confident, there's a contingency plan. "I would consider being a single mom, if I had to, but I'd prefer to do it the joint way," she says. Then she adds, upbeat as ever, "Talk to me about it in four years."Back to Courteney Cox Arquette Articles