Roadracers: David Arquete remembers making Robert Rodriguez’s obscure exploitation film
After making his debut film, El Mariachi, for a mere $7,000 and becoming an overnight indie sensation, director Robert Rodriguez decided to follow that up with throwing his hat into the Rebel Highway ring, with his film Roadracers. As a part of the Showtime original movie series which paid homage to the ’50s exploitation films of the old days, Roadracers gave viewers one hell of a ride, offering a fine hat tip to the greaser juvenile delinquent films that came before it. Featuring early in their career performances by Salma Hayek and John Hawkes and a villain played by William Sadler, the film already had a lot going for it, but the real standout in the film, is its star, Scream‘s David Arquette. Playing “Dude” Delaney, a greaser guitar player who can’t seem to escape the wrath of the town’s corrupt sheriff, said villain’s bully son and even the parents of his girlfriend, Dude’s mischief leads to an awesome series of events, including roller skating feuds, car racing that involves a bully’s girlfriend getting her hair caught on fire and an inevitable bloody showdown, all making a wild and crazy film.
We don’t hear enough about the film, and the book Rodriguez wrote about the making of Roadracers is currently in print, so we thought we’d reach out to David Arquette himself to chat about the making of the film and the wild experience of making a rebel cult classic.
ComingSoon.net: Roadracers is a classic as far as I’m concerned, thank you for chatting about it with us. With Robert’s book being out of print and impossible to find, it’s awesome to be able to hear about the film from you.
David Arquette: Are you into the whole rockabilly thing? I’m probably dating myself with that, but I think that’s still a thing.
CS: I grew up more in the punk rock and skateboarding group, but I have a lot of friends who dig the rockabilly thing.
Arquette: Yeah me too, punk rock and skateboarding was big for me.
CS: The film has such energy to it, it’s so much fun to watch. I was a big fan of the Rebel Highway series that it belonged to, and Roadracers was always the best film out of all of those. How did your involvement with the film come to be, was it the typical audition process?
Arquette: I loved the script and the character, so I went into the audtion all greased up in character. I had a leather jacket on, full of attitude and kind of cocky and I just went in for it. When I was done, Robert yelled, “THAT’S IT, THAT’S HOW YOU DO IT!” and it was one of the only experiences I’ve had where I went in and just nailed it and pretty much got the job right away.
CS: Had you seen El Mariachi, prior to auditioning for Roadracers?
Arquette: Yeah, I had seen it and I was a fan. He’s such a badass, Robert is. In general, He’s just the coolest F*^king guy ever. Do you know what I mean? The guy is just cool, tall, macho, just a really cool cat. When we were filming, there was one time where he grabbed the camera himself and held onto the hood and just yelled, “Okay, GO!” and we were off running. He’s wild, so full of energy and creativity and he’s still like that. I’d be barelling down the street with Salma and there would be Robert, holding on and not strapped into ANYTHING, he’s just the biggest badass around man (Laughs).
CS: There’s quite a few stories of the production being intense, crew-wise, because of it being a union film and Robert, being the hands on guy he is, wanting to still incorporate that run and gun, take the camera approach, which I think is awesome. Was the filming of Roadracers intense at times because of the crew vs. Robert thing or is all of that blown out of proportion?
Arquette: Well it was the equivalent of a movie of the week, but for Showtime. I don’t think they had a ton of dough, so Robert wanted to get it done and do it his way. It was never a bad experience, it was a lot of fun. It was raucous and a blast, but it was never an issue, the filming of it.
CS: This was at least five or six films into your career, but with it being filmed in 13 days (!), was it your first, super quick, hurry and get it done film?
Arquette: It was my first run and gun, smoking heels kind of film. It was really unique, having to get it done like that, it makes you stay on your toes. Also, man, it was just so much fun again. Salma is an incredible actress but also just a really great person, I really liked working with her on that one. She and Robert had a really great dynamic too, this began that working relationship between them. Plus, I got to drive around in a hot rod every day and drink and be stupid!
CS: I have to ask about the scene in the film, where your character loads an insane amount of grease onto his hair and uses his head to make the bully and his girlfriend fall while rollerskating… such a weird but fun scene.
Arquette: Yeah, that was fun. I had tons of that stuff on my just for a couple of shots, it was really funny to do that, really cool. That’s another thing about working with Robert on that one, I was on rollerskates being pushed around and other crazy situations (laughs). Pouring a big tub of grease on the floor, it was crazy sh&*, so funny to do.
CS: Both Salma Hayek and John Hawkes went on to have great careers as well, did you know they were on that path when making the film?
Arquette: Yeah man, totally. Like I said, Salma was so talented and a great person and John was so crazy and out there but did such a great job, I really liked working with that dude.
CS: There’s something about Roadracers that really stands out to a lot of people. It never feels like a parody of those ’50s delinquent films at all, it feels like it could have been one. In your opinion, what is it about the film that causes so many people who dig those types of films to latch onto it?
Arquette: Well, it feels authentic because we WERE those kids. Causing trouble in hot rods, fighting, drinking and having sex, that was basically us, so I think it translated well. We were all a lot like our characters, getting in scraps, it was a part of the whole thing and maybe that’s why people seem to dig it.