February 2003
Cradle 2 the Grave : An Interview with Tom Arnold

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Cradle to the Grave: An Interview with Tom Arnold

Making a name for yourself and getting respect in the film industry takes a lot of work to do. For Tom Arnold, the recognition, respect, and maybe some fame are finally coming his way. Granted, we’ve known about him for years, but he first emerged in the business as the husband and producer of Roseanne and her sitcom show. When that union ended, he started to do some things on his own like the ill-fated “The Jackie Thomas” TV show. He then started carving a niche as the sidekick in a few comedy films like “Nine Months” and “True Lies.” Currently hosting THE BEST DAMN SPORTS SHOW PERIOD on Fox Sports Net with former athletes, Tom has made it to the top. In his last film “Exit Wounds” he established a huge rapport with the cast and with Anthony Anderson, that he was brought back to mesh with them again in his latest film Cradle 2 the Grave. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Tom Arnold talks about being the “honorary” brother in the film.

WM: What’s it like being the “honorary” black man in the film?

TA: Well, I’m the “honorary” black man 5 days a week over at Fox Sports Net. When you sit between John Salley and Michael Irvin, you pick up some things, and it feels good.

WM: What about being the only white guy in the film?

TA: I liked it. You get to say a lot of words. The other guys are cool, but I get to fill in all the blanks, especially with Jet Li. I got to work with Anthony Anderson again and although we don’t have much to do together, it was fun. And I like DMX. He’s a good man. He’s a very sincere young man.

WM: When did you and Anthony begin to click?

TA: Anthony and I clicked right away. The first time I met him, he was so funny. He’s the funniest man in America to me. We had a good time. When you’re working on a movie, there’s a down time, and there’s a time when you wait for shots to be set up. It’s good to have someone who could make fun of someone and of the situation. He’s so funny. I could ad-lib a film with him and it would so good.

WM: What is it about this film that you liked?

TA: This is the best film I’ve done with these guys. It hits the ground running. When the film begins, you have the DMX and Eminem song running and folks in the theater are starting to feel the vibe. I think the female characters are strong. I had a better role. Let’s be honest, that’s the #1 thing for me. I got to work with Jet Li and DMX. There are some kick ass fights. There’s a chase scene I’ve never seen before with DMX and the ATV. What’s really interesting is the fight that I get Jet Li into. Some of the 20 guys he faced in the ring have won Ultimate Championship titles and a couple of them are Olympic wrestlers. There was a certain reality to the fight scenes. Some of them were really getting smashed and hurt. There were 4 or 5 stories going on at the same time and they all came together, which doesn’t happen so often. I thought they did a good job in tying everything up. There was humor when there needed to be. I found it to be a fun movie to watch. I hate watching myself but I got over that after a couple a scenes. I enjoyed it. With a movie like this, you have to suspend a certain amount of belief, but you normally do when you watch an action thriller film.

WM: Did you like watching Jet Li fight?

TA: The thing about Jet Li, unlike some other people I’ve worked with who are action stars, is that he can really fight and that makes a big difference. He was a champion in China for like 6 years. He was a national champion in Judo or Karate. He also respected the guys from the stuntmen to the other fighters and they respected him. In some films, there are cuts where all you see is the hands and legs of another person, where as in this film, it’s all Jet Li. That’s why he doesn’t have to say much dialogue.

WM: Have you thought of taking up martial arts?

TA: No but I would love to. We actually messed around with it on my TV show, but those guys are too serious and it’s deadly. They will hurt you and pretty quick I might add.

WM: Can you talk about the progression of DMX as an actor?

TA: The difference between “Exit Wounds” and this film with DMX is that there’s a storyline involving his character and his daughter and when I first read the script I wondered how believable it would be. To know his relationship with his own kids made it believable for me. I’m sure he drew on that. When he’s there, he’s very good. He’s got a lot of pain and as a fan; you want to see that in the film. He’s gotten better in every film.

WM: In working with DMX, are you able to get behind the façade that he creates for himself?

TA: He disarms you. His posse does that literally (laughs). He’s very happy. He’s like a kid. He likes to play with his dogs and his remote control cars and it’s very childlike. That’s what distracts him if he’s ever distracted, and the cars are fun things. He’s fun. You’re happy to see him and that he made it to the set. I just know him from working with him and I’ve seen some things about him on television and he had a rough childhood, and a lot of us did. Just because he grew up in New York, and I in Iowa doesn’t mean we are so different. He’s a good guy to work with.

WM: Are you a fan of the music in the film?

TA: I love the Eminem/ DMX song that starts the films off in the beginning. I like hip hop a little bit. I like some of it. They spent a lot of money on the music than they did on me. I first saw the film without the music and then I saw it with music and it really helps. My wife is a hip hop fan and it made it enjoyable for her.

WM: Did Eminem ever come to the set?

TA: No, but he may have. I didn’t see him. He had to approve the film before he put in the song and he loved it. He said it was ten times better than “XXX”, the film with Vin Diesel. His song does work. It instantly brings you into the film. There are some great shots done by the director who has worked as a cinematographer before. He likes to shoot with 6 or 7 cameras, which I like because you get different angles and lots of movement.

WM: How does comic relief work with action films?

TA: I think it’s really important with action films. It’s got to be something whether it’s “True Lies” or this movie, or any action film. If you can grab the audience right away with some humor, then it’s good. With some action films, the story is not the main drawing point. I know with some actions, the producers and director agonize over the opening scene. So using some humor eliminates most of the tension. Comedy is fun to do. I knew most of the cast from “Exit Wounds”, so it made comfortable for me to do my thing.