Courteney Cox: Cruising Along
The December-January 2003 issue of Movieline magazine was a transitional one. As publications went digital, movie magazines were having a tough time. With sales and ad revenue falling, Movieline tried to recreate itself as a “lifestyle” magazine. In fact, soon the title would change to Hollywood Life. The theme of this issue was “Luxury.” The cover story was an interview with Courteney Cox Arquette who didn’t have any movies to promote at the time. Most of the questions revolve around her practice of buying and renovating homes and throwing parties at the beach. When her career comes up as a topic, it is mostly in reference to the fact that her “Friends” salary enables her to live such an extravagant life.
Courteney Cox Arquette enjoys nice things, but not the kind of nice things one would guess. She doesn’t spend her money on couture clothes, decadent trips or costly baubles like so many other Hollywood actresses. Instead, she has poured the paychecks from her numerous films, including Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and three Screams, and her top-rated TV show, “Friends” (for those who don’t read showbiz news, she gets $1 million an episode), into houses. One of the first she ever purchased–a vintage house in Bel-Air–is the very one I am sent to interview her in. It’s lushly decorated with low-slung couches festooned with silk pillows In brilliant red, saffron and purple. Ornate hammered lanterns with a Moorish feel hang from the ceilings. Candles of every size line the tables. The place is full of whimsy that seems more David Arquette, her husband of almost three years, than Cox. Outside, the gardener tends a sprawling backyard appointed with flowing terraces, spectacular flowers, a swimming pool and a waterfall.
When Cox Arquette walks into the living room to greet me, she looks like a million bucks with no makeup, slicked-back hair and wearing a casual blouse and slacks. She radiates the glow of the well tended. We walk over to a large couch to settle in and when she sits, so do her two pets, a Burmese mountain dog and a cavalier King Charles spaniel.
STEPHEN REBELLO: Do you ever hang out by your beautiful pool and just take it in?
COURTENEY COX ARQUETTE: I’m not one to sit in the yard and look around. I need to get more like that.
Q: Your house is very beautiful.
A: It was built in the ’50s by the architect John Byers. I doubled the size of it. The kitchen was more of a family kitchen, so I built it out. I also built a new master bedroom and another room above the garage that we turned into David’s playpen. I’ve lived here for about seven years. I really love houses. In fact, this is my sixth house.
Q: Did you make a lot of changes to the interior?
A: It was a little too traditional for my taste. I tried to loosen it up. I worked with an architect named John Andrews and with a few great interior designers, too.
Q: Why so many designers?
A: I change my style a lot. Also, my lifestyle has changed quite a bit since I moved in. When I bought the house, I was broke. Then, as I would get more money, I would change. I got married and everything changed. Before David, I liked cleaner lines. All of a sudden, David comes in with his collection of extra large shoes, marionettes, puppets, lunch boxes and mailboxes–that changed everything.
Q: How did your tastes blend?
A: One of the good things about our relationship is we’ve been able to meld our personalities and tastes together. But at a certain point, I have to say, “David, step aside,” because it is something I have extreme passion for.
Q: Does he think big like you?
A: If I said, “David, we’re going to have to move into a very small closet, that’s just the way it’s going to be,” he could make do in a closet.
Q: What was David’s house like before he moved in with you?
A: It was really atrocious because he was a guy, a young guy. There were people on the couch that I’m not even sure he knew. Food. Stuff on the floor. He was such a pack rat.
Q: This house makes me think of the movie The Year of Living Dangerously. Were you inspired by any films while decorating?
A: Elephant Walk with Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Finch. I love color–red, orange, purple.
Q: What else do you want to do with this house?
A: Nothing, because I’ve actually just sold it.
Q: How can that be? You seem so passionate about it.
A: I’m done. There’s nothing else to do with it and I’m bored.
Q: Have you begun to hunt for another house to make over?
Q: You also have a house in Malibu.
A: That’s where I go on weekends. It was built by John Lautner. It’s all wood, glass and concrete. It’s a real luxury. I never would have been able to have something like that if I hadn’t been on the show for so long. I’m very, very thankful to “Friends.” [knocks on wood]
Q: It has been reported that the house cost $10 million. Did it make you feel uneasy to spend so much?
A: It was something I thought I couldn’t or shouldn’t afford. First it was couldn’t and then it was shouldn’t. I ran into Jeffrey Katzenberg at a restaurant and talked to him about the house because he has one nearby and knows a lot about beach properties. He told me I should call David Geffen because he really is the expert on beach houses. So, I called him. I didn’t know him, but he took my call and I was very flattered. He just told me that there is only so much beach frontage, and that it was a great investment and I’d be crazy not to do it. He was right. Not that I would ever sell the house.
Q: Brad Pitt has great knowledge about houses and furniture.
A: We spend a lot of time talking about architecture. We’ve talked about getting a few couples together, buying a piece of property and building a vacation home on it. I could talk to him for hours about architecture. He not only gets it, he’s brilliant about it. I aspire to have his taste. If you give me boundaries, like, “OK, this is what you have to work with, now make it great,” I think I can make something great out of a box. But Brad goes beyond the box. He comes up with ideas I wouldn’t even know how to go about. I definitely feel like I’m expanding myself, but Brad takes what I can do and completely surpasses me.
Q: I’ve heard you and David throw some great parties.
A: Oh, God, we have parties all the time. Every Wednesday and Sunday, our amazing chef Judy Culbertson comes over and we have what we call “Dinner Party Night.” There are a couple of staple people, like my friend Jim Stein, who are always invited. But I love to have different people over all the time. It’s just fun. I feel like I have a lot of different types of friends. I invite anywhere between six and eight people over every Wednesday, then Sundays at the beach is kind of a free-for-all where we have 10 to 15 people over. We have a karaoke room where we sing, and we play games like Taboo.
Q: Are you a better party-giver than party-goer?
A: I’m not comfortable leaving my house. If someone invites me over, I would go but it’s not like I’m one to say, “Hey, let’s hang out at your house tonight.” I make it simple. There are a thousand sodas in the refrigerator as well as different kinds of beer and wine, food and chips.
Q: Do you do theme parties?
A: Sometimes I’ll say, “Let’s do Mexican,” because there’s almost nothing better. I’ve known Judy for over two years now. The best part is coming home and smelling this amazing food and asking, “Oh, wow, what is that?” I don’t like venison or sushi–I don’t want to eat what some people think are “luxurious” foods. Although I love eating at Nobu. That’s a luxury.