Courteney Cox: ‘Gossip doesn’t interest me’

If there is a word to describe the recent press junket for “Scream 4,” the latest sequel to the immensely popular horror franchise, that word would be “awkward.”

How else would you describe a junket that features a famous Hollywood couple – Courteney Cox and David Arquette – who fell in love on the set of the first “Scream” movie 15 years ago, and now have to appear together to promote the newest “Scream” while their marriage is breaking apart?Not only is their marriage of 11 years ending, but it is ending quite publicly – on entertainment TV shows, in gossip columns and on the covers of countless celebrity magazines.

To hear them tell it, the awkwardness was confined to the media. The couple, who sat next to each other at a press conference, continued to speak fondly of each other whenever asked about the awkwardness of the situation. They appeared to have made peace with their marital separation.

In “Scream 4,” which opens Friday, Cox, 46, reprises her role as Gale Weathers, a tough TV reporter obsessed with fame, and Arquette, 39, returns as the goofy Sheriff Dewey. Neve Campbell also is back as slasher-bait Sidney Prescott. A new generation of actors, including Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere and Adam Brody, has been brought in to deal with the slashing killer in the distinctive mask.

Once again, the body count matches the self-aware jokes.Sipping from a cup of decaffeinated coffee in a Sunset Strip hotel suite, Cox explained why she has returned to the horror franchise (she insists it wasn’t the money), revealed what movie scared her as a child and told us what she says to her 6-year-old daughter Coco when she asks why the paparazzi is taking her picture.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: What was the first movie that scared you?

COURTENEY COX: Oh, it had to be “The Exorcist.” I sneaked into the theater to see it when I was 13.

Q. Do you remember how you reacted to seeing “The Exorcist?”

A. It might be because I was raised in the South, but those movies that involve the devil freak me out, but I also love them.

Q. Then you are less a fan of the slasher film than the devil film?

A. Yes. The one thing I like about the “Scream” movies is that they are smart slasher movies. You get involved with the characters. You care about them. It’s like watching a really good drama, but with gore.

Q. Has it dawned on you during the last 15 years that you are part of a horror franchise that is scaring a whole new generation of kids, just as you were scared by “The Exorcist?”

A. Absolutely. I think it’s fun to be part of something like that. I remember when we started doing press for the first “Scream,” all the media focus was on the question of whether movies caused serial killers. It was all very serious, and we were forced to say that movies were entertainment, and do not give serial killers ideas. Now, nobody asks that question at all. The world is so crazy that nobody cares what we’re doing in movies.

Q. Do you think movies are off the hook on the serial killer question?

A. Look, if a movie is going to influence someone to do something bad, then anything in life would influence them to do something bad. You’re either a stable person, or you’re not.

Q. You have said that your character in “Scream” is all about seeking fame. Is that accurate?

A. I think I have a darker vision of Gale than either Wes (director Wes Craven) or Kevin (writer Kevin Williamson). I think she’s a character you want to be immoral. You want her to be a bitch. You want her to be this person. I think it’s funny when she goes off the deep end and says inappropriate things. She’s not that nice. We have lovable characters in the movie already, so that’s why I fight for Gale to be as ruthless as possible.

Q. Your character seeks fame, which is something you have some experience with. Are there any moments when you regret auditioning for “Friends?”

A. Never. It’s a small price to pay. Sure, it’s a drag sometimes, but not that big of a drag. I’m not someone who likes to complain.

Q. I don’t want to put you in the position of being someone who is complaining about being famous, but I was wondering if there were times when the intrusion on your privacy made it not seem worth it?

A. Some people hate it, but nothing’s perfect.

Q. You seem to have learned how to live with it. Are there times when you still get surprised by the attention?

A. The other day I was at this place in Malibu, and I was on the phone with David. We were going to meet at some store nearby, but he said he was surrounded by paparazzi at the time, so he might be a little late because he might have to take a circuitous route to the store. I told him not to worry, but I would be in the store waiting for him. I was wearing black workout clothes, a hoodie and no makeup, I hadn’t showered that day. I looked disgusting. I didn’t realize that the whole day, when I was driving around Malibu, I was being followed by photographers. I got to the store, and David looked great with a new leather jacket, and the cameras were clicking away. I thought, “Oh great, he looks great and I look disgusting, and that’s the reunion shot.”

Q. At that moment, you don’t regret being famous?

A. I don’t take these things seriously. I’m not one to look up stuff about me on the Internet. I don’t know a lot about what people are saying about me. I’ve made a point of not knowing the websites that follow celebrities. Gossip doesn’t interest me.

Q. But you’ve been the object of gossip for more than 15 years?

A. I know. But now that David and I aren’t living together, the TV doesn’t go on in my house. It’s not that I don’t love TV. I do, but I’m busy doing other things, like taking piano lessons, and taking pool lessons. I love going into a bar to shoot pool.

Q. Does you daughter ever hear gossip about you?

A. She does. She’s in first grade, and she reads things. Or kids will say something at school, like “We saw you in a magazine.” She knows all about the paparazzi. She’s always asking me why they want to take her picture, and I explain that her mom was on a television show once that was very popular and they just like to do that. I don’t know what to say to her. I worry about it, but then she goes and tells her friends. She gets very excited about all the attention.

Q. I can remember a time when the paparazzi didn’t take pictures of a celebrity’s children.

A. And there are so many paparazzi now. They’re everywhere. When David I first were going through our troubles, it wasn’t as bad for me because I live way out, but he lives in the city and they would follow him constantly and ask him questions in front of our daughter.

Q. Do you dread seeing the black SUVs with the smoked glass?

A. It’s not just SUVs anymore. They also have black Priuses with smoked glass. The economy and rising gas prices are affecting the paparazzi, and even they have to worry about mileage because they drive around all day.

Q. There is talk of a fifth and sixth “Scream,” which I’m sure will depend on how much money “Scream 4” makes at the box office. Did you come back for “Scream 4” for the money?

A. No.

Q. Why did you come back?

A. I love doing the “Scream” movies. I was waiting for this. I was disappointed they didn’t do it five years ago.

Q. What is the answer to that? Why didn’t they do this sequel five years ago?

A. Everybody was busy. Life happens.