SHE may be living out her divorce very publicly, but the star won’t deny being in the spotlight has its advantages.
Meeting Courteney Cox is like coming face-to-face with your past. With a TV and film career spanning 25 years, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve grown up with her, and it’s hard not to compare her life with your own. From career ups and downs to relationships, marriage and kids, her journey feels spookily familiar. As we sit down to talk, Cox nods in agreement when I say at least two generations of women have led lives parallel to hers.
“Isn’t it crazy? I’m just starting to realise I’ve been on TV for this long. Friends started 17 years ago, there was Dirt and now Cougar Town – that’s a lot of TV.”
The 46-year-old has had her fair share of big-screen time, too, and while we’re here to discuss her latest film, it’s but a sidecar to the upheaval she’s been living through in the past year. Scream 4, the latest instalment in the blockbuster horror franchise, sees Cox back as ambitious journalist Gale Weathers. While the film reunites her with series castmate Neve Campbell and veteran director Wes Craven, it’s the fact that she’s been working with her recently estranged husband, David Arquette, that’s most intriguing.
The couple, who separated in October last year after 11 years of marriage, met on the set of Scream in 1996, and have spent a lot of time bumping into each other on the promotional circuit for their latest film. Despite the towering elephant in the room, they appear at ease with each other at press conferences. During one, Arquette addressed their situation filming Scream 4, saying, “There was a real family feeling. Especially with Courteney. Being married and having a kid, it just brings an honesty – and that’s really my favourite part of acting.”
At the moment, everyone is playing nice, but will that last amid ongoing talk Cox is dating her hunky Cougar Town co-star Josh Hopkins? The rumour mill went into overdrive again in March, when the pair were spotted holidaying together in the Caribbean. Hopkins’ father added fuel to the fire by saying he’d approve of the pair as a couple if it were true.
For Cox, it must be tough to keep the focus on her film when the real interest is in her love life. “I admit, it’s hard when people are making judgments about our relationship, or David, or me,” she says, seemingly open to talking about her emotional state. “And it can make you sad, too. Sometimes you see a photo and you go, ‘Oh, I remember the relationship at that moment.’ So, overall, it’s all pretty hard.”
Indeed, just as many women have mapped their lives alongside Cox’s career, the Scream films take viewers through her long-term relationship. “It’s where I met David and fell in love. Wes Craven directed all of the films, but he also directed my relationship with David,” she reveals. “He was so instrumental in getting us to grow up, look at what we had and take a chance. He was instrumental in telling David to step up. He told us we had something special, so he’s been our mentor.
“Then, with the second Scream, we’d had our struggles, and by the third one, we’d just been married. Now, for this one, we’ve had a kid and all that stuff, so it means a lot to us personally. In that time, we’ve also lost parents, so when I think of all the things that have happened in those 15 years, it’s a lifetime.”
In that same time frame, Cox has had to come to terms with being offered the ‘older’ roles, and she admits it took a little getting used to.
“I went from Friends, where we were all the same age, to Dirt, where we had the ‘young’ couple on the show. It hit me that I was now the mature woman and no longer the young one. Then, in Scream, I was never the young one. As the films went on, the kids were still in high school, yet Gale was getting older. In Scream 4, there were so many people turning 21 on this movie, you just had to go, this is my reality now.”
Cox famously embraced her age in sitcom Cougar Town, even coming around to the term cougar as one that can be empowering for women of a certain age.
“I don’t have a problem with it. To me, it means that a woman doesn’t need a man to take care of her,” she says, and then adds with a clear nod to Arquette, who’s seven years her junior, “I think men like older, confident women.”
Still, dressed today in a gorgeous black Isabel Marant suit and formidably high Balenciaga heels, Cox looks stunning and it’s hard to believe she’s old enough to be mum to six-year-old daughter, Coco.
Motherhood, she says, has brought on a renewed confidence, and being both star and producer of Cougar Town means she can easily balance her career and home life, often having Coco on the set for a bit of extra mother-daughter time.“She loves it and has her own little job in the wardrobe department,” says Cox. “So she does her homework and then becomes part of the crew. It’s a great learning experience for her, and I’m lucky we’re on a show that sticks to 13-hour days. As producer, I get to leave earlier on Fridays and start later on Mondays, so I can take her to school more. And I get five months off a year.”
The self-deprecating comedy of Cougar Town is a natural fit for the actor, who has no issues with playing the fool.
“Making people laugh feels good,” she says. “I grew up in a house where if you weren’t saying anything interesting, the family would move on. You had to be quick.
“My dad had a strong personality – he was in the construction business – so there was a lot of pressure to hold his attention, and me and my sisters all wanted his attention and approval. You’d have to be as funny as possible or the next subject was going to be tossed to the next kid.”
While the show’s content might work for the star, how does she feel about the pressure to look like the hottie older femme?
“It’s definitely harder to stay in shape now,” Cox admits. “I don’t eat a lot of carbs. I eat a lot of protein and vegetables and I try to drink more water. But let me tell you something,” she says, leaning in. “I love cheese, mild Swiss cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.”
Her exercise routine now incorporates the Tracy Anderson Method. “Gwyneth Paltrow introduced me to it and I love it. It’s really hard, but it’s a smart exercise that includes fun things, including dance. I try to do it four times a week.”
When she’s not working, spending time with Coco or watching her carb intake, Cox says she enjoys hanging out with girlfriends and – as clichéd as it sounds – her BFFs are former Friends, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow.
“Lisa has a kid [son Julian, 12] and I have a kid, and if we had more time, we’d see each other more. Jennifer comes over on weekends. We really do love each other,” she insists.
Despite her marriage breakdown and a sometimes rocky career path since Friends finished in 2004 (rumour has it, she turned down Teri Hatcher’s role in Desperate Housewives, and Dirt ran for only two seasons before it was cancelled), Cox is one of the few celebrities you won’t hear complaining about being famous. Given all the recent attention, you’d think she’d have a moan but, in fact, it’s the opposite.
“There are a lot of great things about being famous. And acting is the most fun job you can ever imagine,” she says with a smile. “I’m pretty good about not reading things or going online to see what people are saying. I’m not at parties and I don’t like to go out much. I’m social, but only in so far as I’m around my close friends.” All the heartache aside, Cox feels this is turning out to be a wonderful stage in her life. “I used to worry about getting work, but now I don’t. Everything is just perfect. I’m very happy and, even though I’m going through this hard time, I’m learning a lot. And, in many ways, David and I are probably closer than we’ve ever been.”
Scream 4 is in cinemas now.