The actors discuss their new comedy, The Kid & I
Tom Arnold's latest film finds the comedian reprising his role from True Lies. Only this time, his co-star is a teen with Cerebral Palsy. The Kid & I is a uniquly funny film that retells the (mostly) true story of Tom and his next-door neighbor Eric Gores. They met, became friends, and then Eric's Dad asked Tom to write a script for his son. Eric originally wanted it to be an action comedy. Tom decided that it should focus on their real lives. The result is one of the year's biggest surprises...
Tom and Eric recently sat down with MovieWeb for this hilarious discussion. Read it. You'll enjoy it.
You say about the "Movie within a Movie" that you're actually looking forward to the press junket.
Tom Arnold: Yeah, that's part of the movie that's not true. No, actually, this is very nice. This is very nice that you guys came out here. I wanted to show that the guy was ready for anything when he said he was ready for the press junket. He was actually looking forward to it. That's when you know he's been humbled.
So, that's the fictional Tom Arnold talking?
Tom Arnold: I was looking forward to it today. Because of this movie. There are some press junkets I don't look forward to. And I'm sure there are some you don't either. But I'm looking forward to today. Being with Eric at his first junket.
Eric Gores: Yeah. You're not chubby.
Tom Arnold: Exactly. I'm not as chubby as I was in the movie.
Eric Gores: You're not heavy.
Tom Arnold: I'm still heavy. I'm just not super chubby.
Eric Gores: I'm not chubby.
Tom Arnold: No, you've got a great body. Let them talk.
How much of this movie is actually true. Did you really try suicide?
Tom Arnold: Okay, here's the real story. The movie starts with a guy that is thinking about suicide. One night, a couple of years ago, I was supposed to be in a movie called Happy Endings, which I was eventually in. But I had the role, and then I lost it because the studio said they wanted a bigger name. And I was a little depressed. I said I'd let myself be depressed one night, and then move on. And I thought, how depressed could I get? I started thinking, if I ever committed suicide I'd have to have no friends and no family. Because it's not fair then. I'd have to have no job. I'd have to not owe anybody any money. I'd have to be a really good guy and donate my organs and my clothes. Because I'm really a nice guy. It was a very narcissistic suicide. I wrote it all down, and that's the place my character started coming from. The movie came out. Eric Gores, in real life, is really my neighbor. He's always been sweet with me. I'd been there for eight years. I was going through a divorce when I first met him, and I would sit in the backyard and smoke cigars. He would yell over the fence, "Hey, Tom!" I didn't know what he looked like. I'd say, "What's up? What are you doing?" And he'd say, "Nothing." And his dad would say, "Eric, come in the house and don't bother him." We sort of had that kind of relationship for a while. One day he yells, "Tom, I don't care what everybody else says about you. I like you." So, there's just something about the kid. I got to know him. Then one day his father calls and says, "My son's an actor. He went to the Straussberg Summer Acting Camp." And that he's done all these things. He's very proud of his son. He says, "He loves the movie True Lies, and he wants to be in a movie like that. And I want you to write it." So I said, "Send me a tape on your son." Thinking that Eric had a brother. But it was him. He had done all these things. So, I said I'd write a movie. But it has to be about our real relationship. I'll start at one place. And he'll start at another place. Then we'll come together. There's a lot of autobiographical stuff. I'd always wanted to do True Lies 2. There's a scene in here that's my version of that. But we played it for the real life. He's a kid, on the one hand, that wants to please his mother. I said, "What do you want to do?" He says, "I want to get drugs off the streets. I want to rescue animals. I want to help the homeless." Then, on the other hand, he's a kid just like any other kid. He says, "And, I want to kiss a girl in the hot tub like on MTV." That's something all kids his age want to do. So, it's real. To me. I understood what was important to him. My next question was; could he do the physical stuff? Could I do it? And, he was amazing. (Turns to Eric) You were amazing.
Eric Gores: Thanks, Tom.
Tom Arnold: You rode a chopper. A motorcycle. A big motorcycle.
Eric Gores: I like the motorcycle. And the kissing scene.
Tom Arnold: Yeah, the kissing scene. He was good. He was very good. To me, what was so special was...I was there in the hot tub for the first kiss this kid ever had. And it was going to be on film. I really cared. I said to myself, "It's so important that this turns out well." Because a lot of movies don't, and you never see them again. He's still going to be my next-door neighbor. He's still going to be my buddy. He calls me ten times a day. I cannot let this kid down.
Eric Gores: Nope.
Tom Arnold: Without him, we couldn't have gotten this movie made. So many people were, "Oh, let's not." His dad, or me. Or somebody. But then he'd go, "Dad, what's going on with my movie?" And Dad would say, "Call Tom." He'd call me and go, "What's going on with my movie?" I'd say, "Did you talk to your dad?" He'd go, "Yeah." He kept everybody going. He worked ten times harder than everybody else. It brought all these people together. All these great actors were in it for nothing. They wanted to be a part of this thing because of this kid.
Eric, what do you see in Tom that made you like him "anyways"?
Eric Gores: I like him anyways because he's...Um...I like him as a friend. I like him as a human being. Nobody thought he could do this movie for the kid. And he's an out of work actor. For him, he's skinny now. But a couple of days later, he was fat. I mean, a couple days later, he was skinny.
Tom Arnold: Eric, I think what you're trying to say is this...When I was his age; I worked in a meat packing plant. And nobody said, "Look at the guy on the hambone line. He's going to go to Hollywood and be in movies." Nobody thought that, because it's impossible. This kid is born; he weighs a pound and a half. He's this big (indicates an inch). He's just a head with glasses. So, nobody said, "He's going to go to Hollywood and be in an action movie." That's impossible.
Eric Gores: You're skinny,
Tom Arnold: Nobody knew if you could walk. Talk.
Eric Gores: Talk! I rolled over. I rolled over.
Tom Arnold: Then you're in an action movie. It's impossible. We both did the impossible. We have that in common. And we both have ADHD.
Eric Gores: Wait. Listen. When I was a kid...You all saw True Lies when you were a kid. And I said, "Holy cow, I'm going to be in a movie with him." Tom Arnold, and Arnold, and Jamie Lee Curtis. I knew that I wanted to be an actor.
Tom Arnold: okay, true.
With a lot of people playing themselves in the movie, what made you change your name for the character?
Tom Arnold: I wanted it to be a little off. The reality is, we were neighbors. I already knew the kid. I had to come from someplace else. What if I was a guy that hadn't worked? I thought, "Should I call myself by my name? Or should I not?" I said, "I'll make this character based on myself. Or, what could have been. What could be." So, I just changed it a little bit. I thought that was the best way to sell it. I think you'll see comedians talking about how they were struggling, and they were living in their trailer. But people go, "No, no, no. You're living in a mansion." I thought that if I was a character, people could buy it. Maybe I'm wrong.
How much weight were you forced to put on for this movie?
Tom Arnold: Oh, it was brutal.
Eric Gores: Five pounds.
Tom Arnold: The worst part about this was taking off my shirt. I knew this kid was putting himself out there. My biggest fear growing up was having my shirt off in front of people. Growing up as a fat kid, with love handles, I just wouldn't do it. I'd rather be bottomless than topless. To do that and intentionally not look good, it took a lot. The whole point is; this kid looks great. And he's encouraging me. We all have body issues. Except for him. He has more confidence than anyone I've know. As an actor you have a big ego with low self-esteem. Which is weird, I know. Someone has given him, probably his dad, the gift of complete confidence. And I admire that.
Eric, you were very buff in the film. Do you have a personal trainer?
Eric Gores: Yeah, I have a personal trainer. She's here. She's my assistant also.
Do you have an entourage?
Eric Gores: Yeah, I have tons of them. Like J-Lo kinds. But I don't have a butt like hers.
Tom Arnold: Not yet, but in the movie he has J-Lo's trainer.
Eric Gores: Next time.
How did you get Arnold and Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie?
Tom Arnold: I called. It was during the budget crisis last summer. There's always a budget crisis here. He was trying to get the budget signed. And he couldn't really do that until he got the budget signed. He got enough grief for doing the movie anyway. People said, "Oh, my God, he's the governor, but he's acting." We'd hoped and prayed. Jamie was on hold. She was like, "Just tell me what you need. When he's available, give me a call. I'll come over there." So I got the word on the last day of filming that he was coming. They told me not to say anything. But he snuck into the theater. And we shot it. What I love is that people have written and given him a hard time about being in the movie. What they don't realize is that he worked one day on a movie that benefits United Cerebral Palsy. For Eric. I want some of the pundits to eat their words.
Eric Gores: They're rude.
Tom Arnold: He did a really nice thing for us. He's a really good guy.
Eric Gores: Yeah, and my entourage is the President Bush kind.
Tom Arnold: His entourage is his family. His little brother Gavin.
Eric Gores: And the whole country.
Tom Arnold: This kid has a big family. Big families are good. He's got a lot of cousins. A lot of Uncles.
Eric Gores: I'm Arabic. German. A little bit French.
Tom Arnold: Which parts French?
Eric Gores: Don't be mean.
Tom Arnold: He has a huge family. And he has a wonderful grandma.
Eric Gores: Oh, my god.
Tom Arnold: She's the nicest person in the world. She cooks. That's who I want to make the movie with next time. Your grandma. She's the best. Okay, I'm sorry.
Eric, what was it like screening this at the AFI Fest?
Eric Gores: The screening was great. I want to thank Tom, I want to thank...
Tom Arnold: But what did it feel like to see it at the screening?
Eric Gores: Oh, my god. I said, "Holy cow, this movie's going to be big. It's going to be a crack-up. This movie is going to be a sell out."
Tom Arnold: Were you proud of yourself? You were proud of yourself, right?
Eric Gores: Yeah, I was proud of myself. And of Tom. And of Arielle. And everybody from the movie.
What was it like to watch yourself acting?
Eric Gores: Watching myself acting was amazing. It was a dream come true for me. But Tom...Tom's been acting since he was a baby.
Tom Arnold: I did. I will tell you, the one reason we do have one thing in common as actors today, was because when I was little, I was in the King and I. I played one of the little kids. And the woman that played the teacher, in Tumwater, Iowa, after the show was over, I asked her to sign my book. And she signed it, then kissed me on top of the head, this beautiful woman. I didn't have a mom. I grew up without a mother. And when she did that, I said, "If acting is about getting kissed on the head by a beautiful woman, then I'm going to be an actor." This kid was six, and what were you doing in front of the TV?
Eric Gores: Acting.
Tom Arnold: He was acting out Full House.
Eric Gores: Full House. Family Guy. Family Matters. True Lies, too.
Tom Arnold: And your sisters saw you, and what did they do? They laughed.
Eric Gores: They laughed! And cried!
Tom Arnold: If you can get a woman to do that, that's what its about. The reaction. That's why you wanted to be an actor, right?
Eric Gores: When I first met Tom on the screen, I said, "Man, this guy is going to touch me."
Tom Arnold: You might want to...Clarify...Change the way you say that...You mean, in the heart. In the heart.
Eric Gores: Yeah, in the heart. Not in that sense. Don't be telling jokes. Oh, my god!
What do you hope people take away from the movie?
Tom Arnold: (To Eric) What do you hope people take away from the movie?
Eric Gores: Dream big and dream strong. That's what I hope they take away from it. You can do anything you want to do. Cerebral Palsy or not, you can do anything.
Tom Arnold: I hope people laugh, and enjoy it.
Eric Gores: And cry.
Tom Arnold: A little bit. A little mist. Not really tears. Maybe a watered up eye. Not massive tears. I hope they enjoy Eric.
Eric Gores: And Tom. And Arielle. And Joe Mantegna. And everybody. And the crew.
Was your assistant base on someone you used to work with?
Tom Arnold: Everybody I used to work with. My assistant, played by Richard Edson, was based on several people I worked with.
And they'd really pull beer out at a meeting like that?
Tom Arnold: Yeah. I had a guy named Vinnie. He was also the driver. I'd have to teach him a lesson. This isn't right. I had to teach him to wear a shirt. That took a couple of months.
Where did you find him at?
Tom Arnold: I found him in Santa Monica, where you often times find people without a shirt.
So, the guy in the movie was a lot like the real guy?
Tom Arnold: Yeah, a lot like him? Did you know Vinnie?
Tom Arnold: Oh, I thought maybe you knew him. He's a very sweet guy. I don't know where he is now. He meant well.
Eric Gores: Was he that weird?
Tom Arnold: No. He was just laid back. But he got a better job.
Eric Gores: Doing what?
Tom Arnold: I think he's working on documentaries.
Eric Gores: Like Cribs?
Tom Arnold: Yeah, like really good documentaries. Like Cribs. The cutting edge stuff.
Eric Gores: I love MTV.
Did a certain organization support this film?
Tom Arnold: Well, we obviously got a lot of support from Eric's dad. And we got a lot of support financially from all the actors that worked for free. But it wouldn't have been made without Eric's dad.
Eric Gores: Or me.
Tom Arnold: Or you. But Eric's dad. To me, a major amount of the film benefits Untied Cerebral Palsy. And the premier benefits that. But there's a greater benefit, really. If kids make a connection with him that are similar, they can look at him and say, "That kid's doing something nobody thought he could do. Who says I can't do something similar?" And I don't mean acting in a movie. That's not the end all be all. It could be anything. We all just get pigeonholed and stereotyped. If Eric becomes a role model for a certain group, then so be it.
Eric Gores: Cerebral Palsy or not, thousands of people look up to me.
Tom Arnold: Unless their taller than you. Then they'll be looking down on you.
Eric Gores: Like Shaquille O'Neal.
Tom Arnold: Yeah, he looks down on you.
Eric Gores: I look up to him.
Tom Arnold: True.
Were you contractually obligated to use one of Shaq's rap songs to get him in the movie?
Tom Arnold: To be honest with you, we were listening to songs, and my wife Shelby loves that song. It's actually a good song. It was good in the movie. It worked for that little piece there, where he ad-libbed. I've seen him do that in the yard before. You know, where he's spraying the hose, and he pretends that he's peeing.
Eric Gores: Yeah, he peed on a bush.
Tom Arnold: Okay...Anyway, I really liked the music in the movie. I thought Penelope did a great job picking out songs. Music is important.
So, Eric, what are your aspirations from here in terms of acting? Do you want to make more movies?
Eric Gores: Yeah, I want to make drama. I want to make comedy. I want to make action. I want to make everything.
Tom Arnold: (whispering to Eric) Romance.
Eric Gores: Yeah, and I want to make romance...Happen...I think...
And you want to have Tom write all those movies for you?
Eric Gores: Heck yeah!
Tom Arnold: He's got a great idea for the next one. Actually, he has two ideas. In the next one, he gets married. Instead of just a kiss. But I told him he had to follow the kiss up with a date. You don't just go from the kiss to marriage. You have to save your life. Then, what was your other idea?
Eric Gores: The boy next door.
Tom Arnold: Yeah. It would be much like the girl next door.
Eric Gores: But I would play...
Tom Arnold: She was a porn star. Forget it. Your mom wont let you do it.
Eric Gores: No, no, no, no...
Tom Arnold: We'll stick with the other one. The Kid and Me we'll call it.
So you guys plan on doing a few more?
Eric Gores: A lot more. A lot more. A thousand more.
The Kid & I opens in select theaters December 2nd.
The Kid & I was released December 2nd, 2005 and stars Tom Arnold, Eric Gores, Linda Hamilton, Joe Mantegna, Henry Winkler, Richard Edson, Shannon Elizabeth, Brenda Strong. The film is directed by Penelope Spheeris.