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Arnold Tackles Different Role

5 Oct, 2005 By: Dan Bennett

There may not be happy endings for all the characters in this new title from Lions Gate Home Entertainment. But the ensemble drama tries to do something different, weaving multiple stories with interesting characters, including the two main couples — one gay, the other lesbian.

This title covers issues of gay parenting and fidelity and other matters of the heart. Happy Endings streets Nov. 15 and features such talent as Lisa Kudrow, Laura Dern, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Tom Arnold.

Arnold's career also has taken unlikely roads. The Iowa-born Arnold became a stand-up comedian in Hollywood before landing television writing jobs, then began appearing in television series, earning Peabody and Golden Globe awards. He married then divorced Roseanne Barr, wrote film scripts, co-hosted a television sports program and now has not only Happy Endings, but two films he wrote on the way.

“This is an unusual role for me,” Arnold said in a recent interview. “I read the script given to me by Don Roos, the writer and director, and saw that in part this character was involved in a romance. I don't get those offers very often.”

In Happy Endings, Arnold plays Frank, a wealthy 44-year-old widower who falls in love with a younger bar-band singer, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. At first, the girlfriend is in the relationship only for the money. But by the time the duo becomes engaged, she has fallen in love, though the original truth of the relationship lingers.

A main plot point in the film is that Arnold's character refuses to accept the fact his son is gay. His eventual realization of the truth settles differences between the two. Five of the main characters in the film are gay or lesbian, and Arnold's character represents one of the human roadblocks around which some of the gay characters must maneuver. By the story's resolution, tolerance proves the key to happiness for many of the film's characters.

Arnold — who married a Michigan college student after his divorce from Roseanne, and is now in a happy and successful third marriage — said he relates to Frank.

“Certainly some of the situations ring true for me,” Arnold said. “There were moments when we were filming when I would look at the situation and the feelings of the characters in the scenes and feel like I had been there before.”

Arnold said he was floating high at Sundance earlier this year, when the film was welcomed warmly, and Robert Redford made a special point of stopping Arnold during the festival and praising his performance.

“When a kid from Iowa gets a compliment from Robert Redford, that feels pretty special,” Arnold said.

Arnold, who lives in Los Angeles, teaches an acting workshop to students in Iowa and contributes time to the San Diego Center for Children, an organization helping abused or neglected children.

He wrote the script for There Goes the Neighborhood, now scheduled for production, and wrote and co-stars in the upcoming The Kid and I, an action-comedy about a 17-year-old physically challenged young man who dreams of starring in an action film. The film features a cameo by Arnold's longtime pal, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It's quite a bit different for the action genre,” Arnold said. “I'm looking forward to the response.”

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