Like a little boy with Attention Deficit Disorder, Tom Arnold’s energy overwhelms a room.
“You’ll be happy to know I’m a very loud talker,” he announced to the roughly 15 journalists at a recent press day at the Philadelphia Four Seasons Hotel. The 6-foot tall actor rubbed his face, yanked up his shirt sleeves, fixed his chunky black glasses and pushed his shirt sleeves back down.
“I think it’s because I’m deaf.”
Arnold is quite charming when he peppers his speech with this self-deprecating wit. He is also prone to rambling
about pretty much anything: his good friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, his shaky self-esteem, Republican Lynn Swann and his ex-wife Roseanne. But in “Pride,” Arnold’s role is simple. He plays the Philadelphia Main Line coach everybody loves to hate.
The character Bink is rich, racist and boasts a wall full of trophies. But Arnold doesn’t think it’s that one-dimensional.
The Temple News: How did you get involved in this film?
Tom Arnold: [Don Roos] called me and said, ‘I’m producing this movie I’d really like you to do. I’d like you to be a coach at the beginning, and I’m going rewrite it for you. You’ll be Terrence’s college coach at Cheyney State, a good guy. Because you wouldn’t want to play Bink, the racist?’ And I said no. The way it was written at first, anybody can do that role. I’ve seen it a hundred times.
The script says [the year is] ‘74. If this guy is a great coach and won championships, he’s not going to care – black or white. He wants to win. I know these coaches are complex characters and I said [I’ll play him] if I can make some changes to the script where it’s not about race.
I grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa, and the rich kids were all on the swim team because they had pools. They belonged to the country club and I had no access to a pool. I think that’s more what this
TTN: So you don’t think Bink was a racist?
TA: He’s absolutely not a racist. Good coaches, once they realized that African Americans could play sports and do it well … they got over their ignorance. By ‘74, it was starting to obviously turn around.
TTN: What was it like playing such a vile, unlikable character?
TA: Being an actor, I’ve played worse. I have a movie, “Gardens of the Night,” where John Malkovich is a good guy and I’m the bad guy.
I wanted to work with Terrence. I wanted to work with everybody. I didn’t find him unlikable, because I knew what he was. What I learned too is that everybody in Beverly HIlls says they have an Olympic size pool. Nobody does. I can hardly walk that far. I had to run up and down and I was sweating so much they had to change my clothes every take.