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Why Patricia Arquette Is 'Conflicted' About Her Iconic Role In True Romance - Exclusive

While initially a box office failure, the Quentin Tarantino-penned, Tony Scott-directed film "True Romance" has earned a cult following since its theatrical release in 1993. Led by Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, the ultra-violent film features an impressive ensemble cast filled with Hollywood elite, including Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, and James Gandolfini.

Slater and Arquette play Clarence and Alabama, respectively, a head-over-heels couple who first met when Clarence's boss hired the brassy call girl as a surprise present for his loner employee. But when Clarence kills Alabama's pimp Drexl (Oldman), the two inadvertently wind up with a suitcase full of drugs that they try to sell before a vengeful gang of mobsters closes in on them.

It's a stand-out performance by Arquette, who got her start in Hollywood just a few years earlier in 1987's "A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors" and continues to earn critical acclaim for her role in "Severance," which currently streams on Apple TV+.

While Alabama is certainly brazen and tough — one of her most memorable scenes in "True Romance" is a knock-down, drag-out fight with a very ticked off Gandolfini — she's also very submissive, maintaining a "stand by your man" attitude throughout the film no matter what Clarence does. It's a nuanced performance that Arquette recently discussed with Looper during an exclusive interview.

Arquette 'had a hard time' with Alabama's loyalty to Clarence

When asked how she feels about her "True Romance" role now, particularly as someone who's been outspoken about women's rights in recent years, Patricia Arquette doesn't pull any punches.

"Even when I got offered it, I had a lot of conflicting feelings about it," she said. "I had a very hard time. One of the things I had a hard time with was the scene where Clarence kills Drexl, and she says, 'I think what you did was so cool,' basically. I had a hard time with that, but then, working with my acting coach, we talked about, well, what are you going to say to somebody who just killed somebody? They're dangerous, suddenly."

As for what she personally thinks of Alabama, Arquette added, "I think she's young and she's falling in love and all that stuff, but ... I don't think Alabama's totally conscious ... I don't think she's completely grown up or aware of all of the different things that are at play around her — her own sexuality, her power as a woman, men's power around her, the choices other people are making and how that impacts her. But I knew pretty well at the time."

The actress latched onto the 'fairy tale element' of the story

When it comes to Alabama's starry-eyed devotion to Clarence, which leads the ostentatiously dressed character down one nefarious rabbit hole after another, Arquette had to wrap her head around it as an actor in order to nail the part.

"I think about what danger she's putting herself in, and there's definitely a fairy tale element of this love affair, and that trumps everything else," she noted. "They have this optimistic feeling about love, that everything's going to work out and there's a charm-bubble around them. It's funny because it's not really the way it was written. Clarence is supposed to die in the end, in Quentin's [original] version [of the script]."

Stepping into those oversimplified stiletto heels took a while for Arquette to "get," but eventually she reduced to it exactly what it is: acting. "I'm playing this optimistic person that is all about love and support with this guy and wherever it goes, in a very innocent kind of way," Arquette surmised. "Even at the time, I felt like I'd had a lot more life experience, and I was definitely acting. [Laughs.] It was like, 'Wow, okay. There's a lot of ways to look at this situation, but this girl's looking at it like this.'"

Arquette's latest series, "Severance," is currently streaming on Apple TV+. New episodes are available every Friday.