Family & Companions
Tom Arnold was a comedic actor who worked steadily in both film and on television as actor, comedian and media personality. By 1990 he was writing, producing and acting on the iconic sitcom "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997). Arnold was cast alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the hugely successful action comedy "True Lies" (1994). Eventually Arnold would settle into a career as a supporting player in smaller film roles, television series, and talk shows. Upon occasion, Arnold would be given the opportunity the true acting chops tha he possessed, surprising critics with strong performances in smaller films like "Happy Endings" (2005). Although no longer starring in his own series or taking the lead in mainstream features, all things considered, it had worked out well for Arnold. As he once said, "It's a pretty nice life."
Born Thomas Duane Arnold on March 6, 1959 to parents Jack and Linda, Arnold was born in the working class town of Ottumwa, IA, one of seven children. He graduated from Ottumwa High School before landing a job at the local Hormel meat packing plant for a number of years. After scoring big laughs from his coworkers when he placed a pig scalp on his work helmet, Arnold had an epiphany of sorts. He decided at that moment to become a comedian and performer. This led to a stint at Ottumwa's Indian Hills Community College, and later, the University of Iowa, where Arnold first tried his hand at stand-up comedy at the school's student union. Shortly thereafter, Arnold moved to Minneapolis, MN where he performed an act called "Tom Arnold and the Fabulous Goldfish Review" at the local comedy clubs. It was around this time that he had a fateful meeting with up-and-coming comedienne Rosanne Barr in 1983. Arnold and Barr struck up a professional friendship that led to his touring with her in the mid-1980s, and an appearance on her comedy special "The Rosanne Barr Show" (HBO, 1987). After placing first in the Minneapolis Comedy Competition in 1988, Arnold followed Barr out to Los Angeles to join the writing staff on her groundbreaking family sitcom "Rosanne" (ABC, 1988-1997). In a very short time, their professional relationship would turn very personal - not to mention sensational.
By 1990 much had changed for show business neophyte Tom Arnold. It began when Bill Pentland, Barr's then-husband and producer on "Rosanne," was fired and Barr filed for divorce. In February of that year, Arnold and Barr were married, and he quickly moved from show writer to producer, as well as taking on a recurring role on the series as an obnoxious neighbor, Arnie Thomas. Not surprisingly, Arnold was dismissed in many quarters as a blatant opportunist of dubious talent who hit the jackpot by marrying above his station. In their public personas, the Arnolds could be seen as a twisted version of George Burns and Gracie Allen, appearing across the country on a 25-city "Honeymoon Tour" where their errant comedy and revealing candidness either repulsed or captivated audiences. Arnold once described himself and Roseanne as "America's worst nightmare - white trash with money." Meanwhile, Arnold started to branch out on his own, starring on the short-lived sitcom, "The Jackie Thomas Show" (ABC, 1992-93). The Arnolds used their considerable leverage to have the series scheduled after "Rosanne." A workmanlike sitcom about an overbearing TV personality - not exactly a stretch for its star - the show started out as a modest ratings success, but suffered a sharp falloff in viewership, prompting the network to quickly pull the plug. In the meantime, Arnold kept busy producing, co-writing and occasionally directing various projects involving his wife under the Wappello County Productions banner.
The couple's honeymoon could not last, what with their professional decisions, publicity stunts, and personal lives taking increasingly erratic, even bizarre, turns. There was the Annie Leibovitz photo spread in Vanity Fair showing the couple mud wrestling on the beach in Malibu, and the 1992 Spy magazine cover with Arnold and Barr in gorilla suits, citing them as proof of "human devolution." The Arnolds were already a weekly tabloid staple when it all came crashing down in 1994. Shortly after announcing a three-way marriage with their assistant, Kim Silva, Arnold and Barr were involved in a knock-down, drag-out fight over Arnold's relationship with Silva crossing the line, as far as Barr was concerned. It came to a head with Arnold being fired from Barr's show, kicked out of their home, and ultimately divorced by the self-described "Domestic Goddess." Adding insult to injury, Arnold's second run at his own sitcom, "Tom" (CBS, 1993-94), barely lasted a single season. Many were prepared to write Arnold off entirely after his highly publicized breakup with his formidable spouse, but it was another Arnold who came to the battered comedian's rescue later that same year.
Arnold surprised everyone with an outstanding comedic performance as Arnold Schwarzenegger's schlubby sidekick in James Cameron's lavish James Bond homage "True Lies" (1994). Suddenly Arnold was deemed likable, his timing was assured, and many predicted a successful career in features, such as the Hugh Grant romantic comedy "Nine Months" (1995), in which Arnold had another substantial supporting role. He did not, however, fare so well in his subsequent vehicles. Critics panned such misguided efforts as the aptly titled "The Stupids" (1996) and the pointless movie adaptation of the classic Ernest Borgnine comedy series "McHale's Navy" (1997) - opinions underscored by the ensuing box office results. Arnold would make a brief, hilarious cameo in another Bond inspired comedy, Mike Myers' spy spoof "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997), but it was hardly representative of his résumé as a whole. Hoping that the third time would be a charm, Arnold took one more swing at headlining his own series with the cleverly titled family comedy "The Tom Show" (The WB, 1997-98). It fared no better than his features, however, and was unceremoniously cancelled after one season. Arnold rarely headlined films after these debacles, but he continued to be cast in several middling successes over the next several years, including the urban crime dramas "Exit Wounds" (2001) and "Cradle 2 the Grave" (2003), as well as the Snoop Dogg airline comedy "Soul Plane' (2004) being among the most notable.
Arnold also remained a viable personality on television, largely appearing as himself on dozens of series, specials and talk shows. He may have reached a low ebb when he co-hosted the ill-fated pilot "The New Gong Show" in 2001, but he found a successful niche as one of the regular host/commentators on Fox Sports' popular series "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period" (2001-09), a comedic variation on "Sportscenter." Just as it seemed Arnold was destined to be a semi-charming TV personality playing himself - something he also did in the feature comedies "Dickie Roberts" (2003), starring David Spade, and the Bernie Mac vehicle "Mr. 3000" (2004) - he surprised his critics by proving himself a capable actor when he appeared in writer-director Don Roos' seriocomic, multistory "Happy Endings" (2005). In a part written expressly for him, Arnold played a wealthy widower who worries about his son's sexual orientation only to be relieved when the secretly gay teen (Jason Ritter) brings home an apparent girlfriend (Maggie Gyllenhaal), only for Arnold to find himself falling for her. After appearing in supporting roles in two feature comedy flops - "Rebound" (2005), starring Martin Lawrence, and the teen sex comedy "National Lampoon's Barely Legal" (2005) - Arnold returned to more dramatic material in "The Kid & I" (2005), playing a down-and-out actor unexpectedly hired to write the sequel to the hit action film that made him famous more than 10 years prior. Written and directed by Arnold, the film was a deeply personal project, unabashedly referencing his decade-old career high in "True Lies."
Arnold resurfaced with an appearance in the high school football drama "The Final Season" (2007), and reteamed with "Happy Endings" co-star Jason Ritter for the overlooked indie-film "Good Dick" (2008), about a lonely video store clerk who becomes enthralled by a troubled, anti-social female customer. "Gardens of the Night" (2008) provided Arnold with not only his most dramatic and unsympathetic role thus far, but also prompted the actor to publicly reveal a long-kept dark secret. In the film, Arnold portrayed Alex, a pedophile who abducts a young girl. In reality - according to Arnold - he himself had been the victim of sexual abuse by an older man as a young boy. Arnold popped up next alongside Tim Daly in the barely released supernatural thriller "The Skeptic" (2009), in addition to appearing in two episodes of the biker gang basic cable drama "Sons of Anarchy" (FX, 2008-14).
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Began doing stand-up comedy when he was 23
First met Roseanne Barr
Made TV debut in the HBO special "The Roseanne Barr Show"
Moved to Los Angeles to pursue a standup comedy career
Won the first place in the Minneapolis Comedy Competition
Hired as a writer for Barr's sitcom "Roseanne" (ABC)
Debuted as a producer for the show "Roseanne" (ABC)
Appeared occasionally on "Roseanne" (ABC) as the character 'Arnie Thomas'
Executive produced the Saturday morning animated TV series "Little Rosey" (ABC)
Made feature film debut in a cameo (with Roseanne) in "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare"
TV-movie acting debut, "Backfield in Motion"
Made TV movie acting debut in "Backfield in Motion" (ABC)
First HBO special, "Tom Arnold: The Naked Truth"
First substantial feature acting credit, "Hero"
Created, executive produced and starred in the series "The Jackie Thomas Show" (ABC)
Signed a long-term TV production deal with Warner Bros., with projects to be produced under the Wappello County Productions banner
Appeared as the sidekick to Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in the James Cameron feature film "True Lies"
Created and produced the short-lived CBS sitcom "Tom"; also wrote the pilot episode
Formed the production company Clean Break Productions
Played a supporting role in the comedy "Nine Months"
Co-starred with Rick Moranis in "Big Bully"
Returned to series TV as star of The WB sitcom "The Tom Show"
Co-hosted the Fox Sports program "Best Damn Sports Show Period"
Landed first romantic leading man role in "Happy Endings"
Wrote and starred in the comedy "The Kid and I"
Cast opposite Terrence Howard in the inner-city sports drama "Pride"
Landed recurring guest role on "Sons of Anarchy" (FX)
Appeared in the comedy "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection"
Appeared opposite Kristen Bell and Bradley Cooper in action comedy "Hit and Run"