A boy

Ac­tor John Cu­sack has forged a com­mend­ably way­ward path, from 1980s pin-up via and to fa­mous Huff­in­g­ton Post blog­ger. And he’s still as boy­ish as ever. He talks to Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

NEVER MIND death and taxes, if we can be cer­tain of any­thing it’s that John Cu­sack will al­ways be boy­ish. The height helps, of course. Stand­ing at 193cm – or 6ft 4ins in queen­speak – he re­tains some­thing of the air of a growth-spurt ado­les­cent, though at 45, he’s too grown up to de­scribe as gan­gly.

But he springs about the ho­tel room and keeps on go­ing. Is this John Cu­sack on transat­lantic jet­lag? It’s sort of heart­en­ing that, in per­son, the older, wiser John Cu­sack still looks pre­cisely like the teen idol John Cu­sack. Stick him on your wall with Peter Gabriel on the boom box and you’ll swear it’s 1989.

Age, ev­i­dently, shall not weary the guy who still wears black, smokes cigars, rides mo­tor­bikes, never gets hitched and holds a level-six black belt in Uki­dokan kick­box­ing.

There have been fa­mous girl­friends – Min­nie Driver, Claire For­lani, Neve Camp­bell – but no woman has tamed him yet.

His boy­ish­ness may be a quirk of good ge­net­ics but it has come to de­fine his screen ca­reer; the mo­ment in Gross Pointe Blank when his baby-faced as­sas­sin and a baby be­hold one an­other in­tently; the mo­ment when his wom­an­is­ing geek-boy plumps for com­mit­ment in High Fidelity; the mo­ment in 2012 when his dead­beat sci-fi writer takes on a tsunami to save his fam­ily.

In any movie, with any ac­tor, the guy who goes puppy-eyed and sud­denly de­cides to put away child­ish things is hav­ing a John Cu­sack mo­ment.

Boys, as we know, will have boy­ish en­thu­si­asms and to­day Cu­sack is, in his softly spo­ken way, beat­ing a drum for Edgar Al­lan Poe. He might eas­ily be count­ing down a much-pon­dered top 10.

“You have to read King Pest. It has that Dick­en­sian idea of cities as a new state of hell rav­aged by dif­fer­ent plagues. And one of them, like in The Masque of the Red Death, lit­er­ally comes to din­ner, to this last sup­per of crazed dead peo­ple and can­ni­bals and lep­ers. Or Hop Frog about an al­co­holic dwarf jester who for the amuse­ment of the king must re­main drunk so he can dance.”

He be­moans Poe’s sur­pris­ingly low stand­ing in the of­fi­cial his­tory of Amer­i­can let­ters. The col­lected works make for an ex­tra­or­di­nary body of work, he says, and a nexus for all kinds of tra­di­tions: “But he’s been lumped in with a more Ger­manic tra­di­tion like the Broth­ers Grimm, writ­ten out of Amer­i­can lit­er­ary his­tory.”

Cu­sack has done his Poe home­work for The Raven, a new his­tor­i­cal mur­der mys­tery mash-up from V For Ven­detta di­rec­tor James Mcteigue. In a movie named for Poe’s mostquoted work, Cu­sack’s Poe joins forces with a Bal­ti­more po­lice de­tec­tive (Luke Evans) to hunt down a se­rial killer act­ing out choice mo­ments from Poe’s fic­tion.

“It was a crazy, great ad­ven­ture,” says Cu­sack. “I was grate­ful James wanted me and I fig­ured he didn’t want me to do it and not bring some­thing to it. We both agreed we had an obli­ga­tion to ap­prox­i­mate Poe’s com­mand of the English lan­guage. You’re deal­ing with some­one with a range of lan­guage to match Henry Miller’s. The di­a­logue needed to sound as tex­tured and com­plex as he was.

“There are troves in his work. It was a ques­tion of adapt­ing some­thing he said about Wordsworth or one of his ed­i­tors and put it into what he says to Bren­dan Glee­son or shout­ing it out dur­ing that bar brawl scene – when he walks in know­ing that as an al­co­holic he’s go­ing to get stomped.” Did he warm to his his­tor­i­cal equiv­a­lent? “Oh yeah. But I don’t think he would have liked me. In all the read­ing I did I came across maybe two male friends. He got on great with women, but he was too com­pet­i­tive with other men to stop him­self from get­ting into fights with them. He was a to­tal, bril­liant lu­natic.”

Born into a clas­sic five-a-side Ir­ish Catholic fam­ily in Evanston, Illi­nois, Cu­sack is the youngest in an un­con­ven­tional film dy­nasty that in­cludes dad, the civic-minded doc­u­men­tary-maker Dick Cu­sack, and thes­pian sib­lings Ann and Joan.

“They were that cer­tain breed of pro­gres­sive Ir­ish Catholic, com­ing on the back of Vat­i­can II and Dorothy Day and the anti-war move­ment, and all those kinds of in­flu­ences,” ex­plains the ac­tor. “There was al­ways an em­pha­sis placed on so­cial ac­tivism and con­scious­ness.”

Grow­ing up, Cu­sack joined the Piven Work­shop Theatre, a troupe headed up by Byrne Piven, fa­ther of En­tourage’s Jeremy. The two re­main friends and, like sis­ter Joan, have wan­dered in and out of one an­other’s movies ever since; all three ap­pear in Say Any­thing and Grosse Pointe Blank and “sack pack” spots have formed the ba­sis of a geeky drink­ing game since the days of VHS.

John had al­ready found work in com­mer­cials be­fore leav­ing high school, but he first came prop­erly to promi­nence in the teen sec­tor at its most 1980s-tas­tic. His first Holly-


Earnest but edgy: John Cu­sack in Con Air, Be­ing John Malkovich, Grosse Pointe Blank, High Fidelity and 2012

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