With The Leading Man Stereotype | John Cusack
an emily blunt interview
Johnny Films on DVD
Cusack is so familiar - like a cousin or something. Why? Well
I grew up with him. No not literally but with his films;
Say Anything, Better Off Dead. All those classic youth-angst
films starring this adorable guy. We were all smitten. I was
not alone. He also shares an undying love for Joe
Strummer formerly of The Clash. It's like a religion to
those who know the guy. I tell you if John weren't famous we'd
hang out and drink brewskis together, blast tunes and cause
extreme mayhem to be sure.
both matured. Him at least... I became a comedy writer and film
reviewer, he started a theater company and film company called
New Crime with some friends (like underrated Jeremy Piven) and
brought us the dark and hysterical Gross Pointe Blank
and immensely relatable High Fidelity
(adapted from Nick Hornby's best selling novel).
his own film company thriving he still dabbles in other people's
projects. He starred in the wickedly clever Being
John Malkovich, mesmerizing Midnight
in the Garden of Good
and Evil (girly-girl mansteak bonus': Spacey and Law
in the manstew), that oh-so-close-to-adorable Serendipity
and some other big Hollywood bits like America's
Sweethearts, Thin Red Line (tiny part) and Con
Air. Long forgotten is the short Elvis Stories where
Johnnie drools over an Elvis shaped hamburger, which I share
as a background video at my soirees to this day. Hehehe.
admit I'm into his offbeat shindigs immeasurably more. And his
latest dabbling in the artistical indie delight Max
is just brilliant! I remember reading once he'd love to be involved
in a work of real art - and he's done it with Max.
I love this film. He stars along side Noah Taylor (you know
him you just don't know you know him) and gives, I feel, his
most compelling performance to date. John's a German Jew art
dealer who returns back from Germany's great war and "befriends"
a young angry bloke named... Adolf Hitler. Eek.
Apparently John adored the work so completely he worked on the
project without pay AND helped get financing. That's just classy.
purring praise here's our chat.
This film is wonderful!
JOHN: Wow thank you
EMILY: What would you like to see happen with MAX?
JOHN: Just pulling it off ya know? It was pretty amazing
getting it done. A real tight wire act. It's like a classic
epic play and I hope I can live up to it. Pretty intense. Trying
to transfer the modernism and the examination of the most profound
politics. So it wasn't like we went on set and said this is
EMILY: It wasn't America's Sweethearts.
JOHN: [laughter] NO! No it wasn't.
EMILY: How did you prepare for this role? It's pretty art intensive.
JOHN: I have a history with art - of loving it; especially that
period, German Impressionism. I did a play with my theater company
New Crime in Chicago called Madugal [I think that's what he
whispered - this guy talks LOW - his PR People haven't got my
answer yet] written by Ivan Gall. The play was written in 1919
about modernism. He probably would have produced a play in one
of Max's galleries. Not literally. I did the play when I was
like twenty something. I always loved that look. Metropolis
and things of modernism.
EMILY: How did you find this script?
JOHN: I came in one day and the package came by. [How cute-
he answered literally - he's on his bestest behavior- drat]
EMILY: I mean it's not something you think -"that has to
have John Cusack in it."
JOHN: I guess I'm just lucky. I mean when I read it I was just
grabbed on to it and said. I got to do this. Menno for some
reason said I need a one-armed Jewish-German art dealer and
he thought of me. I have an Irish background so go figure. I
grew up where the Irish, the Jews and the Italians we all hung
out together. So I grew up with screaming Irish, Jewish and
Italian intellectuals debating politics and doing all that stuff
so it was familiar.
EMILY: Max Rothman has only one arm. How hard was it to concentrate
on acting with your arm bound back?
The hard part
the geometry was such that if you were of
kilter a little bit the shot died. Since we didn't have a whole
lot of money it put you in a constant state of paranoia. You're
like "can you see the arm
. can you see the arm!?"
It was real hard. Back to preparing. Ya know I felt like Max
and I kind of represented that same unified thing. I did a lot
of research on German Jews and read a book by a scholar professor
who did an exhausting study on it. And like everyone else there
were different levels of connection to the Judaism. Many of
them just saw themselves as Germans, who happen to be Jewish.
The same way that I'm American and happened to be catholic;
or raised catholic. It's not like I run around each day going,
"I'm catholic! I'm Catholic!" They were just German
and had patriotism.
EMILY: Many people are worried that the film will over simplify
JOHN: I think we did the opposite. A lot of other films on the
others over simplify. He becomes this kind of
power hungry demonic hideous monster, which is certainly true.
But, this kind of talks about something other than the obvious.
I think this is kind of examines rather than over simplifies.
EMILY: What's your opinion about the motivating factors that
lead Hitler to become the behemoth monster?
Well, Repressed emotion? The inability to display emotion. Cowardness.
The inability to consummate and express himself through his
art caused him to give up art and try politics. Then mesh those
two things together. He was ahead of the curb in his style -
but to a horrible end. No doubt he had a sophisticated eye
saw the power of modern art. He hated the concept that [modernism]
was ultimately anti-war. But he saw the power. He took everything
of the design
architecture, color, commercialism in terms
of putting it into propaganda; that with performance art. With
all the poverty around him he manipulated the art. The situation
of the people
they can either feel hopeless and frustrated
living in a room full of twenty people or they were having these
sort of upwardly mobile things described to them. They could
either be losers or God's warriors - what are they going to
chose? So there's also the social and class issues. He made
a choice. A cruel choice - to hate.
EMILY: You worried about the backlash when the film opens? I
mean you think at first people will think you're trying to glorify
Hitler by making him human? I must ask.
JOHN: I think it's a deeply moral film. I think it's
a very responsible film. If they say, " How dare you portray
people evil with a human side!" I say if they want to have
that argument intellectually bring them on! [laughter] Bring
EMILY: I thought the film made him look like a jerk right from
the first frame.
JOHN: He's a total complete coward- but you can't help the reaction.
To most it's very comforting to think this guy came down in
red vapors arrived on Earth supernaturally in a cloud of fire.
EMILY: But that's what makes this film so great. It shows a
disturbed man coming back from the war...
JOHN: Yeah! It shows how his humanity gets poisoned and he makes
choices. The fact that he's human makes him culpable
makes him more culpable. If he's not human then he's
beyond human reckoning! Then you don't have to worry about it
happening. You just pass him off, "he wasn't human."
Then you don't have to think about any of the factors that lead
to his rise right? We're all clean! If he was human then we
have to deal with it. The only people that have attacked
the film - haven't seen the film! Literally! I like to debate
- I get off on that.
EMILY: How long did it take to make the film?
JOHN: About two and half three months.
EMILY: Wow that's quick man! This is a far cry from all your
EMILY: So what does John Cusack find romantic? What would you
do to get the girl? [ Thought not spoken: Like say a blonde
vixen that already has a big old crush on ya??!!]
JOHN: It's different for each person. But I know I would probably
be capable of anything [laughter]. I don't think there's
anything beneath me. Nothing would be to low. No stunt
[ Thought not spoken: Wrap this one up- I'll take him
You and I share a love of Joe Strummer
do you like The
JOHN: Yeah, I love the Mescaleros! I saw them play at the House
EMILY: Me too!
JOHN: Then I saw them at The Troubadour.
EMILY: Me too- I was backstage - I didn't see you. [him I would
have noticed! Hmm, they played three nights...I knew I shoud
have gone -even with the flu that third night!]
JOHN: I was there and back at both. You ever see him when he
played with the Poges?
EMILY: Flew out for that one baby!
JOHN: He's just the best! He's just pure desire.
EMILY: And you sound great when you sing along to him.
JOHN: Yeah! He just wills himself to sing. [laughter]
EMILY: I went on tour with him when I was eighteen - as a friend
- not groupie- a friend. It's a long story.
JOHN: With The Mescaleros? [How cute he thinks I'm wicked young
EMILY: No, I wasn't clear - The Clash.
EMILY: Four glorious days
I learned how to order Indian
food, they gave me a mohawk and Joe told me I should, "Do
something with my honesty and passion" and here I am! He
was a huge influence on me.
EMILY: When you were doing say, Elvis Stories, did you
ever see yourself in this position of Hollywood player?
JOHN: Never! [laughter] Not in my wildest of dreams. It just
sort of happened. I was born into it and found a way of making
EMILY: You're whole family is into the work?
EMILY: You still have your theater company New Crime?
JOHN: No. Mostly I've just been trying to make films with my
film company also called New Crime. It's hard to have a theater
group and make a living
buy a couch and things ya know?
As we get older people decide they want a nice house [laughter].
EMILY: New Crime was a passion. Was Jeremy
Piven's father group an influence on you?
JOHN: Yeah. I grew up training with him.
EMILY: What's Joan up to? No offense
but I adore her.
JOHN: None taken. She's great isn't she? The BEST. She's back
in Chicago looking at scripts. She'll be in something real soon.
[ then looking at the BluntReview.com card he smiles
I have to check this out. "Grand Poobah," huh?
EMILY: I always wanted that on a card - so there it is.
JOHN: So you do these blunt reviews and stuff right?
EMILY: Yeah, I think you'll dig the style.
JOHN: I'll check it out more thoroughly later. [Thought not
spoken: And notice my HOME phone number emblazoned on the card
EMILY: Good luck with this phenomenal film.
JOHN: Thank you so much!
off he went to more groveling interviewers. See
this film. It doesn't glorify Hitler at all- it shows
a small evil man growing into a large evil man. The actors shine
and the script is incredible. John always brings his abilities
to his screen - even if I don't always dig the films - I dig
him. He has the career actors dream of; he's able to do big
studio gigs and small independent gems. He's smart, sweet -
extremely soft-spoken in an interview - and as handsome as one
suspects. Just a class act squared.
is reviewed here