John Cusack, actor
EmptyAWARDS: 1998 Blockbuster Entertainment Award, Favorite Supporting Actor -- Action/adventure for "Con Air"; 1990 Chicago Film Critics Association Award, Most Promising Actor for "Say Anything." CURRENT CREDITS: The onetime zeitgeist teen actor morphed into two daddy roles in 2007: "Martian Child" and "Grace Is Gone" (which he also produced), along with the thriller "1408." His next big project, Warner Bros.' "The Factory," turns him into a cop on a mission and is slated for a 2009 release. MEMBERSHIPS: Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America. Academy member since: 1991.
The Hollywood Reporter: "Grace Is Gone" tells the story of a father who has to break the news to his children that their mom was killed fighting in Iraq. What drew you to that project?
John Cusack: I wanted to tell a human story about the Iraq war. I thought if this was really as important as the Bush administration said it was -- and of course it truly is important to the families and to the victims and the people making sacrifices on both sides of the conflict -- if it's supposed to be as important to the rest of us, then we should all interrupt our regularly scheduled programming and take a moment to honor the people who are paying the ultimate cost for this, which are the soldiers. I really wanted to just tell a very human story of it, even though it stemmed from a place of outrage.
THR: Though the initial impulse by someone driven by that urge might be to find a project that underscored what they already believed. In "Grace," you're playing a pretty conservative man, whose politics aren't changed by his wife's death.
Cusack: Yeah, but he's a patriot, and he loves his country, and he believes in an idea of America, of American exceptionalism. There's plenty of common ground between true conservative and true progressive thought. And that's what's interesting about it. Film is more than just a megaphone for your opinions. Just because Stanley doesn't think the way I think doesn't mean he has less value. Ultimately, we don't judge him or his love for his country or his love for his family. We don't make light of those things even though he certainly is a very rigid, sort of repressed character. But there's plenty of rigid, repressed progressives, too.
THR: It's quite a switch from many of the romantic comedies and suspense thrillers you've been involved with in past years. Do you look back on your early career differently now, from an older perspective?
Cusack: I don't know, I'm lucky. I was in some good films when I was younger, so I'm happy about those, and I'm happy for the job and the experience for the ones that aren't so good. It's not like all the time you have 20 of the greatest things ever waiting for you at any given time to do. And, you know, you're trying to get a job, and you do what you can. But I'm proud of some of them.
THR: Though you have been quoted as saying you don't care for so-called "genre films."
Cusack: Some of the ones people still bring up are kind of good. I'm not a fan of just doing genre films. I don't know what genre "Grace Is Gone" is. I guess it's the "war-torn tearjerker" genre. People like to put films into boxes all the time and actors into boxes, and say, "This is what you are; this is what you do." The reality is, I don't want to just do a certain kind of thing.
THR: You've co-written a film, "War, Inc.," which is still looking for U.S. distribution, and you wrote screenplays for 2000's "High Fidelity" and 1997's "Grosse Pointe Blank." What do you enjoy about the writing process?
Cusack: Well, what you do a lot of times with a script is, once you have a great script, usually the scripts need some work, you end up working with writers and actors and you flesh things out. You have a structure that's good, and then you try to change it and work on it and work with it. It's nice to kind of create your own structure and keep working on it and exploring it and working with some writers, and just try to figure out what people would say and what's a great way to say it and how the jigsaw puzzle works. I like to create things.
THR: You grew up in this business. But, like a lot of young actors who continue into maturity, you're extremely private. There are very few stories about, let's say, you having a drunken night out and losing your underwear.
Cusack: I'm happy to fulfill both of those issues. I'll get right on that. You'll have something by the morning.
THR: So what is it about you that let you grow up in the business but not make some of those small -- and even major -- faux pas that can ultimately derail a career?
Cusack: Don't think I've not had my share of problems. I probably just had a way of keeping them quieter. I was always very wary that the celebrity culture had anything to do with acumen or status scenarios. I thought if I wanted to be a real artist, that's got kind of nothing to do with being out in front of the paparazzi or being in all the hip "in" places. I just didn't have much respect for that. Once you become that kind of creature out there, there's nowhere to go but down. I think I'm probably lucky that I started early, so I got a taste of it, and I went in and out of vogue a few times, and so I maybe saw it more clearly for what it is.
THR: Along those lines, how important is it for you to ultimately get any notice from the Oscars during your career?
Cusack: I don't think it's that important. Certainly, it would be lovely to get respected by your peers and your industry, but if it doesn't happen, I'll be OK, and if it does happen, I'll be delighted. Either way, it'll be fine, 'cause if it does happen, I'll have to go to all those parties.
THR: And you might have to deal with underwear incidents. So, there's that.
Cusack: Right, and then I'll have to talk about the drunken rampage for two weeks, so that's not good. And if it doesn't happen, then I get to go do what I want.