John Cusack is, like most of his characters, an unconventional hero. Wary of fame and repelled by formulaic Hollywood fare, the Chicago-born actor has built a successful career playing underdogs and odd men out--all the while avoiding the media spotlight. With the exception of mom Nancy (a former math teacher), the Cusack clan is all show business: father Dick Cusack is an actor and filmmaker, and John's siblings Joan Cusack, Ann Cusack, Bill Cusack and Susie Cusack are all thespians by trade. Like his brother and sisters, John became a member of Chicago's Piven Theatre Workshop while he was still in elementary school. By age 12, he already had several stage productions, commercial voice overs and industrial films under his belt. He made his feature film debut at 17, acting alongside Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy in the romantic comedy Class (1983). His next role, as a member of Anthony Michael Hall's geek brigade in Sixteen Candles (1984), put him on track to becoming a teen-flick fixture. Cusack remained on the periphery of the Brat Pack, sidestepping the meteoric rise and fall of most of his contemporaries, but he stayed busy with leads in films like The Sure Thing (1985) and Better Off Dead... (1985). Young Cusack is probably best remembered for what could be considered his last adolescent role: the stereo-blaring romantic Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything... (1989). A year later, he hit theaters as a grown-up, playing a bush-league con man caught between his manipulative mother and headstrong girlfriend in The Grifters (1990).
The next few years were relatively quiet for the actor, but he filled in the gaps with off-screen projects. He directed and produced several shows for the Chicago-based theater group The New Criminals, which he founded in 1988 (modeling it after Tim Robbins' Actors' Gang in Los Angeles) to promote political and avant-garde stage work. Four years later, Cusack's high school friends Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis joined him in starting a sister company for film, New Crime Productions. New Crime's first feature was the sharply written comedy Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), which touched off a career renaissance for Cusack. In addition to co-scripting, he starred as a world-weary hit man who goes home for his ten-year high school reunion and tries to rekindle a romance with the girl he stood up on prom night (Minnie Driver). In an instance of life imitating art, Cusack actually did go home for his ten-year reunion (to honor a bet about the film's financing) and ended up in a real-life romance with Driver. Cusack's next appearance was as a federal agent (or, as he described it, "the first post-Heston, non-biblical action star in sandals") in Con Air (1997), a movie he chose because he felt it was time to make smart business decisions. He followed that with Clint Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), in which he played a Yankee reporter entangled in a Savannah murder case.
Cusack has always favored offbeat material, so it was no surprise when he turned up in the fiercely original Being John Malkovich (1999). Long-haired, bearded and bespectacled, he was almost unrecognizable in the role of a frustrated puppeteer who stumbles across a portal into the brain of actor John Malkovich. The convincing performance won him a Best Actor nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. In 2000, Cusack was back to his clean-shaven self in High Fidelity (2000), another New Crime production. He worked with Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis to adapt Nick Hornby's popular novel (relocating the story to their native Chicago), then starred as the sarcastic record store owner who revisits his "Top 5" breakups to find out why he's so unlucky in love. The real Cusack has been romantically linked with several celebs, including Driver, Alison Eastwood, Claire Forlani and Neve Campbell. He's also something of a family man, acting frequently opposite sister Joan Cusack and pulling other Cusacks into his films on a regular basis. He seems pleased with the spate of projects on his horizon, but admits that he still hasn't reached his ultimate goal: to be involved in a "great piece of art".
Dark, unruly hair
Distinctive, clipped way of speaking
Offbeat, quirky characters
Tall but often hunched frame
Last name is pronounced Q-zack.
Has a production company called New Crime Productions (that produced Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), and The Jack Bull (1999) (TV) among various stage productions) which he founded with two of his high school buddies Steve Pink & D.V. DeVincentis.
Education: Piven Theatre Workshop (Evanston, Illinois), run by the parents of actor Jeremy Piven. One semester at NYU.
Attended Evanston Township High School, Evanston, Ill.
Close friends with actor Jeremy Piven. They have done 10 movies together: One Crazy Summer (1986), Elvis Stories (1989), Say Anything... (1989), The Player (1992), Floundering (1994), The Grifters (1990), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Serendipity (2001) and Runaway Jury (2003).
Is the product of a passionately liberal Irish Catholic family, visited the radical Berrigan brothers when he was growing up, and, like them, his mother still gets arrested for her anti-militarism and pro- human rights protests.
On free time likes to go "Helicopter Snowboarding" and kick-boxing with stunt coordinator Benny Urquidez. Has a black belt in kick-boxing.
Is the subject of the song "Honorable Mention" by the band Fall Out Boy.
Sister Joan Cusack appeared in 10 of his movies:Class (1983), Sixteen Candles (1984), Grandview, U.S.A. (1984), Broadcast News (1987), Say Anything... (1989), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Cradle Will Rock (1999), High Fidelity (2000), Martian Child (2007) and War, Inc. (2008).
Was once roommates with Jeremy Piven
Is Irish-American. The name Cusack is not Slavic as many may believe. It is a Norman name, brought to Ireland when the Normans invaded in 1169. "Cussac" is a city in South Central France.
Ranked #15 on Tropopkin's Top 25 Most Intriguing People [Issue #100]
Some kind of reference to his favorite bands (usually The Clash, 'The Ramones' or The Specials) makes at least one appearance in most of his films. Most of the time, he wears a t-shirt of one of the bands (Say Anything... (1989), High Fidelity (2000), Must Love Dogs (2005), etc), but sometimes (Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)) he works in a poster of one of the bands. These bands are typically in the soundtracks to his New Criminal's productions, as well.
Member of the "Brat Pack", the name for the actors who tended to star in teen movies of the 80's. Others include Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Demi Moore, Charlie Sheen and 'Ally Sheedy (I)'.
Most famous member of the Cusack family.
His performance as "Lloyd Dobler" in Say Anything... (1989) is ranked #72 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Apocalypse Now (1979) is one of his favorite films.
During the famous "boom box serenade" scene in Say Anything... (1989), he is actually playing his favorite Fishbone tape on the boom box, while Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" is played in the movie. (source: Cameron Crowe commentary on the DVD).
Growing up John and his siblings often put on plays at their home. He has mentioned that his older sister Ann once staged a production of "Cinderella" in their living room in which she played Cinderella, sister Joan played the Ugly Stepsister, brother Bill played Prince Charming and John played the dog.
Featured as #22 on VH1's 100 Greatest Teen Stars countdown.
Choosen by Empire Magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars in the world (#70) 2007.
In 2006 when Total Film magazine asked him for a "Top 5" list of his movies, he answered with The Grifters (1990), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), The Thin Red Line (1998), High Fidelity (2000) and Max (2002/I).
In 1994, he attended his 10th year high school reunion in Illinois. He and the producers of the film had made a bet that if they came up with financing for Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), they would all attend their high school reunions.
Good friends with professional volleyball player, Gabrielle Reece.
Has homes in Malibu, California, and Chicago.
He was awarded the 1990 Joseph Jefferson Award Citation for Director of a Play for "Methusalem" at the New Crime Productions Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
Was named "Stoner of the Year" by High Times magazine in 2010 (for his performance in Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)).
I was a teen star. That's disgusting enough.
[on celebrity] "I have a healthy fear of it. I'm not into the celebrity culture aspect of being an artist. To me it represents extinction. The more people know about you, the less they want to try to figure out what you have to say in your movies, and the less credibility you have. To me it seems: Go do your thing, then get out. That's the best way to do it." (January 14, 2004)
"Nope, no sex scandals yet. But I am open to offers!" (January 14, 2004)
I won't call myself a child actor because that sounds psychotic.
I'm aware of the affection those characters inspired. I feel close to Lloyd in Say Anything... (1989). He was like a super-interesting version of me. Only I'm not as good as him. Whatever part of me is romantic and optimistic, I reached into that to play Lloyd. Of course, now it's all gone. Now I'm just bitter.
I've made 10 good films. The ones that suck I tend to blank out. It's like I never even made them. Well, there aren't 40 that are great, put it that way. But that's fine. Ten is a good batting average. (2007)
You think about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died and all the soldiers who have come back wounded and maimed. You read the paper and four more soldiers last week died and mercenaries have killed 27 people in Baghdad, mercenaries who are getting money from our tax dollars that should be going to protect the troops, and I'm depressed about the Cubs game. There's a disconnect there. My point in all seriousness is that it's such an abstraction, and this government has asked us to sacrifice nothing for this. The troops are sacrificing everything. It just seems like an obscenity.
(1998 - On his career and life) I feel very blessed, very fortunate, very happy. I love my work, I love my friends, I love my family. There was a period when I didn't work for about two years when I was about 25, 26, and I couldn't imagine what I would do with my life and that was scary. But now I have other things I love. I'm a pretty good kick boxer; I'm a pretty good writer; there are things I could fall back on. And you know how it is--the minute you realize that your options are unlimited, things just start falling into place all around you.
(On why he lives in L.A.) I kept saying that I'd never live in L.A., and I didn't think I would. But that's where the work is, and I ended up making a lot of friends there, and my old friends moved out to Los Angeles too. And also, I think when you're famous, its hard to live in a small town. Not that Chicago is a 'small' town, but when I'm there, which I am it lot because I love it and I still have an apartment there, people stare at me. It's like I'm more famous in Chicago. In L.A. and New York, nobody gives a fuck; in a big city, you can quietly do your thing."
(On if he prefers Chicago or L.A.) Chicago's a great city - definitely my favorite. But I'm more at home in L.A. because so many of my old friends are here now. I mean, I feel at home in both. What's hard in Chicago is that I'm more conspicuous when I'm there. It's harder to coast around.
Martian Child (2007) was just a movie the studio [New Line Cinema] offered me and it was the best job I could get at the time. It was about a relationship between a guy and another kid, and I thought that was good. It was a sweet movie. They offered it to me and that was the extent of that. Grace Is Gone (2007) was something I REALLY wanted to do.
I don't like doing them. If it was up to me, I'd just put the movies out there. Or maybe I'd do a couple - I'd think of some smart things to say so people think, 'Oh, he's cool.' It doesn't seem polite to try to be in the limelight more. I don't even know if I was invited in to begin with. I'm well aware that I might have worn out my welcome already. -- on giving interviews.
If I feel they're playing with the tiger too much, I'm like: don't go there. Don't get into it. That stuff only goes one way. If people are constantly reading about you, and you're overexposed, they've got no reason to go see your movies. Also, it's not pleasant or nice to have your privacy invaded.
Uh, I don't think so. Acting can be pretty challenging. I can't say making a romantic comedy is challenging, but to do anything well, you have to put yourself into it. But no, if I'm doing some commercial movie just to keep my name in the public eye, then it's just a job. You don't have to sweat it too hard. -- on if acting has become more of a distraction.
I probably believed in it a bit when I was younger. Actors are weird enough as it is. We don't need to act tortured. I'm probably tortured enough. -- on actors being 'tortured' people.
Sure. Depends on the film. I like to take risks. With acting, you wanna see if you can get into trouble without knowing how you're gonna get out of it. It's like the exact opposite of war, where you need an exit strategy. When you're acting, you should get all the way into trouble with no exit strategy, and have the cameras rolling. -- on if he enjoys acting.
It's sort of the way the business is. If you do one type of movie it makes it a lot easier to do other kinds of movie that you want to do. It's just reality. But it's nice to get that call. 'It's Sony's big release of the year, you've got the lead role.' I thought, 'Why not?' -- on doing "2012"
The movies have got more corporate. They're making fewer movies in general, and those they are making are all $200m-$300m tent-pole releases that eat up all the oxygen.
[at the Maine political delegation breakfast on July 26, 2004, seeing Al Franken in the audience] I'm not going to try and be funny. (Franken replied, "I'm not going to try and act.")
Sometimes I'm think I'm in control, but more and more I realize that it's just a complete farce. It used to be that if you did a big, big movie then you could leverage it and make some smaller, cooler ones. And I got away with that for a few years. But now they just want you to put on tights. If you don't put on the tights they just want to get rid of you. And I'm not putting on the tights. So you know...
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