In about 2002, I went through a Cusack Completist phase. I’m not sure how many of his movies I own on DVD, but it’s a lot; John Cusack movies were a release for me for a while. A few of his best movies were yet to come—there are some obscure ones I’ll definitely go to bat for that weren’t made until after that—but we were also getting closer to the Great Cusack Drought. Because ye Gods, a lot of his more recent films have been Not Good. All I can say about things like 2012 is that I hope the money was good.
Funnily enough, John’s a middle child, something I would have connected with at the time if I’d known. Though he’s one of two boys in the family—he has two older sisters, one younger sister, and a younger brother. In 1983, he was in the apparently-not-good Rob Lowe movie Class. He was fifteen at the time, the youngest cast member. This sparked a drive in him, clearly, and rather than go to college, he focused on acting. He would spend a year at NYU and then drop out. He was in Sixteen Candles as a minor character, but it was Rob Reiner’s The Sure Thing that first garnered notice for him.
Though where I, personally, first noticed him was The Journey of Natty Gann, a movie I’m pretty sure I saw in the theatre and would love the opportunity to see in the theatre again. It is the forgotten height of John’s career. (I’m calling him John because there are a whole lot of acting Cusacks, and rest assured, more are coming.) He was nineteen at the time; his character is desperately struggling to seem older and more mature. He was four years older than star Meredith Salenger, and his character is clearly trying to act as though he’s a grown-up and she’s a child. However, in the gorgeous cinematography of the film, they come together in age so that it doesn’t seem at all surprising that he falls in love with her. We’ve fallen in love with her, too.
We fell in love with Lloyd Dobler, whom John says is the best of him, whom John says is long since burned out of him. Apparently he’s not fully opposed to the idea that Lloyd grew up to be Martin Blank, but that idea’s never really worked for me. Lloyd wouldn’t consider that solution to the dilemma he’s in regarding career options. Other great role of John’s include Buck Weaver of Eight Men Out, Roy Dillon of The Grifters, and Nelson Rockefeller in Cradle Will Rock. He was an outstanding Brian Wilson. There is, of course, Rob Gordon. Craig Schwartz. And while I don’t think he was Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven, I could still enjoy whatever it was the movie was actually doing.
And, of course, there’s the political activism. His parents were friends with Philip Berrigan, whom I’ve always suspected to be at least part of the inspiration for Doonesbury’s Reverend Scot Sloan, the fighting young priest who can talk to the kids. (I can find no confirmation of this, though his brother might have been the radical priest who came to get Julio and the narrator released.) The Cusack family has always been at least as involved in political activism as acting, and I think possibly John is so used to causes that he doesn’t always think them through and really look at whether he’s seeing all the nuances. It’s not unusual.