John Cusack has only seven minutes to spare an interviewer, so he's literally phoning it in. The 45-year-old star of The Raven never has much use for journalists anyway, unless there's a movie to plug or an opinion to vent. Cusack does a bit of both in our limited time. He addresses protesting Edgar Allan Poe fans, music that shaped his portrayal of the author, wearing a beard rather than Poe's familiar mustache, and why lifting a boom box in Say Anything... never became a burden, in these interview excerpts:
How do you respond to complaints that The Raven turns Edgar Allan Poe into an action hero of sorts?
People who know about Poe should actually understand that the conceit is very Poe-like. If you want a linear biopic, you can have it. But the idea that Poe would get embroiled in one of his own stories speaks to his dream-within-a-dream theme. It speaks to that twilight space between sanity and insanity that he wrote about. It allows you to experience his stories in a much more visceral way than a biopic. This is one dream of Poe, and people are welcome to have another dream.
In researching Poe, what was the most surprising thing you learned?
Probably how combative he was, how at war with the world he was. I knew he was introspective and tormented, and how full of passion he was. But I didn't know he was ready to pick a fight with any other writer or intellectual around, or that he was challenging people to duels. I didn't know he was as much of a rogue as he was.
Since you're into music, did the research include Alan Parsons' Poe concept album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination?
Sure. But I played into Lou Reed's The Raven while we shot, and I played a lot of Donovan, strangely enough. I found that Donovan had sort of a vibe that I liked. Tom Waits has this wonderful charm to him that came in handy.
One nit to pick: What's with Poe's beard in the movie?
We wanted to get away from the little mustache, because it's kind of like a Halloween mask. There are plenty of pictures of Poe with long sideburns, clean shaven. Pictures of him with a goatee I found. We decided we wanted to get away from that stock, almost postage stamp character. It was just an instinct the director and I had.
You describe yourself on Twitter as an "apocalyptic s--- disturber." Getting busier with that, in an election year?
Not as much lately because I haven't had time. I don't know how long I'll like (Twitter) but I find it very interesting now. If I can say what I'm up to, and have a direct access to people who are interested, that's great. Anything from passing along political information, to helping open up a movie, to hipping people on a great writer or artist. I just like curating information.
Twitter also opens the door for jerks giving you a hard time.
So what? How many people on the Internet have whiskey b----? People say something they would never say to your face, but that's okay. You can block 'em.
Our Stuck in the '80s blogger suggests the holy trinity of that decade's movies are John Hughes, Molly Ringwald and you.
Well, there you go. That's nice. I don't really think about it too much. I probably made one good movie in the '80s. If people remember Say Anything... It's nice to do something at 21 or 22 that people still remember. That's really the extent to which I think of it.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.