‘Shhh … I’m an Actor’: Cusack Covers 34 Years of Badassery

Photo by Greg Mooney
Photo by Greg Mooney

Saturday’s John Cusack session, 2:30PM in the Hyatt, covered nearly the entire Cusack filmography, reaching way back to the early ’80s. Alongside longtime friend and co-star Ned Bellamy and moderator Rob Levy, Cusack charmed the crowd with stories of his wide-ranging characters and films.

“I got spoiled early,” he said, responding to Levy’s first question about his early films with Rob Reiner, John Hughes, and Cameron Crowe. “I was fifteen. Instead of going to study hall, I got to go to a movie set.”

After those teenage roles, Cusack has remained steadily employed ever since, playing everything from deep dark villains to rom-com guys who get the girls. Bellamy explained that actors are “just looking for the magic of the moment.” Cusack agreed. “Sometimes you can take how you’re perceived, or how you were perceived, and use it like a jiu jitsu move.”

Fans quickly steered the conversation to their favorites, with Levy leading the way to High Fidelity. Levy explained that as a music lover and former record store employee, High Fidelity had a profound and lasting effect on him. Plenty of the crowd agreed, and Cusack explained that adapting that film was easy. Moving the novel’s setting from London to the movie’s Chicago wasn’t a problem, he said, because while the Brits were obsessed with American soul music, Americans were digging the British punk scene. “But if you swap those, and take away the cockney accents, it’s the same guys. When you have a great book, you just have to make sure you don’t f*ck it up.”

An audience member asked about sibling rivalry in the Cusack family, garnering support for John to bring Joan with him on his next Dragon Con visit. He said they aren’t rivals. “Joanie, she’s sort of the most talented one of the family. I just try to get steamrolled in the most pleasurable way.” He explained that so many of the great scenes in Grosse Pointe Blank were off-the-cuff. “With Dan Aykroyd and my sister, you just get out of the way.”

Another audience member expressed his confusion at reading that Danny Trejo calls John Cusack one of the toughest guys he’s ever worked with. “So, when did you become so amazingly badass?” “Shh,” Cusack said. “I’m an actor.”

Along those lines, a fan asked if the boombox was heavy in that famous scene from Say Anything. Cusack shrugged, and hit back with a deep-cut reference, “Strong like bull, smart like streetcar.”

Among the many declarations of long-time crushes, one audience member explained that Cusack was her approved “hall pass” with her husband. “Is your husband in the room?” Cusack asked. The woman laughed. “It’s actually his birthday.” The crowd loved it. Cusack demurred.

More fan favorites came up, including Bellamy’s and Cusack’s work with Stephen King’s characters. Both stated they thought King’s work was underrated, and that high-brow literary types didn’t appreciate it the way actors and fans did. When asked if there were King characters out there he’d like to play, Cusack mentioned Doctor Sleep. Another future project he mentioned was an adaptation of The Immortal Irishman, a 2016 Timothy Egan book. He said he had started brainstorming a cast, including Joan Cusack as the Queen of England. “I think it’d be funny.”

To wrap up, Levy led the audience into rapid-fire Cusack question mode:

Who wins a fight between Rob Gordon and Lloyd Dobler?


Was Tapeheads just an excuse to get Fishbone in a movie?


You haven’t aged in 30 years. What’s your secret? Is it a special moisturizer?

“Monkey glands.”

Do people come up to you and ask for $2?

“Yes. Every day. I just say no.”

Why do so many of your movies have standing-out-in-the-rain scenes?

“I’m just that kind of guy.”

The final question went back to another fan favorite, Being John Malkovich, and how when it came out, it was a cult film, but more and more people find themselves relating to the film now.

“To me, that world makes sense and this world doesn’t,” Cusack said. “Trump is president. I mean, go into John Malkovich’s head and get shit out on the New Jersey Turnpike,  that makes sense.”

Author of the article

Jessica spends her days advising college radio, magazine and newspaper staffs, and balances the rest of her time binge-watching TV and binge-reading nonfiction.