Cusack, John 1966– (John Cusak)

views updated May 23 2018

CUSACK, John 1966
(John Cusak)


Surname is pronounced "Kyuzack"; full name, John Paul Cusack; born June 28, 1966, in Evanston, IL; son of Richard (an owner of a film production company and actor) and Nancy (a mathematics teacher and owner of a film production company) Cusack; brother of Joan Cusack (an actress), Ann Cusack (an actress), and Susan Cusack (actresses), and Bill (an actor). Education: Briefly attended New York University, 1986; trained for the stage with Byrne and Joyce Piven at Piven Theatre Workshop, Chicago, IL. Avocational Interests: Listening to rap music, reading.

Addresses: Agent William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist Wolf/Kasteler PR, 335 N. Maple Dr., Suite 351, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

Career: Actor, producer, and writer. New Crime Productions (a production company) and New Criminals Theatre Company, Chicago, IL, founder, partner, and director, 1986; The Actors Gang, member of company; writer and director of musicals for Evanston Township High School; appeared in industrial films and commercials.

Awards, Honors: CFCA Award, most promising actor, Chicago Film Critics Association, 1990, for Say Anything; Joseph Jefferson Award, best direction, 1990, for Methusalem; Blockbuster Entertainment Award, favorite supporting actor in an action/adventure, 1997, for Con Air; Commitment to Chicago Award (with Dick, Nancy, Ann, Bill, Susie, and Joan Cusack), 2000; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by a cast in a theatrical motion picture, Independent Spirit Award nomination, best male lead, 2000, ALFS Award nomination, actor of the year, 2001, all for Being John Malkovich; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picturecomedy/musical, American Comedy Award nomination, funniest actor in a motion picture (leading role), WGA Screen Award nomination(with D. V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, and Scott Rosenberg), best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Writers Guild of America, USC Scripter Award nomination (with DeVincentis, Pink, and Rosenberg), Film Award nomination (with DeVincentis, Pink, and Rosenberg), best screenplayadapted, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and Empire Award nomination, best actor, 2001, all for High Fidelity.


Film Appearances:

(Film debut) Roscoe Maibaum, Class, Orion, 1983.

Johnny Maine, Grandview, U.S.A., Warner Bros., 1984.

Bryce, Sixteen Candles, Universal, 1984.

Lane Myer, Better Off Dead (also known as Better Off Dead ... ), Warner Bros., 1985.

Harry, The Journey of Natty Gann, Buena Vista, 1985.

Walter "Gib" Gibson, The Sure Thing, Embassy, 1985.

Hoops McCann, One Crazy Summer, Warner Bros., 1986.

Denny Lachance, Stand by Me, Columbia, 1986.

(As John Cusak) Angry messenger, Broadcast News, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1987.

Dan Bartlett, Hot Pursuit (also known as Persecucion intensa ), Paramount, 1987.

Ivan Alexeev, Tapeheads, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 1988.

George "Buck" Weaver, Eight Men Out, Orion, 1988.

Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything (also known as ... Say Anything ... ), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1989.

Michael Merriman, Fat Man and Little Boy (also known as Shadowmakers ), Paramount, 1989.

Corky, Elvis Stories, 1989.

Roy Dillon, The Grifters, Miramax, 1990.

Peter Burton, True Colors, Paramount, 1991.

Student Jack, Shadows and Fog, Orion, 1992.

(As John Cusak) Caspar, Roadside Prophets, Fine Line, 1992.

Himself, The Player, Fine Line, 1992.

Host of "Cutting Edge Live," Bob Roberts, Paramount, 1992.

Joey Coyle, Money for Nothing, Buena Vista, 1993.

Clark (the mapmaker), Map of the Human Heart (also known as Meridian and La carte du tendre ), Miramax, 1993.

Charles Ossining, The Road to Wellville, Columbia, 1994.

J. C., Floundering, Strand Releasing, 1994.

David Shayne, Bullets over Broadway, Miramax, 1994.

Kevin Calhoun, City Hall, Columbia, 1996.

Martin Q. Blank, Grosse Pointe Blank, Buena Vista, 1997.

U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin, Con Air, Buena Vista, 1997.

John Kelso, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Warner Bros., 1997.

Voice of Dimitri, Anastasia (animated), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1997.

Eddie Sharp, This Is My Father (also known as L'histoire de mon pere ), Sony Pictures Classics, 1998.

Captain John Gaff, The Thin Red Line, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1998.

Scary man, Chicago Cab (also known as Hellcab ), Castle Hill, 1998.

(Uncredited) Notting Hill, 1999.

Nelson Rockefeller, The Cradle Will Rock, Buena Vista, 1999.

Craig Schwartz, Being John Malkovich, Propaganda Films, 1999.

Arigo, True Crime Productions, 1999.

Nick Falzone, Pushing Tin (also known as Turbulenzenund andere Katastrophen ), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1999.

Rob, High Fidelity, Buena Vista, 1999.

Eddie Thomas, America's Sweethearts, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2001.

Jonathan Trager, Serendipity, Miramax, 2001.

Max, Max Rothman, Lions Gate Films, 2002.

(Uncredited) Himself, Adaptation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2002.

Ed, Identity, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2003.

Nicholas Easter, Runaway Jury, Twentieth CenturyFox, 2003.

Himself, Breakfast with Hunter, 2003.

Himself, Road to "The Sure Thing, " MGM/UA Home Entertainment, Inc., 2003.

Film Work:

Coproducer, Grosse Pointe Blank, Buena Vista, 1997.

Executive producer, Chicago Cab (also known as Hellcab ), Castle Hill, 1998.

Producer, Arigo, True Crime Productions, 1999.

Coproducer and music supervisor, High Fidelity, 2000.

Executive producer, Never Get Outta the Boat, Lot 47 Films, 2002.

Associate producer, Max, 2002.

Producer, 2.2, 2002.

Director of the short film Ready or Not.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Voice, Baseball, PBS, 1994.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Myrl Redding, The Jack Bull, HBO, 1999.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Himself, The Making of "Class, " 1983.

An AllStar Celebration: The '88 Vote, ABC, 1988.

Living in America, syndicated, 1991.

The 48th Annual Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1991.

Rock the Vote, Fox, 1992.

Chicago on Stage, PBS, 1995.

Narrator, Eastwood on Eastwood, TNT, 1997.

Himself, America: A Tribute to Heroes, 2001.

Himself, Concert for New York City, VH1, 2001.

Back in the U.S., ABC, 2002.

The 7th Annual Prism Awards, F/X, 2003.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Voice of Greg, "Our Father Whose Art Ain't Heaven," Frasier, NBC, 1996.

Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003.

The View, ABC, 2002.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2003.

On the Record with Bob Costas, HBO, 2003.

Himself, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, syndicated, 2003.

Himself, Extra, syndicated, 2003.

Television Work; Movies:

Executive producer, The Jack Bull, HBO, 1999.

Stage Work:

Producer and director, Alagazam ... After the Dog Year, New Crime Productions, Chicago, IL, 1988.

Director, Methusalem, New Crime Productions, 1989.

Director, The Accidental Death of an Anarchist, New Crime Productions, 1991.

Also directed Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, New Crime Productions.

Stage Appearances:

Violence: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle Farmer, 1986.



Grosse Pointe Blank, Buena Vista, 1997.

(With D. V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, and Scott Rosenberg) High Fidelity (adapted from the novel of the same title by Nick Hornby), Working Title Films, 1999.



Newsmakers 1999, Issue 3, Gale Group, 1999.


Cosmopolitan, January, 1998, p. 46.

Entertainment Weekly, October 10, 1997, p. 96.

Parade Magazine, July 22, 2001.

People Weekly, July 15, 2002, p. 22.

Cusack, John

views updated May 23 2018


Nationality: American. Born: Evanston, Illinois, 28 June 1966. Education: Trained for the stage with Byrne and Joyce Piven at the Piven Theatre Workshop, Chicago. Career: Writer and director of musicals for Evanston Township High School; appeared in industrial films and commercials; founder, New Crime Productions, 1986; director and producer of the play Alagazam . . . After the Dog Wars, Chicago, Illinois, 1988. Awards: Commitment to Chicago Award (with other family members), Chicago Film Critics Association, 2000. Agent: William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019–4701, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


Class (Carlino) (as Roscoe)


Sixteen Candles (Hughes) (as Bryce); Grandview, U.S.A. (Kleiser) (as Johnny Maine)


The Journey of Natty Gann (Kagan) (as Harry); Better Off Dead. . . (Holland) (as Lane Myer); The Sure Thing (Reiner) (as Walter "Gib" Gibson)


Crazy Summer (Holland) (as Hoops McCann); Stand by Me (Reiner) (as Denny Lachance)


Hot Pursuit (Lisberger) (as Dan Bartlett); Broadcast News (Brooks) (as Angry Messenger)


Tapeheads (Fishman) (as Ivan Alexeev); Eight Men Out (Sayles) (as Buck Weaver)


Fat Man and Little Boy (Joffé) (as Michael Merriman); Elvis Stories (Stiller) (as Corky); Say Anything . . . (Crowe) (as Lloyd Dobler)


The Grifters (Frears) (as Roy Dillon)


True Colors (Ross) (as Peter Burton)


Roadside Prophets (Wool) (as Serial Eater); The Player (Altman) (as himself); Shadows and Fog (Allen) (as Student Jack); Map of the Human Heart (Ward) (as The Mapmaker); Bob Roberts (Robbins) (as Cutting Edge Host)


Money for Nothing (Menéndez) (as Joey Coyle)


The Road to Wellville (Parker) (as Charles Ossining); Baseball (Burns—doc, for TV) (voice); Floundering (McCarthy) (as JC); Bullets Over Broadway (Allen) (as David Shayne)


City Hall (Becker) (as Kevin Calhoun)


Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Eastwood) (as John Kelso); Eastwood on Eastwood (Schickel—doc, for TV) (as Narrator); Anastasia (Bluth and Goldman) (as voice of Dimitri); Con Air (West) (as Vince Larkin); Grosse Pointe Blank (Armitage) (as Martin Q. 'Marty' Blank) (+ sc, co-pr)


The Thin Red Line (Malick) (as Captain John Gaff); Chicago Cab (Cybulski and Tintori) (as Scary Man) (+ pr); This Is My Father (Quinn) (as Eddie Sharp, the Pilot)


Being John Malkovich (Jonze) (as Craig Schwartz); Cradle Will Rock (Robbins) (as Nelson Rockefeller); Pushing Tin (Newell) (as Nick Falzone); The Jack Bull (Badham—for TV) (as Myrl Redding) (+ exec)


High Fidelity (Frears) (as Rob) (+ sc, co-pr); White Jazz (Robert Richardson)


Serendipity (Chelsom)

* * *

The myriad adjectives used to describe actor John Cusack seem to mirror traits of his many film characters: highly intelligent, quirky, wry, cynical, wise, ambitious, sensitive, likable, arrogant, serious, soulful, funny. This wide range of intriguing attributes has made Cusack one of the most versatile actors of his generation. A movie star since his late teens, the darkly handsome Cusack can carry a film, but he will probably never earn a Cruise or Pitt-like fee for doing so. Undoubtedly this is because Cusack has always eschewed the obvious in favor of characters that Caren Weiner Campbell categorizes as typically ranging between "the extremes of Smirking Daredevil and Neurotic Ditherer."

As a child actor in Chicago's Piven Theater Workshop, John Cusack learned his acting chops and a disdain for the Establishment. Nonetheless, as a sixteen-year-old, he made his screen debut in the frothy Rob Lowe-Andrew McCarthy feature, Class, and followed up with a small role in another dubious Brat Pack classic, Sixteen Candles. But it was director Rob Reiner who saw Cusack's potential, casting the teenager in the starring role in the 1985 It Happened One Night update, The Sure Thing. As college freshman Walter "Gib" Gibson traveling across country in search of love, Cusack brought depth and a winning decency to what might have been a merely cloying role, and proved himself a romantic lead. This uncommon depth of character in a teen film would become the hallmark of Cusack's early career.

But it was Cusack's nuanced portrayal of the soulful Lloyd Dobler in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything (1989) that elevated the Chicago-based actor to cult stardom. As the kickboxing, misfit, high school senior, who wooed and won the beautiful class brain by playing Peter Gabriel outside her window on a boom box, Cusack became the thinking woman's screen idol of his generation. He also won the respect of the movie community. Critic Pauline Kael wrote of his performance, "Cusack is a wonder: Lloyd's (nearly) blank look tells you that a lot of things are going on inside him—he has a buzz in his blank face."

Cusack followed up Say Anything with his first adult role, as Chicago "Black Sox" third baseman, Buck Weaver, in John Sayles's dark baseball drama, Eight Men Out. As the lone player who knew of the scandal but refused to go along with the conspiracy, Cusack turned in a poignant and movie-stealing performance in a cast featuring some of Hollywood's hottest young actors.

Throughout his twenties, Cusack landed on his feet in small roles in some of Hollywood's most ambitious films, such as Fat Man and Little Boy, Bob Roberts, and The Player. The good-looking yet quirky actor became a favorite of many of cinema's most lauded auteurs, including Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Stephen Frears, and John Sayles. Cusack's most memorable roles from this period were youthful con artist Roy Dillon in the contemporary noir, The Grifters (1990), and earnest playwright David Shane in Woody Allen's period farce Bullets Over Broadway (1994).

More than holding his own in the formidable company of Angelica Huston and Annette Bening, Cusack was the emotional center of The Grifters. Caught in the emotional warfare between the grifter mother who abandoned him (Huston) and his glamorous grifter girlfriend (Bening), Cusack takes the film to its ugly and cathartic climax by doing less rather than more. As one critic noted, "Cusack makes a style out of recessiveness."

Bullets Over Broadway marked Cusack's full maturation as an actor, leaving behind the teen idols and troubled young men, and brilliantly assuming the role of an exceedingly serious and self-absorbed playwright who sells out for success. In a cast of brilliantly outlandish performances, Cusack's earnestness once again became a cinematic anchor.

After making a series of less-than-successful films such as The Road to Wellville and City Hall, Cusack took the role of sanguine U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin—the voice of reason in the smash 'em up Nicolas Cage blockbuster, Con Air.

The success of Con Air allowed Cusack to bankroll the first film from his own production company, New Crime. In Grosse Pointe Blank, Cusack plays humane and psychologically confused hit man Martin Blank, who returns home for his high school reunion. At the crux of the film is Blank's contentious and electric relationship with his high school girlfriend, played by Minnie Driver, and once again Cusack proves himself a charismatic, if rather dark, leading man.

Throughout the late 1990s, Cusack alternated Hollywood films with independent efforts. For every Pushing Tin, there was a New Crime production such as High Fidelity. Consequently, Cusack's popularity with audiences grew even as he continued to be a favorite of filmmakers such as Spike Jonze, Terence Malick, and Tim Robbins.

In Pushing Tin, Cusack plays Nick Falzone, a hotheaded air traffic controller who thrives on stress. When a renegade Zen-like controller, played by Billy Bob Thornton, joins their team, high testosterone high jinks ensue and Nick's world falls apart. Again, it is Cusack's underlying integrity that keeps audiences believing and empathizing with his character.

Spike Jonze cast Cusack in the leading role of out-of-work, down- and-out performance art puppeteer Craig Schwartz in the surrealistic Being John Malkovich. With his unkempt beard and greasy ponytail, Cusack's Schwartz is an anti-leading man who falls obsessively in lust with the mysterious Maxine, even as Maxine and his wife fall in love with each other. Cusack's seethingly dissolute and simultaneously bleak performance as Schwartz bears resemblance to nothing so much as his starring role as used record store owner Rob Gordon in his next New Crime effort, High Fidelity. Although Gordon is much better looking than Schwartz and infinitely more attractive to women, his inability to come to terms with his own adulthood propels him into one hopeless relationship after another. In both performances, Cusack willingly plays against his own attractiveness in order to create characters that are both utterly lost and curiously powerful.

As Cusack enters his mid-thirties, he seems to be experimenting with his own persona even as he is pushing the limits of the Hollywood system. He is, as Time magazine dubbed him, "the hip, cutting-edge, counterculture-but-inside-the-Establishment, Trojan horse guy."

—Victoria Price

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John Cusack

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