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John Cusack still willing to “Say Anything” in (614) interview

J.R. McMillan

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If actors are fortunate, they’re remembered for one film that epitomizes the angst, anxiety, and aspirations of a generation. John Cusack has a career full of them. From cult to iconic, acclaimed to obscure, it’s perhaps impossible to overstate his influence or put him in a box.

Indelible ensemble performances in Sixteen Candles and Stand by Me, along with leading roles in The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead, earned Cusack an early reputation as a relatable and reliable talent just as the prospects for many of his teen comedy contemporaries were flaming out after puberty.

Then came Say Anything, which remains the anthem for every misfit who’s punched above his weight, and every girl who’s fallen for the one guy her friends and parents were quick to dismiss.

Cusack could have quit at the end of the credits and we’d still be talking about Lloyd Dobler and his boombox 30 years later. But instead of subpar sequels, he offered a second act we rarely see—one built on personal passion, purposeful projects, and the crisis of conscience that closely parallels the teen rite of passage that could have easily typecast him into oblivion.

“I had the luxury to work in film when it was a little less corporate. People who ran the studios were individuals. They would have a portfolio they’d take to shareholders and say, ‘Here are our tentpole films,’ ” Cusack explained. “But they had six or seven movies a year they would give to artists they liked. I got to make Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity, Spike Lee got to make Summer of Sam, and Wes Anderson got to make Rushmore. It was because of the tastes of a guy named Joe Roth who ran Fox, and ran Disney. We never had to beg for money, and we never had to protect the cuts.”

Even if not for Roth’s old school style and reluctance to treat test screenings as more than just another metric, Cusack also wrote and co-produced Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. Wearing multiple hats in Hollywood doesn’t always mean you get your way. But at the time, Cusack’s artistic vision and authority on both films were nearly absolute.

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“I sort of bridged the gap between the 60s and 70s filmmaking culture and from about 2000 on when the film companies became a very, very, small fraction of multinational corporations,” he recalled. “All I had to do for those movies was tell Joe, ‘We’re going to shoot this in 48 days.’ I wasn’t going to go a day over schedule or waste any of his money. We didn’t have to deal with financiers or studio interference. I never felt like any film I made with Joe was compromised artistically. It was a different era.”

Cusack has an impressive history of prophetic films that seemed to predict everything from the rise of mixed martial arts to the renaissance of vinyl records. And even though politics can be polarizing, his films never shy away from them.

“But I’ve always been pretty consistent about needing to say what you feel and the need to put provocative stuff, dangerous stuff into art.”

Have his outspoken opinions closed some doors, or opened others? If so, he hasn’t noticed, and doubts any such differences or decisions run that deep. Much like his earlier characters, Cusack still isn’t worried about winning a high school popularity contest or becoming prom king.

“Hollywood financiers have become far more shallow and the ethics are so transactional, I don’t think people pay attention long enough to consider politics as much as what’s hot right now,” he opined. “But I’ve always been pretty consistent about needing to say what you feel and the need to put provocative stuff, dangerous stuff into art.”

Cusack’s characters are often an everyman at odds with the status quo, though he can still pull off the affable anti-hero—as a serial grifter, a contract killer, and a political assassin. But Cusack is also an underrated chameleon, having transformed into a surprising range of real-life characters, from Nelson Rockefeller in Cradle Will Rock and Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven to Richard Nixon in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. Inhabiting someone else’s skin is a challenge and responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.

“You immerse yourself in a character. Obviously Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Nixon aren’t going to give you any notes. But I hope the real-life characters I’ve played represent the essence of them, the spirit of them. You don’t want to do a literal imitation, but you hope you capture some part of them that’s eternal.”

With the advent of streaming services and digital downloads, Cusack’s earlier work is connecting with new fans, often the children of those who came of age in the 80s and 90s. And though some actors may cringe at the prospect of their earlier endeavors becoming easier to find and effectively lasting forever, the timelessness of Cusack’s films, old and new, still rings true.

“There’s a great story about one of my favorite films, Sweet Smell of Success. It came out and got savage reviews. People can’t see new art when it comes out. So it sat on a shelf until someone at WGN said, ‘We have this Burt Lancaster/Tony Curtis movie. Why don’t we start playing it?” It got a cult following being screened at 10 o’clock or midnight on,” Cusack explained. “Then Barry Levinson had one of the characters in Diner quoting from the movie all the time. It finally started to get looked at again, and it’s a classic. It’s easily considered Lancaster and Curtis’ best work, but it was gone for 30 years. Now, you can’t kill a film. No matter what you do to a film, it’s going to find its audience sooner or later.”

CAPA will be presenting a live Q&A with John Cusack following a screening of High Fidelity at the Palace Theatre on February 15. Visit www.capa.com for details and ticket information.

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Arts & Culture

Virtual Experiences bring culture to our couch

614Now

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Now that we're all stuck at home for the foreseeable future, we could use some entertainment beyond hours of Netflix bingeing. And yes, Carole probably did it*

WOSU Public Media has come to the rescue by putting together a list of local, virtual experiences to enjoy from the safety and comfort of your bunker. Here's a list of just a few upcoming events ranging from music to the arts.

Sunday, March 29
Columbus Symphony’s Russian Winter Festival – The Columbus Symphony broadcasts its Russian Winter Festival ll concert, featuring masterpieces by Prokofiev, Borodin, Rimski-Korsakov, and Tchaikovsky at 1 p.m. on Classical 101.

Columbus Goes Live – The Cyber Festival –  A virtual entertainment experience streaming across different pages to support local performers who are directly impacted by the critical shutdowns of venues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Join in and make history by supporting your favorite bands, comedians and performers in the Columbus area.

Why not a virtual bar?

Brewdog is even getting in on the act with its upcoming, Brewdog Online Bar. They plan to "open" for business at 6pm on Friday, March 27th. The bar plans to feature live beer tastings with our co-founders James and Martin and other beer experts, homebrew masterclasses, live music & comedy and more.

Brewdog will be sharing further details soon and a complete schedule of the events on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

*Carole, as in this Carole.

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Things To Do

8 things to do this week that don’t involve human contact

614now Staff

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It is a strange time to be alive, Columbus. With the concerns and cases of coronavirus on the rise, you may be feeling worried, fearful, and/or unsure of what to do.

In addition to washing your hands to protect you from the virus, you may want to consider being more of an inside person this week. To curb cabin fever, consider these eight activities to keep you occupied indoors.

Plan a getaway

Once the threat of coronavirus is over, which Gov. Mike DeWine assured would happen in yesterday's address, you'll be ready to get the hell out of Columbus. Consider planning a trip to one of the Scarlet Oaks cabins, Gervasi Vineyard in Canton, Yellowsprings, or the birthplace of bourbon!

Schedule a whacky road trip

Already have a vacation on the books and worked into your budget? No problem! Opt for a cheaper, shorter adventure with one of the destinations highlighted in our Worth The Drive series: Buckeye Express Diner in Bellville, Kewpee Hamburgers in Lima, Cincinnati's Hathaway's Diner, Dietsch Brothers chocolate in Findlay, and Waldo’s G&R Tavern.

Test your Columbus knowledge

You're sick of all your board games and you hate the idea of spending another weekend in front of the tube. Liven up your entertainment with Columbus trivia! What is the hottest month on average? What is Hilliard's median household income? What year did the Kahiki close? See how well you know your fine city.

Binge local podcasts

Not only do podcasts entertain, inform, and engage you, they're also great to binge while multitasking. Podcast + mopping the kitchen? No problem. Podcast + walking the dog? Easy. Podcast + julienning veggies? Careful… but definitely possible. Be sure to support local podcasters! We're sure you can find something that'll pique your interest in the list below.

Get hooked on knitting

What better time to dive into your hobby than a worldwide viral outbreak? And though cold weather is almost completely behind us, it's never too early to get a jumpstart on those Christmas gifts. Click the button below to learn more about where to find materials and resources.

Explore the pasta-bilities of a home-cooked meal

You’re probably hungry after all that knitting. Flex on the fam by whipping up a delectable home-cooked Italian meal. You'll have to slip out of the house to grab your groceries from famed local market Carfagna’s, but trust us, it'll be worth it.

Get hyped for Ohio State Buckeyes 2020-21 season

With no spring game to rev your engine pre-season, you may be feeling a Buckeyes football void right about now. To help plug it until the opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 5, check out old Ohio State hype videos below. O-H!

Read the latest issue of (614) Magazine

The physical copies of the March issue of (614) Magazine are flying off the racks, but you don't have to go out into the world to read it. To learn more about the Columbus esport revolution, the latest food and drink news, and other updates in the community, click the button below to read the digital issue.

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Things To Do

Listen Local: 10 Columbus podcasts to binge

Regina Fox

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The thing with binging TV is that you have to be using two senses at once to be engaged: sight and hearing. That really cuts down on the possibilities of getting other things done simultaneously. But, podcasts on the other hand require only one sense—hearing—so the productivity possibilities are exponentially greater.

Podcast + mopping the kitchen? No problem. Podcast + walking the dog? Easy. Podcast + julienning veggies? Careful... but definitely possible.

That, plus the power of spoken word has the ability to inform, entertain, and inspire you unlike any other media.

Now that we've presented a great case for podcasts, consider subscribing to one made right here in Columbus.

The Rock Doc Chronicles

Interviews, Current Events, Entertainment

Being the on-call doctor to some of your favorite musical acts comes with a lot of stories. Dr Randy Sharma (@rockdocohio) sits down with some of his famous patients to discuss whatever comes to mind.

Ohio v. The World

Culture, History, Places & Travel

An Ohio History podcast, hosted by Alex Hastie.

Rogue Squadron Podcast

Culture, Entertainment, Hobbies

Star Wars Comedy, craft beer, gaming, and more. It’s the rowdiest podcast in the galaxy!

Momcast

Culture, Entertainment, Self-Help

Columbus, Ohio moms Mindy Drayer, Mikaela Hunt, and Stacy McKay discuss everything relating to being moms and parenting on weekly installments of the Momcast.

Columbus' Entrepreneurs' Podcast

Business, Entrepreneur

Columbus Entrepreneurs’ Podcast is primarily for members of the Columbus, Ohio chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). The stories are inspiring and focus on core principles of EO, including speaking from experience instead of advice giving, building peer learning experiences, and focusing on the top and bottom 5% of our lives.

Chatimals

Entertainment, Hobbies

Chatimals is the nature podcast where information meets imagination. Each episode covers one kind of animal with an eye out for all the goofy, surprising animal facts.

The Sounds of Bustown

Culture, Entertainment, Music

A bi-weekly podcast featuring interviews about the musical creation process with people in the music scene in Columbus, OH.

Thrive and Connect

Culture, Self-Help

How to live your life in a more genuine, simpler manner and develop abundance in all aspects – yourself, family & friends, and business relationships.

Columbus! Something New

Culture, Entertainment, Places & Travel

Why do we do what we do? Why does C!SN exist?

  • To introduce listeners to local entrepreneurs and big thinkers
  • To be a conduit between community and events, museums, and new experiences
  • To be a value to entrepreneurs as we broadcast them to the world
  • To be a value to listeners as we expand their world and bring them new ideas

The Digital Analytics Power Hour

Business, Technology

Each episode is a closed topic and an open forum – the goal is for listeners to enjoy listening to Michael and Tim share their thoughts and experiences and hopefully take away something to try at work the next day.

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