John Cusack Interview
John Cusack Interview
So, you’ve let go of it?

John Cusack

I like to think of it the other way, which is just if people like it now, then great, but if they say, ‘It wasn’t as successful as Sherlock Holmes,’ then you go ‘Okay, but let’s just wait and see in five or six years and see what the people think.’ I’ve done movies that were modest successes that people still talk about 10 years later a lot and I’ve done movies that were hits and nobody even thinks about them. You have to just let a piece of art go out there.

This could be successful, I think, because it is very McTeigue. Poe was writing for a mass audience, he was writing for thrills and he was writing for horror, but he just put a lot more sophistication underneath it. He had so much stuff going on, so it could be both. It could be art-house and it could be pop.
Like Sherlock Holmes, who had a massive fan-base, did people know about Poe?

John Cusack

He sort of invented Sherlock Holmes. Inspector [Auguste] Dupin is Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle credited Poe as the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
You still have to bring all of those elements to Poe as well as elements of a thriller and uncovering a serial killer. When you start the film, for instance, you’re quite an unlikeable character and yet you’re the hero of the piece. Was that a difficult thing to do?

John Cusack

I thought it was really interesting. When we started the thing off we made sure that we really used his language and his idiom to make him as complex and as fucked up and all that stuff, to do the Poe thing. And then the narrative starts and it starts to go like a locomotive, so you’re doing things but then there are these moments when you stop and the characters have to just catch their breath, and those are the moments when you have to reveal more character. As it’s picking up momentum you keep revealing character on the run and it’s a very interesting way to do it because there’s momentum.

You always go back to his language. You go back to all his stories and you’re like, let me see how he insulted all these different men and let’s take this thing here and say that to Brendan Gleeson! Look what he wrote here, this is horrible - look at how mean he is. You can always go back and find shit.
Obviously, these are his last days, so he’s also looking at his legacy ...

John Cusack

It’s funny because The Raven was world famous and he actually went to The White House, but he got drunk - he showed up drunk at the White House because he was on a bender. But The Raven was published all over the world and he was a famous poet. But there was no copyright, so he couldn’t get any money for it, and he couldn’t make any money from his books. So, he was one of the first people to try and be a professional writer, actually; he was the first professional journalist.

But he was famous for living in a hovel. He was so destructive and would burn every bridge that he ever fucking built, like any connection he would have with editors, any other writer, I mean you’re talking about a guy who would self-sabotage. He was at war with the entire world. He would write these vicious attacks on other people’s writings and you could tell he’s just trying to totally destroy the other writer.
When I think of your films, I think of them as very political and sometimes overtly so. Grosse Point Blank, War Inc and so on. Are there politics in The Raven?

John Cusack

Yeah, I think so. What are the politics of Poe? They’re more internal. Poets are political, they have to be reflections of their times [because] they’re living in their times. But I see him more as a pioneer to the sub-conscious. But putting anything poetic out there is political. If you think of the movies - poetry is political in that it’s standing in opposition to fascism. Good poetry asks a bunch of questions and asks the audience to interact with themselves or see themselves in it; maybe you like it or you don’t like it. But the fascist sort of stuff plays on your fears and tells you to jump on the party line and gives some simple excuses – blame this person, blame that person, right?
Do you see Poe as a kindred spirit at all?

John Cusack

To me? No, I would never - he’s a genius and I’m an actor. But I think you can see yourself in any of these great people if they represent that shadow side of you.
Do you have a favourite scene in The Raven?

John Cusack

I loved the writing in the bar scene. I thought that was before the narrative happened and I thought it was really good. And I just liked some of the language in different scenes. I think the scene with Fields [Luke Evans], where he starts to yell at him or call him a boy or a child or something, and then they realise they need each other - there’s moments where the elegance or the humanity of the character comes out that I think the writing is really good. I was just really happy to work with that kind of writing and that kind of character.
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Content updated: 18/08/2019 20:11

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