Five Favorite Films with John Cusack
The man synonymous with the Top Five list runs down his favorite horror films; plus, he talks about playing Edgar Allan Poe and his underworld phase.
If there's one actor who was made for the five favorite films quiz, it's John Cusack, the man who spent the better part of High Fidelity dispensing his own top five lists on matters of girls, relationships, and of course, records.
"Weirdly, I'm not a 'top five' guy," Cusack smiles when we sit down with him to ask the question, before traces of his character start to emerge. "It depends on your mood and how you're feeling," he explains. "You gotta give this to me as a genre. I can tell you by different genres." Since Cusack is in town to promote The Raven -- a pulpy murder thriller in which he plays the Godfather of American Goth, Edgar Allan Poe -- he decided to run through his five favorite horror films. "We could do the horror genre," he says, "you know, the scariest movies. I've made a couple, but I don't know how good they are --'cause I'm in 'em."
Read on for more of our chat with Cusack, in which he talks about his attraction to playing Poe and the many sides of the writer, but first, here are his Five Favorite (Horror) Films.
(William Friedkin, 1973; 85% Tomatometer)
As far as the horror genre, I think The Exorcist is the scariest movie of all time. It's like head and shoulders above... there's nothing more terrifying, or deeply sinister than that. When I saw The Exorcist, at that time when I was a kid, I may have slept with the light on. I can't remember the exact time [I saw it], but I remember being literally knocked back. You have the pure theological question about, you know, "What is the role of evil and what is the nature of evil and what is its function?" And I think in The Exorcist the point is, the reason it's here is to try and make us give up hope, and find the courage to not give up hope. Evil wants to so demoralize you that you abandon all hope; it's only human beings' capacity to love and to fight back. But that's the role of evil: To challenge, and to make you choose. And growing up as a Catholic, too, I was immersed in the theology and doctrine of the church, so that movie was a serious, serious f-cking movie.
Do you go back to it ever?
Yeah -- I mean, not all the time. But it's an intense thing. Did you ever see the recut version of it?
That was the one I saw for the first time.
I didn't like the recut version. I didn't like it as much. I thought there were a couple of scenes that he added in that were improvements, but I think the original is pretty damn perfect.
Well The Shining I thought a lot about, because we did Stephen King's 1408, which was another movie set in a hotel room, and the madness of that. But I think just seeing it in theaters, you know -- I think it's when you saw it. My mom was from Boston, so we used to go to Nantucket, and it was the summer and I remember I snuck away in the afternoon to go see it, at around 4 or 6 o'clock or something, and when I came back out it was dark and I had to walk down this dark street alone. And I remember being really, I mean really scared coming out of that theater; like, I did not want to leave the street lights to walk home. The other experience I remember was I saw Apocalypse Now in the theaters and I remember coming out of that and I almost couldn't speak. Stunned.
(George Romero, 1968; 96% Tomatometer)
There's two Romeros. Night of the Living Dead and the 1978 Dawn of the Dead. I think they're... well, it's obviously about racism, and class issues, and consumerism and capitalism, you know, thematically and satirically.
I just think the premise of holding up in a mall... being that prescient about the kind of gated communities, and consumerism, and mixing that with zombies in 1978 is just beyond genius. If you look at, like, John Waters doing Female Trouble in 1974, saying things about crime and beauty and the rise of paparazzi, you know, this kind of crazy Kardashian, TMZ, beauty industry -- I mean, as psychotic as that film is, it's so ahead of the curve. It's so amazingly looking into the future. So I think those kinds of themes I responded to. And Goblin did the original soundtrack.
(Danny Boyle, 2002; 88% Tomatometer)
Next, Cusack on the appeal of playing Poe in The Raven and why he's in his "underworld" phase.
28 Days Later... is pretty damn good. I like that movie. I just liked how Danny Boyle recreated it. I liked its heart, you know. I loved all the actors.
Great music, too. Some Godspeed You! Black Emperor in there.
Yeah. I loved the music, too.