skip navigation
John Cusack

John Cusack

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (1)

Also Known As: John Paul Cusack Died:
Born: June 28, 1966 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Evanston, Illinois, USA Profession: actor, playwright, director, producer, screenwriter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Engaging and accessible onscreen, protective and guarded in private, actor John Cusack built an exceptional career by making unusual film choices and steering clear of the Hollywood machine. Originally a member of the notorious Brat Pack from the early 1980s, starring in the likes of "Better Off Dead" (1985) and "One Crazy Summer" (1986), Cusack managed to accomplish the rare feat of flourishing as a dramatic actor, beyond the confines of teen comedies. Even during his height as a teen comedy star, Cusack had already been branching out, appearing in John Sayles' "Eight Men Out" (1988) and forming his own Chicago-based theater company. But it was his starring turn in Cameron Crowe's eternal "Say Anything" (1990) that propelled Cusack into the limelight. From then on the actor had his pick of the litter, typically choosing films that fell out of the mainstream, like "Grosse Point Blank" (1997), "Being John Malkovich" (1999) and "High Fidelity" (2000). While he did pepper in the occasional blockbuster, "Con Air" (1997) chief among them, Cusack retained his flare for the unconventional, solidifying his reputation as an actor of high quality and integrity.Cusack was born June 28, 1966 in Evanston, IL...

Engaging and accessible onscreen, protective and guarded in private, actor John Cusack built an exceptional career by making unusual film choices and steering clear of the Hollywood machine. Originally a member of the notorious Brat Pack from the early 1980s, starring in the likes of "Better Off Dead" (1985) and "One Crazy Summer" (1986), Cusack managed to accomplish the rare feat of flourishing as a dramatic actor, beyond the confines of teen comedies. Even during his height as a teen comedy star, Cusack had already been branching out, appearing in John Sayles' "Eight Men Out" (1988) and forming his own Chicago-based theater company. But it was his starring turn in Cameron Crowe's eternal "Say Anything" (1990) that propelled Cusack into the limelight. From then on the actor had his pick of the litter, typically choosing films that fell out of the mainstream, like "Grosse Point Blank" (1997), "Being John Malkovich" (1999) and "High Fidelity" (2000). While he did pepper in the occasional blockbuster, "Con Air" (1997) chief among them, Cusack retained his flare for the unconventional, solidifying his reputation as an actor of high quality and integrity.

Cusack was born June 28, 1966 in Evanston, IL into an Irish Catholic family. His father, Richard, was a screenwriter, actor and advertising executive, and his mother, Nancy, was a math teacher. When he was 9-years-old, Cusack followed older sisters Ann and Joan to the Piven Theater Workshop in Evanston, a theater run by family friends. Cusack began appearing in local stage productions, commercials and industrial films by the time he was in Nichols Junior High. When he reached the tender age of 16, he made his feature debut in the teen sex comedy "Class" (1983), followed by an appearance in "Grandview U.S.A." (1984) and a small role as the nerdy friend of Anthony Michael Hall in "Sixteen Candles" (1984). After graduating from Evanston Township High School, he attended New York University, but dropped out after less than a year. Meanwhile, Cusack landed a leading role in "The Sure Thing," playing a college student on a cross-country road trip to claim the title girl, instead falling for his uptight traveling companion. Also in 1985, he was featured in the Disney Depression-era adventure "The Journey of Natty Gann" and starred as a heartbroken teen Lane Myer in the classic comedy "Better Off Dead."

Cusack reunited with Reiner with a significant and well-acted cameo as Wil Wheaton's late older brother in "Stand By Me" (1986), then starred in "One Crazy Summer," director Savage Steve Holland's follow up to "Better Off Dead." After a starring role in the inanely madcap comedy "Hot Pursuit" (1987), Cusack began his segue into adult acting with roles in John Sayles' acclaimed look on the 1919 Black Sox scandal "Eight Men Out" and the odd comedy "Tapeheads" (1988). As part of the ensemble of "Eight Men Out," Cusack gave a moving performance as third baseman Buck Weaver, who prized the love of the game over money, but still ended his career in disgrace despite protesting his innocence till the day he died. Less admirable, however, was Ivan Alexeev, his incompetent and sleazy character in "Tapeheads." Starring alongside Tim Robbins (with whom he was previously paired in "The Sure Thing"), the duo portrayed enterprising music video directors and proved a winning team. While "Tapeheads" did little box office business, the wacky comedy enjoyed cult favorite status on the video store shelves.

While most of his early work was marked by affable, but slightly neurotic characters, he hit new heights with a starring role in "Say Anything." Having already graduated to adult parts, the actor took this teen role, recognizing it as an excellent way to end that portion of his career. Cusack's note perfect portrayal of Lloyd Dobler was a highlight of this remarkable film, helping the smart, idealistic and sensitive character become a favorite with awkward teens for years to come. Also in 1989, Cusack starred as a nuclear physicist in the fascinating "Fat Man and Little Boy," a drama focusing on the personal struggles behind the manufacture of the atomic bomb. The following year, he starred in "The Grifters," Stephen Frears' modern take on film noir featuring the actor as a con artist with a mother (Anjelica Huston) and love interest (Annette Bening) who are also masters of deception. Unfortunate miscasting marred the predictable "True Colors" (1991), with audiences unable to accept the charming Cusack as an opportunistic political climber and the often villainous James Spader as an ethically sound justice crusader despite both turning in strong performances.

Instead of riding the momentum of his success in adult roles, Cusack took small parts, often in odd projects, for the next couple of years. He first collaborated with Woody Allen in "Shadows and Fog" (1991) with a considerably smaller role than one with his reputation might be expected to play. In 1992, he had a cameo as a misguided revolutionary in the very strange "Roadside Prophets" and also appeared in Tim Robbins' impressive directorial debut "Bob Roberts." Cusack appeared again with Robbins as himself in Robert Altman's Hollywood satire "The Player" (1992), then followed with a supporting role in the period drama "Map of the Human Heart" (1993). His return to the starring fore was a role in the small film "Money for Nothing" (1993), playing an unemployed man who finds $1 million that fell from an armored car. Cusack was reportedly unhappy with the final edit of the film, arguing that it didn't focus much on character, making a potentially arresting film far less remarkable. Reuniting with Woody Allen, he appeared in the entertaining "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994), playing a playwright who sacrifices his ideals for success on the Great White Way. Playing the straight man off his eccentric co-stars, Cusack gave a strong performance in a role typically essayed by the director. He quickly followed with a supporting part in Alan Parker's period comedy "The Road to Wellville" (1994), then starring role in the independent "Floundering" (1994).

In 1996, Cusack gave a notable performance as a young, idealistic deputy mayor alongside Al Pacino in the well-made drama "City Hall." An uncharacteristic turn in 1997's action blockbuster "Con Air" opened doors for the actor to make his feature debut as a producer and screenwriter with "Grosse Pointe Blank" (1997). This highly amusing and well-crafted black comedy starred Cusack as a hit man who returned to his home town for his high school reunion with the dual purpose of doing a job and winning back his former sweetheart (Minnie Driver). The film proved Cusack as a player with many talents, thanks to the film production arm of New Crime Productions which went on to develop future projects. Rounding out a busy year, he lent his voice to Dimitri, the male lead, in the animated feature "Anastasia" (1997) and gave an impressive performance in Clint Eastwood's "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (1997). The actor's skill for floating above an unbelievable situation and seeming like the only sane person in the film was used to its fullest by Eastwood in this compelling drama. The actor was featured in the ensemble cast of the Terrence Malick's celebrated return to film, meditative World War II drama "The Thin Red Line" (1998), in which he was cast as a captain who leads a charge to take a hill held by the enemy. Cusack made a rare television appearance in the HBO Western "The Jack Bull" (1999), a film scripted by his father. A long-in-development project, the film cast the actor as a justice-seeking horse trader on the wrong side of the law and was produced by New Crime Productions.

On the big screen, Cusack was featured as an oddly likable but high-strung air traffic controller in Mike Newell's comedy "Pushing Tin" (1999) who competes with colleague Billy Bob Thornton. True to form, he also made a cameo appearance as a pilot integral to the plot in the period romance "This Is My Father," directed by Paul Quinn. In the spirit of experimental endeavors, Cusack starred in the conceptual fantasy "Being John Malkovich," helmed by celebrated music video director Spike Jonze, then portrayed Nelson Rockefeller in Tim Robbins' "Cradle Will Rock" (1999), the true story of a Depression-era struggle between artistic and political interests. Next up for the actor was "High Fidelity" (2000), Stephen Frears' adaptation of Nick Hornby's best selling novel, with the story moved from London to Chicago and starring Cusack as an immature thirtysomething record shop owner unlucky in love. Cusack - who was also involved in developing and producing the feature - was at his anti-romantic romantic lead best in the film, utterly convincing and relatable, even when his fringe-loving character was behaving his worst. Although unacknowledged by the major awards circuit, the film was a capstone performance for the actor.

Unfortunately, Cusack's long high-quality streak faltered when he took roles in a pair of clunky, conventional mainstream studio comedies, the shockingly unfunny "America's Sweethearts" (2001), striking few sparks as part of a Hollywood love triangle opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones as a glam movie star and Julia Roberts as her no-longer plump or dowdy sister and assistant; and the sweet-but-too-pat "Serendipity" (2001) - lifting the film with his enormous likeability, Cusack evidenced better chemistry with real-life pal Jeremy Piven than he did with romantic lead Kate Beckinsale when the two played lovers whom fate seems determined to bring together. The actor fared better in the more serious and less commercial "Max" (2002), writer-director Menno Menyjes' study of the relationship between youthful, frustrated artist Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor) and Jewish art dealer Max Rothman (Cusack). The critically praised film won the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Fest in 2003. Cusack scored again in another atypical role in "Identity" (2003), an audience-pleasing thriller in which Cusack plays one of 10 strangers who, while stranded by a storm together in a hotel, discover the unexpected connections between one another - even as they begin to turn up dead one by one.

In another shrewd yet commercial career move, Cusack took the lead in "Runaway Jury" (2003), an adaptation of author John Grisham's bestselling legal potboiler, playing Nicholas Easter, a jury member caught up in a deadly conflict when a master manipulator tries to control the outcome of a controversial verdict. After an appearance in the less-than-satisfying comedy "Must Love Dogs" (2005) opposite Diane Lane, the actor was especially effective as the lead in director Harold Ramis' bleak, comic film noir "The Ice Harvest" (2005), in which he played a mob accountant trying to survive a violent, icy Christmas Eve after he and his partner (Billy Bob Thornton) steal a small fortune from his boss (Randy Quaid). After appearing in "The Future Is Unwritten" (2007), a documentary about punk rocker Joe Strummer, Cusack returned to horror fare with "1408" (2007), portraying a horror novelist who locks himself into a notoriously haunted hotel room to write his latest project, only to get a taste of his own fiction. In "War, Inc." (2008), a satire co-written by Cusack, he played a conscience-conflicted hit man hired by the former U.S. vice president (Dan Aykroyd) to assassinate the oil minister (Lyubomir Neikov) of the fictional country Turaqistan. He was next featured in "2012" (2009), director Roland Emmerich's CGI-fueled disaster flick about a global cataclysm that brings about the end of the world, as predicted by the Mayan calendar. Pulling in an international haul of more than $750 million, the movie proved to be one of the biggest of Cusack's career.

In 2010, Cusack returned to comedy with "Hot Tub Time Machine," which found a respectable audience for its unapologetically ridiculous conceit. He also starred in the little-seen Chinese-set period piece "Shanghai," featuring Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li. After a quiet 2011, Cusack channeled revered writer Edgar Allan Poe in the period thriller "The Raven" (2012) and appeared in Lee Daniels' melodrama "The Paperboy" (2012), starring Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron. Although he subsequently turned up in some forgettable action movies, including "The Frozen Ground" (2013) with his "Con Air" co-star Nicolas Cage, he also successfully reunited with Daniels for the decades-spanning tale "The Butler" (2013), which featured Cusack, improbably enough, as Richard Nixon.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Love & Mercy (2015)
2.
 Chi-raq (2015)
3.
 Shanghai (2015)
4.
 Dragon Blade (2015)
5.
 Kickback (2015)
6.
7.
 Bag Man, The (2014)
8.
 Prince, The (2014)
9.
 Reclaim (2014)
10.
 Grand Piano (2014)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Appeared in industrial films, doing voiceovers in commercials and acting in radio spots by the age of 12
1982:
Went on first feature audition at age 16 for "Class"
1983:
Screen acting debut as a prep school student in the coming-of-age comedy "Class"
1984:
Cast as one of the main nerds featured in "Sixteen Candles"; sister Joan also appeared in film
1985:
Played first leading role in Rob Reiner's "The Sure Thing"; first screen teaming with Tim Robbins
1985:
Featured in Disney's "The Journey of Natty Gann"
1985:
Starred as a heartbroken teen in the comedy "Better Off Dead"
1986:
Landed memorable cameo in "Stand By Me," helmed by Rob Reiner
1986:
Founded New Crime Productions, a Chicago based theater company
1987:
Starred in the inane comedy "Hot Pursuit"
1988:
First adult role, starring opposite Tim Robbins in the zany comedy "Tapeheads"
1988:
Featured in the ensemble "Eight Men Out," John Sayles' film of the 1919 Black Sox scandal
1989:
Last teen role as cult icon Lloyd Dobler in Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything"; sister Joan also starred in film
1989:
Starred as a nuclear physicist working on the atomic bomb in World War II in "Fat Man and Little Boy"
1990:
Played Anjelica Huston's con artist son in Stephen Frears' "The Grifters"
:
Directed a stage production of Hunter S Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"
1991:
Cast as an ethically corrupt political climber opposite an idealistic James Spader in the drama "True Colors"
1991:
Landed a small role in "Shadows and Fog"; first film with Woody Allen
1992:
Featured with a strange cameo role in the offbeat comedy "Roadside Prophets"
1992:
Cast in small role in Tim Robbins' directorial debut "Bob Roberts"
1992:
Formed the film production arm of New Crime Productions with Paramount Pictures
1993:
Played supporting role in the period drama "Map of the Human Heart"
1994:
Reteamed with Woody Allen with a featured role as a playwright in "Bullets Over Broadway"
1994:
Co-starred in Alan Parker's satire "The Road to Wellville"
1996:
Played a young, idealistic deputy mayor of New York in the political drama "City Hall"
1997:
Co-produced, scripted and starred in the sharp, high-school reunion set action-comedy "Grosse Pointe Blank"
1997:
Starred as a U.S. Marshal in the summer action blockbuster "Con Air"
1997:
Voiced the male lead Dimitri in the animated feature "Anastasia"
1997:
Starred in Clint Eastwood's uneven screen adaptation of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"
1998:
Featured in the ensemble cast of Terrence Malick's sweeping war drama "The Thin Red Line"
1999:
Cast as Craig Schwartz puppeteer who discovers a portal into the brain of the titular movie actor in Spike Jonze's experimental film "Being John Malkovich"
1999:
Starred in the western "The Jack Bull," written by his father Dick Cusack
1999:
Played a high-strung air traffic controller in Mike Newell's "Pushing Tin"
1999:
Played Nelson Rockefeller in Tim Robbins' "Cradle Will Rock"
2000:
Reteamed with Frears for "High Fidelity," playing an immature record-obsessed thirtysomething; based on Nick Hornby's acclaimed novel
2001:
Teamed romantically onscreen with Kate Beckinsale in "Serendipity"
2002:
Starred in the Nazi drama feature "Max," written and directed by Menno Meyjes
2003:
Co-starred in James Mangold's psychological thriller "Identity"
2005:
Played a simple-minded attorney who tries to steal money from his mob bosses in the "Ice Harvest," directed by Harold Ramis
2007:
Starred in the indie drama "Grace Is Gone," playing a father who embarks on a road trip with his two daughters after his wife is killed in the line of duty in Iraq; premiered at Sundance
2007:
Once again teamed with Dutch filmmaker Menno Meyjes in "The Martian Child"
2008:
Co-wrote, produced and starred in the political satire "War, Inc."
2009:
Played Jackson Curtis, a book writer and limo driver in Roland Emmerich's disaster film "2012"
2010:
Produced and starred in the sci-fi comedy "Hot Tub Time Machine"
2012:
Portrayed Edgar Allan Poe in mystery thriller "The Raven"
2012:
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
2012:
Co-starred with Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, and Matthew McConaughey in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy"
2013:
Appeared as Richard Nixon in Daniels' "The Butler"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Evanston Township High School: Evanston , Illinois -
New York University: New York , New York -
Nichols Junior High: Evanston , Illinois -
Piven Theater Workshop: Evanston , Illinois -

Notes

In addition to his large body of film work, Cusack has directed, produced and written for as well as acted on the stage. In 1986 he co-founded New Crime Productions, a Chicago-based troupe specializing in experimental theater. He has staged an adaptation of Hunter S Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and in 1990 won Chicago's Joseph Jefferson citation for his direction of "Methusalem".

"I don't want to be involved in anything that's jingoistic or sensationalistic, ... People in Hollywood don't think about the moral ramifications of what they do. They're trying to make a buck, and they continually whitewash history. A movie like 'Top Gun' drives up army enlistments because people think they're going to get to fly jets and meet Kelly McGillis, when in reality they're going to be chipping paint off an aircraft carrier." --John Cusack quoted in Premiere, 1990.

Cusack on trying his hand at different aspects of the film industry: "It's sort of a selfish instinct--I'm just trying to make stuff that I would be excited to work in. The worst thing is to wait around and be at the whim of directors and producers who want you to do their thing, who might not have anything to say about your character, but since they are in a position of power, you've gotta work with them for six months. Why not just do it yourself?" --quoted in Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1994.

"You want to hear my brilliant strategy? I don't have one. I just see a lot of talented young actors who burn out, or get such a bad rep with their romantic-poetic-destructive bullshit that no one gives them work. They think they have to be Van Gogh and suffer enormously. They don't have the political savvy to make it through. I'm here for the long haul, directing, producing, everything." --Cusack on his status as a respected and successful actor, quoted in Premiere, March 1996.

"I find it interesting that people always equate money with success. I thought I was successful; I was working with the best filmmakers--John Sayles, Woody Allen, Stephen Frears. But other people say, 'Why aren't you in those $100 million films?' And I said 'I don't know, I just didn't like the scripts.' [But] you also feel if you wanna make 'Gross Pointe Blank' and things like that, you play with the system and do one of the big movies. It just gives you more freedom to do what you wanna do." --Cusack on taking on a role in the action blockbuster "Con Air", an atypical career move for him, quoted in Daily News, April 7, 1997.

"If I go to Chicago and I go out to dinner, it's in the papers the next day. If you let off steam at someone, even if they deserve it, it's in the papers the next day. So that's kind of a drag, but there's got to be a trade off for being able to create and make a lot of money and get all this opportunity." --Cusack quoted in Los Angeles Times, April 18, 1999.

In 2002, Cusack attended a school board meeting of the Schoolhouse Foundation. He then helped cover the groups adminstrative costs.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Minnie Driver. Actor.
companion:
Alison Eastwood. Actor. Dated in 1997.
companion:
Claire Forlani. Actor. Dated c. 1997-98.
companion:
Corina Katt. Actor. Reportedly dated in 1998; she claims they were "just friends".
companion:
Neve Campbell. Actor. Reportedly dating as of late fall 1998; no longer dating as of December 2002.
companion:
Jodi Lyn O'Keefe. Reportedly dating as of Fall 2003.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Richard Cusack. Screenwriter, actor. Owner of film production company; appeared in "The Fugitive" (1993); died June 2, 2003.
mother:
Nancy Cusack. Math teacher.
sister:
Ann Cusack. Actor. Born on May 22, 1961; appeared in "Grosse Point Blank".
sister:
Joan Cusack. Actor. Born on October 11, 1962; appeared in "Say Anything" (1989).
brother:
Bill Cusack. Actor. Born c. 1964; appeared in "Ed Wood".
sister:
Susie Cusack. Actor. Born c. 1971.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute