Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

John Cusack's Content Pushing Tin and the Film Noir Envelope

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

John Cusack's Content Pushing Tin and the Film Noir Envelope

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Black, it would seem, is the operative word in John Cusack's life.

It's the color of the 32-yearold actor's typical wardrobe, the way he prefers his coffee and the style of filmmaking he champions: dark, murky and vaguely dangerous.

Yet black isn't exactly Cusack's personality.

"He's like this great big Labrador puppy that comes up at you slobbering all over the place," said Mike Newell, the director of Cusack's new offbeat comedy, Pushing Tin.

That earnest, unintentional quality is hard to miss when Cusack strides into the Four Seasons hotel lobby for an interview.

He's decked out in black, of course. Like his films, it's a mix of art-school chic and frat-boy comfort.

In Pushing Tin, Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton play two macho, messianic air-traffic controllers who become involved in a high-stakes contest of wits and wills.

"I like characters on the fringes," Cusack said. "Maybe it's their conflicts or what they go through. They're more human in some ways. Maybe it's because I've always felt like an outsider."

Much of Cusack's quirky film career can be traced to this profound unease -- he's just not the Hollywood schmoozing, air-kissing type: The one-time prince of the 1980s teen flick refuses to knuckle under.

"I play by the rules -- sometimes," he said, with a sly smile. "I think I participate in the system more than when I was younger."

Cusack said he gravitates toward characters "who have conflict and transformation," and he wants "entertainment that has ideas."

Early in his career, though, Cusack toed the line. At age 17, he landed his first semi-major part, in the teen sex romp Class. That was followed by a string of teen romance comedies including Sixteen Candles, The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead.

All that seemed to change once he raised a boom box over his head outside Ione Skye's window in 1989's Say Anything. His Lloyd Dobler, a sweet teen misfit, was portrayed with such naked yearning that the film transcended its teenybopper audience. …

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