Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Inside John Cusack

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Inside John Cusack

Article excerpt

One of the drawbacks of fame, John Cusack has discovered, is that it makes it harder for an actor to be a professional snoop.

"A lot of times, in the beginning," he said, "an actor will sit in the corner and watch people and try to soak up things like a sponge. After you become well known, you can't really do that anymore, because when you walk into the room, you change the equation.

"Instead of acting normal, so you can watch them, people are busy watching you. So you have to go inside yourself to find your characters. That's probably what you should do anyway."

Did he look inside himself to prepare for the lead role of a playwright in Woody Allen's latest movie, "Bullets Over Broadway"?

"Well, in this case it was pretty easy," he said. "I've done a lot of theater, I know a lot of theater people. And the character: idealistic, committed, vain. I've got all those things inside me.

"But the most important thing was Woody Allen. With Woody, it's all right there on the page."

"Bullets Over Broadway" is scheduled to open here next Friday. In the comedy, the 28-year-old Cusack plays the role Allen probably would have had 20 years ago: David Shayne, an overly introspective, naive young playwright who believes he is above compromise, but who ends up selling out on a wholesale level to get his play produced on Broadway.

Cusack is also one of the stars of "The Road to Wellville," a satire about health faddism in 1907 that opens today.

"Bullets Over Broadway" is set in the 1920s, when Broadway, with its large theaters and glamorous stars, occupied a place in the American consciousness similar to that held by Hollywood today.

The superb cast includes Dianne Wiest, playing an aging prima-donna actress who agrees to star in the play and immediately begins to seduce Shayne into making her part bigger and more operatic; Jennifer Tilly as an equally egotistical, shrill-voiced showgirl whose gangster boyfriend is financing the show, and Tracey Ullman and Jim Broadbent (the dentist in "Widow's Peak") as two other stars with their own notions and quirky needs. Mary-Louise Parker is Shayne's fiancee, loving but not to the point of blindness to his betrayals, Jack Warden plays a shrewd cigar-chomping producer, and Rob Reiner is a fellow playwright, a Marxist who boasts he does not want his work performed at all because that would taint its artistic purity.

Into the middle of this melange of egos comes Chazz Palmenteri ("A Bronx Tale") as an untutored mob bodyguard who demonstrates surprising dramatic talent.

"It was a joy to work every day with that cast," said Cusack, interviewed at the Toronto Film Festival. "It was a little scary at first working with Woody, sure, but I had worked with him before, on `Shadows and Fog,' so I got over it pretty quickly.

"When Woody gives you a ring, it's really flattering and thrilling. …

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