John Cusack broke out young in phenomenally successful John Hughes projects and has managed to sustain a successful career since, more than 30 years. He’s learned a lot of lessons about Hollywood. And that’s why he lives in Chicago. We spoke with Cusack during the Toronto International Film Festival about early fame and movie stars in light of his latest role in David Cronenberg’s black comedy Maps to the Stars. Working with young actor Evan Bird who plays a spoiled young actor in the Justin Bieber mould took him back to his own bittersweet experiences. Evan Bird and John Cusack – Maps to the Stars
John Cusack – I feel bad for younger actors who think they have to become Twitter sensations or have reality TV shows or pimp their girlfriends whatever that trip is young actors feel they have to get into. He’s a talented guy. I was lucky I had people to help me who said don’t worry about this and that, do your best. I hope for the best for him.
Monsters and Critics – You live in Chicago, and I have heard of your jaundiced view of Hollywood and it at the heart of Map to the Stars.
JC – Yes but no more than anyone else. It’s okay to be out there when it’s really cold. I don’t live in Hollywood. I’m on the west side, my friends, some are actors, I have friends there California can be nice but the industry itself is tough. The film happens to be set in this town that is the capital of illusion and fame and images and projected images and it would be in any power structure, Silicon Valley or the financial industry in New York or Washington. Its politics, triangulation, cutthroat, who’s going to eat which dog? That can be a debilitating thing the different for artists is that there are people who don’t fit in, super sensitive but talented and they come into an environment that’s predatory. You meet the nicest, meanest people and it’s disarming and they’re being really nice to you. It’s a tricky place to navigate if you’re being honest. Actors are lucky and we’re all lucky to do this, but since it’s a film about that and you asked I’ll tell you the truth. You have to couch that in the fact that it is a place we are lucky to work in. David Cronenberg is one of those people who can make films out of that system and that’s the best.
John Cusack and Julianne Moore
M&C – I read a study that said the experience of having fame young has the psychological effect of a severe physical injury or attack. That it’s something to be overcome.
JC – There’s no doubt about it, when you’re young you have no idea what you’re getting into. You don’t get a Tuesday off. I feel bad for younger actors and actresses too, it can be so vicious, Culture is so youth obsessed and people say “She’s 27, open up another can of 22 year olds”. People are just starting to get interesting when they get their twenties, youth obsession is so cutthroat and I feel bad for actors and actresses. Hopefully Evan had a good experience with David and he can remember it. I remember when I was being treated well, there’s a difference here, a good experience, and people aren’t looking to screw him over. I feel if I was a young actor in this environment now, I’d be done. You’re supposed to be able to make mistakes; you’re just supposed to know everything. You’re’ not the President who is on TV 24/7. You’re an artist and you make mistakes. Now you can’t make mistakes. The three steps of Hollywood are being overvalued, and used and abandoned, it’s always that sequence, you can never change the sequence. Hopefully the actors can figure it out.
John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club
M&C – You said “You can’t take a Tuesday off”. The rest of your life you’re going to be John Cusack, you will never be able to walk around and not be noticed. Do you think about that?
JC – Yes. It’s a strange thing, there’s nothing you can do.