Interview: John Cusack on Lloyd Dobler and the music of 'Say Anything...'

John Cusack
John Cusack, star of the 1989 film 'Say Anything...' will be in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, October 15 for a screening of the film and audience Q&A session. (SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)
John Cusack - ...Say Anything interview
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Released in April, 1989, the film Say Anything... was a cultural touchpoint for many. Cameron Crowe's directorial debut featured John Cusack as the iconic, optimistic underdog Lloyd Dobler trying to woo valedictorian Diane Court (whoa). Cusack will be in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, for a screening and discussion. He spoke with The Morning Show's Jill Riley. Listen using the audio player above.

Jill Riley: Tuesday, October 15, at the Ordway, right here in Downtown St. Paul, there's an event, a screening of the film Say Anything..., and it'll be followed by a conversation with one of the film's stars, John Cusack. I'm very happy and honored to have John Cusack on the line this morning. How are you doing, John?

John Cusack: I'm good, how are you?

Jill Riley: I'm doing just fine. So Say Anything..., it's one of those movies that's a part of my upbringing. It's a movie I've been able to watch through the years, and really it's held up over time. And it feels like it's in the fabric of my DNA. So it's the 30th anniversary of the film and that event is coming up at the ordway, so John could you give people a little context of where you were at in your career when you were making that film?

John Cusack: I had first heard about the script when I was working with John Mahoney on a baseball movie called Eight Men Out that we actually shot in Cincinnati, and he had told me about the story and that it was a really good writer, and then they approached me afterward. So I was intrigued to work with John again, becasue I knew he was a great actor, and so I met with them, and was reluctant to do it at ifrst, but then we all talked each other into it.

Jill Riley: What was your reluctance, if you don't mind me asking?

John Cusack: I thought that the character [Lloyd Dobler] didn't have enough dimension at the time, more of a worldview, politics, you know? I was listening to The Clash, so I wanted him to have thoughts outside of his high school, or county, or state; to think about the world the way people do when they're young.

Jill Riley: It's interesting to hear that you had some impact on who the character Lloyd Dobler would become. I'm glad you mentioned The Clash, because for anyone not familiar with the movie, you are wearing a Clash t-shirt in a very iconic moment with the boombox and the trench coat and I wondered, was that handed to you by the wardrobe department, or were you like, "No, I want this character to be into The Clash"?

John Cusack: No, everything was choice. Everything was purposeful.

Jill Riley: What else do you have in common with the character Lloyd Dobler today?

John Cusack: Well I like boxing and kickboxing, martial arts. It's kind of physically expensive to do it, because the sparring kind of hurts, but I still like that. I don't know. There's always a crossover.

Jill Riley: Well you didn't make kickboxing a career. I don't know if it was your dream to make it your career?

John Cusack: No.

Jill Riley: So Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court, they're a pretty unlikely pair, but there's something so timeless about the premise of the movie, as compared to other teen movies of the time, why does this one hold up so well?

John Cusack: Teen movies weren't really a genre, I mean, I guess they became one, but when they started making them in the mid '80s or late '80s. But this was much more just a film. It's a good piece of writing and then it was a real good collaboration between me and Cameron on my character. It was a really well-cast, well-shot movie. And it had a lot of people around it, like the cinematographer was a famous cinematographer named Laszlo Kovacs, who made some amazing films. And one of the producers was Polly Platt, who worked with Peter Bogdanovich, so there was a lot of pedigree around the movie too. People were trying to think of it as just a film, they wern't thinking of it as a teen film or a genre film.

Jill Riley: This was the first movie Cameron Crowe directed, and then he went on to do Singles. One of my favorites of his is Almost Famous, because we get a glimpse into his world, of his love of music. When I look at the soundtrack of the movie Say Anything..., there are a couple songs that stick out to me. One, the fact that The Replacements are on the soundtrack, and since I'm in the Twin Cities, you know we're a Replacements town.

John Cusack: That was me. I brought that song, yeah.

Jill Riley: That was you? Tell me more bout that, when did you become a fan of the Replacements, what was the first time you heard their music?

John Cusack: I saw them in Chicago, playing in, i think the old Metro and some of the old places. I used to see them play and I loved their stuff. And Cameron wasn't hip on The Replacements. He got real hooked on The Replacements. We were always turning each other on to different music.

Jill Riley: The Metro, is that kind of like the First Avenue of Chicago?

John Cusack: It's sort of like this, tiny, 2,000-seat hall, but it's where all the punks went through.

Jill Riley: Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" is practically a character in the movie. I can't imagine another song being used in that scene, but you could say that about any movie where music is so integral to the scene and how its lasting impact is in pop culture. When you hear that song, like if you hear it on the radio, can you possibly disassociate the song with the movie?

John Cusack: No! Usually I go "Well, I'm connected to that song." I've even joked about it with Peter Gabriel. I went to go see one of his shows and he said "Well, yeah, we're connected to that song." I apologized. But it's a nice problem to have.

Jill Riley: What is it like for you to do an event like this? I imagine you're not sitting out in the crowd and rewatching it every time you do an event like this, right?

John Cusack: I'll come in, because I worked on the movie so much that I know it so well. I'll come in and it's fun to see the audience rocking, and people interacting with the film and having a ball, cheering for stuff they like. And they know all the lines. So it's nice to see the movie playing in a big hall with a great soundtrack, and the sound system and the big screen. It's just nice that people still get pleasure from the movie, you know, that it gives them something.


Event Info: John Cusack with a Screening of Say Anything (October 15, 2019)

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