John Cusack On The Enduring Legacy Of 'Say Anything'

Jun 13, 2019

John Cusack visits Wichita on Thursday, June 13, for a screening of the 1989 film Say Anything in which he co-starred with John Mahoney and Ione Skye. The screening is at Wichita's Orpheum Theatre.

The Chicago native will participate in a question and answer following the film, moderated by Lela Meadow-Connor of mamafilm.

Interview Highlights

How did you first become aware of Say Anything?

I had been working with John Mahoney on a movie called Eight Men Out, a baseball movie that John Sayles had made. He was playing the manager; he was a Chicago guy from Steppenwolf Theatre. He told me about the script at first and that they wanted to talk to me about it.

You mentioned John Mahoney and making two films in succession. What was it like to work with him because he was such a fine actor.

He was wonderful. Wonderful man. He started out late in life acting. I think he was a teacher until he was about 37 or 38. He was just really happy to be there. He was such a terrific performer. He was fully present all the time. He loved doing what he did.

What was it about the character Lloyd Dobler that drew you to the role?

The chance to work with Cameron [Crowe], the writer and director, and create the character with him. That was really it more than anything else.

Cameron Crowe was a first-time director.

There was also a great team of people around him. Great cinematographer, legendary cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs. Great editors and production designers, real producers, not the kind they have today where people will just grab credit. There was a serious team behind him. We had a good time.

The film is often classified as a high school movie but it's after high school. In comparison to films of that kind in that era, there are a lot of differences. It's not vulgar, there's no gratuitous sex, there's hardly any swearing. It stands out in that way.

Yeah. The story is a romance, but it's also a story about a father and daughter and a very nuanced and dark story. The daughter has these illusions about her father being a perfect guy. Then you find out that he's much more compromised and human. All too human. There's a lot of elements to it and there's an undercurrent of anxiety of the future and fear of the future that gives it its bass notes, that gives it its soul in a way.

My recollection is that the film was not huge when it came out but that it gained popularity later. Did you have a sense of that as the years went on?

When you do something that's original or new, it's rare that people understand it right away or see it right away. I think people liked the movie when it came out, but it definitely kept growing in peoples' minds and they saw it again. That's not uncommon for something that's got a pulse and is good.

Because it's Cameron Crowe and he's a music critic, the soundtrack is important. I've read over the years that you were instrumental in getting The Replacements' song "Within Your Reach" into the film.

Cameron and I were thinking about the movie all the time and playing music all the time. We were creating the soundtrack as we went. We had an orbit of songs around us that we shared with each other, and I introduced him to that song.

You've been traveling with this film and a few others. What's surprised you or made you the happiest about the way that people have lived with the film over time?

It's nice to come into the theater and see people talking back to the screen. They're laughing and know all the lines. They're really interacting with it in an intense way. I feel very grateful that you can give people some joy. That's very nice.

The film resonates with people and so, afterwards, they have very specific, intense feelings about it. They have things that they want to say or questions about the making of it. The inside baseball of it: How did this song get to be here at this moment? It can be very specific or wild. I've said that as long as I'm having fun I'll do it.

It's nice to see everyone in a big, beautiful hall, hopefully with a packed crowd, and to re-experience the film. I'm not one to look back but this has been very gratifying.