John Cusack on his Darker Roles, Jungian Shadow Exercises for Acting and Losing 30 Pounds for ‘The Raven’


While The Raven has performed poorly at the box office after receiving very negative reviews, John Cusack is still talking about playing Edgar Alan Poe.

In a lengthy interview with New York Magazine, Cusack talks about how playing Poe affected him both mentally and physically, exploring his dark side, and a little about why he stars in films with both small and huge budgets.

In previous interviews, Cusack has alluded to how uncomfortable it was playing Poe, a man well know for his struggle with addictions and traumatic personal losses.  In this interview he elaborates on that, saying, “It’s just it’s not a nice head-space to stay in, but it’s kind of an exhilarating head-space because there’s something kind of romantic toying with the abyss, you know. But it’s a nice place to be able to leave. I mean, I understand why he died early and everything.”

Yet during shooting Cusack underwent an unintended physical transformation that stuck with him after the film wrapped.  He explains, “I just got really, really thin. So when I came back I scared my family a little bit. They were like, ‘What have you been doing?’ He was so poor and he was such a bad alcoholic it felt right to be kind of rail thin. So, when I got back from doing eight weeks of night shoots in Hungary and Serbia in the winter, I was 187 pounds. I think everybody was a little startled.”  Cusack says he lost about thirty pounds, and adds, “It felt like it would be a good way to try to get inside of his skin.”

But despite his experience playing Poe, Cusack isn’t backing down on exploring his darker side.  Right now he is practicing Jungian shadow exercises, explaining, “There are these meditations you can do that are like dream analysis, but breaking down into your life or your character. You feel like you’re exploring your subconscious a little bit. You’re asking the piece to ask questions of you that, you know, maybe you want to know the information, maybe you don’t. But it’s fun. It’s interesting.”

As for why he is trying to reach deeper into his psyche, he reveals, “I think if you’re an artist, you can’t afford not to, because if we don’t remember we’re f–ed up and human, then the work isn’t compelling. The thing that makes us human is the shadows, the part of yourself that you want to most hide and not reveal to other people. Because you don’t want to be judged, right? But in art if you don’t put that stuff out and you don’t have any creativity, any sexuality, you have nothing. So, that’s why obviously the job is not all about people who are, like, totally evolved and happy [laughs], because there’s no drama there. We’re all human. We’re struggling, so that’s what makes it compelling to watch, so we don’t have any choice. We have to mine our secrets.”

While Cusack is known for taking on challenging roles, he has also done his share of more commercial projects like Con Air, 2012, and Must Love Dogs.  Cusack explains that he sees doing commercial films as a give-and-take strategy although it doesn’t always work.  He says, “If you do a commercial movie, you can usually leverage it to make something else. But then sometimes things work exactly the opposite of what you think. You know, you can’t get the stuff made for a while and they say, ‘We haven’t done enough box-office movies,’ and then you do 2012. Okay. There. That’s $800 million worldwide. Then for a while you can’t really find a job after it… it never works out how you think. Maybe it’s just for me the rules don’t really apply. Like when I’m supposed to not be able to get things done I get them done. Or when I’m supposed to be able to get things done I can’t get them done. I’m the kind of person that if you lift weights you don’t get bigger, you get smaller. Sometimes it just works the opposite.”

Seems like those commercial films did pay off though since Cusack was just awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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