“When I read the script I was a little bit stunned because if you’re on page 20 or 30 and it says, ‘And Rome fell . . .’ Then Paris falls, you think, how are they going to shoot that? You have no clue. And then the scope and the size of it was something I knew had never been tried before,” the 43-year-old actor told the Irish Echo in New York recently. “Usually, when the action starts, about half-way through, the screenwriters just keep the explosions rolling, but, in this, the characters kept developing and stuff. So I thought that was surprising and a little bit elegantly written that way. I liked the script.”
“2012” is the latest film by “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow” director Roland Emmerich. In it, Cusack portrays Jackson, a nice-guy novelist whose dedication to his work has strained his relationships with his two young children and his now former wife Kate, played by Amanda Peet. Tom McCarthy co-stars as Gordon, Kate’s new beau; Woody Harrelson plays Charlie, a talk radio personality obsessed with conspiracy theories; and Chiwetel Ejiofor rounds out the cast as Adrian, a government scientist. As a cataclysmic event takes place, fulfilling an ancient Mayan prediction and wiping out billions of people around the world, Jackson and Kate team up and go to great lengths to protect their children, while Adrian attempts to save what is left of humanity.
So, what did Cusack think of the film once he saw the finished product, complete with its jaw-dropping visual effects?
“I knew going in that [the director] wasn’t going to come back and do anything like this unless he could top his last film,” said Cusack, who is one of five children in a Catholic family raised in Evanston, Ill. “Remember about 15 years ago when ‘Terminator 2’ came out and everyone said the special effects made a huge leap? I knew he wanted to do the same thing here. He wanted to take the special effects to a new level. I think he’s sort of done that.”
“2012” also gave Cusack the chance to work with his “Identity” and “The Martian Child” co-star Amanda Peet again. “It was really fun,” he said. “Really lovely. She’s great to work with.”
Cusack’s admiration is fully returned by his costar. “[John’s] very special to me; this is our third one,” Peet told reporters in a separate interview. “Every time I work with him again, I remember how he is just so brilliant and really very rare. People ask me, ‘What’s so great about him?’ And I can never explain it. He has this kind of vulnerability; this sort of Tom Hanks-everyman-thing, yet he’s kind of slightly more edgy maybe . . . I think (John) elevates everything he’s in. He’s very special.”
Although Cusack is a well-regarded actor with a resume that includes a diverse collection of films such as “Eight Men Out,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “High Fidelity,” “America’s Sweethearts,” and “Grace is Gone,” many people still associate him with his iconic portrayal of Lloyd Dobler in the teen romance “Say Anything.”
“I have great fondness for it,” the actor said of his breakthrough role. “It was a great collaboration with (writer-director) Cameron Crowe and I was really proud of the movie, so it’s really nice that people are still remembering it this many years later. I’m always delighted that people still like it.”
Told there were groups of guys marauding around Manhattan recently dressed as Lloyd — complete with his trademark trench coat and boom box — to celebrate the release of a 20th anniversary edition of “Say Anything” on DVD, Cusack cringed and quipped, “I thought that was just on Halloween, no?”
“2012” is in theaters now.