His fans came for Lloyd Dobler but stayed to talk about Hoops McCann, Ivan Alexeev, Rob Gordon, Jake, Mike and even the animated Dimitri from “Anastasia.”
Actor John Cusack spent nearly 90 minutes after a screening of "Say Anything" in conversation with fans who clearly wanted to talk about many of his memorable characters on Saturday night in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts.
The actor appeared relaxed on stage in dark jeans, sneakers, jacket and a black Chicago Cubs hat during his post-film conversation moderated by radio personality Nicholas Picholas. Cusack immediately turned the tables on Picholas, questioning him on his unique name. When it came time for the audience Q&A – about 25 fans were able to ask questions – they all shared their favorite film or character and a personal story.
“I wanted to go to New York City, become an actress and marry you,” one woman told Cusack, who quickly responded, “I can tell you, one of those three things didn’t happen.”
“I just have one thing to say," a young fan said. "I want my $2," he yelled as the audience cheered for the line from “Better Off Dead.”
Cusack, who has more than 50 film credits, said he remembers the experiences of working on the films, but doesn’t watch them. “You remember liking that you did the film and the nice people. But looking back is like looking through your high school yearbook,” he laughed.
He has fond memories of “Say Anything” and working with a cast filled with fellow Chicago actors. “I always thought the movie was cool. If it still makes people happy, what more could you ask for? If you’re happy,” he said to the audience, “I’m happy.”
Music was a big part of the evening, with many fans donning T-shirts of bands whose music was heard in Cusack films. For the famous boom box scene in "Say Anything," Cusack said there was a list of songs in consideration with an early front runner being "Within Your Reach" by the Replacements before Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" was chosen.
His biggest smile of the night was at the mention of his sister, Joan, who has starred in multiple films with him, including “Say Anything.”
“I usually get her cheap because I’m the producer. She revs up her Mack engine and rolls over you. She dominates," he said.
He became most animated when talk turned (at surprising length) to baseball after a fellow baseball fan asked Cusack for his reaction to the rain delay before the Cubs won their first championship in 108 years. "It was providence,” Cusack said.
Cusack, who is quite vocal and passionate about politics, would not be drawn into political conversations, however. “Not everyone wants to talk about that all the time. We need a break.”
His next project is “Gone with the Mind” with Lily Tomlin about a mother and son reading an autobiography in a deserted shopping mall during a flash flood. “As you can tell, we’re expecting huge box office,” Cusack said.
Here are brief quotes about other topics:
On a film he would like to see have a sequel: " '1408.' Somehow there could be more there."
On why "Say Anything" works: "It was because of the relationship between the father and daughter."
On "The Sure Thing": "I was a kid. I got really spoiled. Rob Reiner, Norman Lear, Tim Robbins – they took good care of me."
On "Serendipity": "The time we made it was strange. We were promoting it right after 9/11 and it felt very strange talking about a movie then."
On his least favorite film: "I'm not going to throw one under the bus."
On Hunter S. Thompson: "He was a bunch of contradictions and a Southern gentlemen. He was super sweet."
On music in films: "I prefer needle drops to scores."
On his top 5 songs by The Clash: "There are too many. I would need a Top 20."