John Paul Cusack (/ˈkjuːsæk/; born June 28, 1966)[1] is an American actor. Cusack began acting in films during the 1980s, starring in coming-of-age dramedies such as Sixteen Candles (1984), Better Off Dead (1985), The Sure Thing (1985), Stand by Me (1986), and Say Anything... (1989). In the 1990s, he then started appearing in independent films and had leading men roles in Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Con Air (1997), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) Anastasia (1997), The Thin Red Line (1998), Being John Malkovich (1999), High Fidelity (2000), America's Sweethearts (2001), Max (2002), and Runaway Jury (2003).

John Cusack
Cusack in 2014
John Paul Cusack

(1966-06-28) June 28, 1966 (age 58)
  • Actor
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1983–present
RelativesAnn Cusack (sister)
Joan Cusack (sister)

Cusack has been nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe for his role starring in High Fidelity. He won the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Maps to the Stars. He is a son of filmmaker Dick Cusack and the younger brother of actresses Joan and Ann Cusack.

In 2012, Cusack was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life


Cusack was born in Evanston, Illinois into an Irish Catholic family. His parents are writer-actor-producer and documentary filmmaker Richard J. "Dick" Cusack (1925–2003), originally from New York City,[2][3][4] and Ann Paula "Nancy" Cusack (née Carolan; 1929–2022),[5] originally from Massachusetts, a former mathematics teacher and political activist.[2][6] John's older sisters, Ann and Joan, are also actors. Cusack has two other siblings, Bill and Susie.[2] The family moved from Manhattan, New York, to Illinois[7][8] and were friends of activist Philip Berrigan.[9] Cusack graduated from Evanston Township High School in 1984, where he met Jeremy Piven,[10] and spent a year at New York University before dropping out, saying that he had "too much fire in his belly".[11]





Cusack began acting in films in the early 1980s. His first on screen appearances was in minor roles, Class (1983) and John Hughes directorial debut film Sixteen Candles (1984).[12] On the set of Grandview, U.S.A. (1984), his co-star Jamie Lee Curtis gifted Cusack with his first car, a 1974 Chevrolet Impala, which she had named 'La Bamba'.[13] 16-year-old Cusack made his breakthrough performance in Rob Reiner's teen comedy The Sure Thing (1985). It was a critical success, but has since become an underrated film.[14][15]

He then took on the small-town teen dark comedy film Better Off Dead (1985). Cusack was initially embarrassed and disappointed by the film, describing it as the "worst thing he had ever seen" on his first watch.[16] The film had a budget of $3 million and grossed $10.3 million at the box office, but the studio still considered it a failure. Cusack also worked with the director Savage Steve Holland on One Crazy Summer (1986).[17]

Cusack then had a brief appearance in Rob Reiner's Stand by Me (1986) as the older brother of Gordie, a film based on Stephen King's The Body. On the film, co-star Kiefer Sutherland recalled, "John Cusack was on the film for at least a week. I admired what he was doing and thought he was an actor I wanted to emulate."[18] In 1988, Cusack went on and starred in the Independent film Eight Men Out (1988), about Major League Baseball's Black Sox Scandal during the 1919 World Series.[19] He also appeared in the cult comedy Tapeheads (1988), a film by executive producer Michael Nesmith.[20][21]

In the late 1980s, Cusack starred in Cameron Crowe's directorial debut film, Say Anything... (1989). He starred opposite actress Ione Skye, playing the title character Lloyd Dobler who experiences a romance with Diane Court (Skye). Cusack was reluctant to do the film at first, but he gave his character dimension through referencing the English punk band The Clash, and The Replacements.[22] In the film, Cusack became known for the infamous boombox scene, in which his character Lloyd stands near Diane’s bedroom window, and wordlessly holds up a cassette player above his head, blasting Peter Gabriel's 1986 song "In Your Eyes".[23] His character Lloyd Dobler had since inspired popular culture, such as the band Lloyd Dobler Effect,[24] and Frank Iero's band Pencey Prep with their misspelled song "Lloyd Dobbler".[25]



In the 1990s, Cusack played a con artist in Stephen Frears' 1990 neo-noir film The Grifters. He then appeared in a series of independent films such as True Colors (1991), and Money for Nothing (1993).[26] In the Quentin Tarantino cult classic film, Pulp Fiction (1994), the role of Lance was originally written with Cusack in mind, however, the part went to Eric Stoltz.[27]

Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

After establishing New Crime Productions, Cusack co-wrote the screenplay for and starred in George Armitage's crime film Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), in which he played an assassin who goes to his 10-year high school reunion to win back his high school sweetheart.[28] Released in the same year, Cusack also starred in the Nicolas Cage film Con Air (1997) as the FBI agent Vince Larkin,[29] and in Clint Eastwood's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997).[30] He also voiced Dimitri in the animated film Anastasia (1997).

In the critically-acclaimed Spike Jonze's fantasy film Being John Malkovich (1999), with the script written by Charlie Kaufman, Cusack played a puppeteer who finds a portal leading into the mind of the eponymous actor, John Malkovich.[31] The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Director (Jonze), Best Original Screenplay (Charlie Kaufman) and Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener).[32]



Cusack was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance in High Fidelity (2000),[33] based on Nick Hornby's novel about Rob, a record store owner, and the history of his failed relationships.[34] In the early 2000s, Cusack appeared in a few romantic comedies such as America's Sweethearts (2001), Serendipity (2001), Must Love Dogs (2005), playing opposite lead actresses Julia Roberts, Kate Beckinsale, and Diane Lane.[35]

Cusack starred in a series of thriller films such as Identity (2003), Runaway Jury (2003), The Contract (2006), and 1408 (2007),[12] based on Stephen King's 1408.[36] The film largely went unnoticed at the time of release, but is now considered an underrated horror film.[37] He also appeared in the action comedies The Ice Harvest (2005), and War, Inc. (2008), as well as James C. Strouse directorial debut film Grace Is Gone (2007).

In 2009, Cusack starred as Jackson Curtis in Roland Emmerich's epic disaster film 2012 (2009), a struggling novelist who attempts to save his family during a global cataclysm.[38] Throughout his career, Cusack tends to be typecast in the roles of writers, such as Martian Child (2007) and 1408 (2007).


Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven (2012)

In the 2010s, Cusack starred in and produced the comedy film Hot Tub Time Machine (2010),[39] however, he did not feature in the sequel, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015). Both films were directed by Steve Pink.[40]

In 2012, Cusack played Edgar Allan Poe in James McTeigue's biopic film The Raven (2012).[41] On acting in a real life role, Cusack said, "You have to get yourself as close to insanity as you can, but yet, be able to not go insane." He referred to the source of Poe's letters and writing, and used it material for his role.[42] Cusack then starred in another real life role as Richard Nixon in Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013). Lee: "I love working with John Cusack. He’s terrifying, he’s electrifying, and he inspires me to be a better director. He’s a fiery, intense presence on set. We never, ever rub up against each other but he fuels me."[43]

In 2014, Cusack appeared in another biopic film Love & Mercy (2014), on Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. He was cast in the role of older Brian Wilson, and worked closely with Wilson himself, during the making of the film.[44] In the same year, Cusack also starred in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars (2014).[45] He won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Maps to the Stars (2014).[46] This era was a new peak in his career,[47] however, in 2014, Cusack infamously criticized Hollywood saying the mega-corporations have stepped in with 50-producer movies, franchises are king, and stars are used as leverage. He noted Hollywood is "a whorehouse and people go mad."[48]

Later, Cusack starred in video on demand films, including The Factory (2012), The Numbers Station (2013), The Frozen Ground (2013), Grand Piano (2013), Drive Hard (2014), The Prince (2014), Reclaim (2014), Cell (2016), Arsenal (2017), Blood Money (2017), and Singularity (2017).[47]



Cusack starred in the 2020 TV series Utopia.[47] In a 2020 interview with The Guardian, Cusack had admitted to the decline of his acting career. "In the last few years, I haven’t been able to get projects financed. That could be a function of getting older. Or it could be a function of being cold."[39] Cusack had since directed his attention to politics and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict on Twitter (now known as X).

Political views

Cusack at Huffington Post Pre-Inaugural Party in January 2009

Cusack is anti-war, having tweeted, "Being anti-war — is pro-troops — pro-human".[49][50] Between 2005 and 2009, Cusack wrote blogs for The Huffington Post, which included an interview with Naomi Klein. He voiced his opposition to the war in Iraq and Bush's administration, calling the government's worldview "depressing, corrupt, unlawful, and tragically absurd".[51] He also appeared in a June 2008 advertisement, where he said that George W. Bush and John McCain had the same governing priorities.[52]

Cusack criticized the Obama administration for its drone policy in the Middle East and its support of the National Defense Authorization Act, and became one of the initial supporters of the Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2012. In June 2015, he stated in an interview with The Daily Beast that "when you talk about drones, the American Empire, the NSA, civil liberties, attacks on journalism and whistleblowers, [Obama] is as bad or worse than Bush".[53] He later criticized the publication for misquoting him in order to make an interesting headline.[54][55]

In 2015, Cusack, Daniel Ellsberg and Arundhati Roy met Edward Snowden, who had fled the US because of his leaks of classified information surrounding illegal population surveillance, at a Moscow hotel room.[56] This meeting was converted into a book co-authored with Roy titled Things That Can and Cannot Be Said.[57]

Cusack endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in his 2016 and 2020 presidential bids.[58][59] He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.[60]

During May 2020, Cusack was recording a George Floyd protest in Chicago on social media when he was attacked by police with batons and later pepper-sprayed.[61]

I would love to think about other things—poetry, love, anything else. But that’s just not the times we’re in. And, y’know, not all anger is just sort of somebody stuck in some rut in a basement. If you can’t be outraged on behalf of other people, or express anger at injustice, maybe that is its own rut. Sure, I might go too far sometimes. But I really just want to get across the message: that we’re sleepwalking into an incredibly dark possible future. Maybe being outspoken hurts your career… I’m just aware it helps me sleep better at night, knowing that I wasn’t passive during this time.

— John Cusack, The Guardian (October 4, 2020)



Cusack has been fiercely critical of Israel's military actions against Palestinians. He criticized Israel's killing of Palestinians in the 2014 Gaza War,[62] retweeting for weeks articles supporting Gaza.[63] Cusack signed an open letter in support of Lorde cancelling performances in Israel, which was in response to a request from the BDS movement.[64] Following the 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel and the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, Cusack signed another open letter (Artists4Ceasefire) urging Joe Biden to "call for and facilitate a ceasefire without delay..."[65] He also blocked and direct messaged pro-Israel and Zionist Twitter users insults, and asserts that Israel is conducting a genocide in Gaza.[66]

In June 2019, Cusack tweeted out image of a large fist with a blue Star of David crushing a small crowd of people next to a quote often misattributed to Voltaire: "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize".[67][68] In the tweet, Cusack added the words "Follow the money." He said that the tweet was meant to criticize Israel's policies against Palestinians but later apologized saying that "antisemitism has no place in any rational political dialogue" and deleted the tweet.[69][70][71][72]

Since the Israel–Hamas war broke out in Gaza in October 2023, Cusack has been relentlessly vocal about what he calls a genocide of Palestinians. In January 2024, Cusack was labeled "Antisemite of the Week" by the organization StopAntisemitism, which he rejected.[73]

Personal life


Cusack trained in kickboxing under former world kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez for over 20 years. He began training under Urquidez in preparation for his role in Say Anything... and holds the rank of a level six black belt in Urquidez's Ukidokan Kickboxing system.[74]

In March 2008, police arrested Emily Leatherman outside Cusack's Malibu, California home for stalking him. On October 10, 2008, Leatherman pleaded no contest and received five years' probation and mandatory psychiatric counseling, and was ordered to stay away from Cusack, his home, and business for the next 10 years.[75]




Year Title Role Notes
1983 Class Roscoe Maybaum
1984 Sixteen Candles Bryce
Grandview, U.S.A. Johnny Maine
1985 The Sure Thing Walter "Gib" Gibson
Better Off Dead Lane Myer
The Journey of Natty Gann Harry
1986 Stand by Me Dennis "Denny" Lachance
One Crazy Summer Hoops McCann
1987 Hot Pursuit Dan Bartlett
Broadcast News Angry Messenger
1988 Tapeheads Ivan Alexeev
Eight Men Out Buck Weaver
1989 Say Anything... Lloyd Dobler
Fat Man and Little Boy Michael Merriman
1990 The Grifters Roy Dillon
1991 True Colors Peter Burton
Shadows and Fog Student Jack
1992 Roadside Prophets Caspar
The Player Himself Cameo
Map of the Human Heart The Mapmaker
Bob Roberts Cutting Edge Host
1993 Money for Nothing Joey Coyle
1994 Floundering JC
Bullets Over Broadway David Shayne
The Road to Wellville Charles Ossining
1996 City Hall Kevin Calhoun
1997 Grosse Pointe Blank Martin Q. Blank Also co-writer and producer
Con Air Vince Larkin
Chicago Cab Scary Man
Anastasia Dimitri Voice role
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil John Kelso
1998 This Is My Father Eddie Sharp
The Thin Red Line Capt. Gaff
1999 Pushing Tin Nick Falzone
Cradle Will Rock Nelson Rockefeller
Being John Malkovich Craig Schwartz
2000 High Fidelity Rob Gordon Also co-writer and producer
2001 America's Sweethearts Eddie Thomas
Serendipity Jonathan Trager
2002 Max Max Rothman Also associate producer
Adaptation Himself Uncredited cameo
2003 Identity Edward "Ed" Dakota
Runaway Jury Nicholas Easter
2005 Must Love Dogs Jake Anderson
The Ice Harvest Charlie Arglist
2006 The Contract Ray Keene Direct-to-video
2007 Grace Is Gone Stanley Philipps Also producer
1408 Michael "Mike" Enslin
Martian Child David Gordon
2008 War, Inc. Brand Hauser Also co-writer and producer
Igor Igor Voice role
2009 2012 Jackson Curtis
2010 Hot Tub Time Machine Adam Yates Also producer
Shanghai Paul Soames Direct-to-video
2012 The Raven Edgar Allan Poe
The Paperboy Hillary Van Wetter
The Factory Mike Fletcher Direct-to-video
2013 The Numbers Station Emerson Kent Direct-to-video
The Frozen Ground Robert Hansen Direct-to-video
The Butler Richard Nixon
Grand Piano Clem
We Are Not Animals Tony Lovecraft Also co-writer and executive producer
Adult World Rat Billings
2014 The Bag Man Jack Direct-to-video
Maps to the Stars Stafford Weiss
Drive Hard Simon Keller Direct-to-video
The Prince Sam Direct-to-video
Love & Mercy Brian Wilson
Reclaim Benjamin Direct-to-video
2015 Dragon Blade Lucius
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Adam Yates Uncredited cameo in unrated version
Chi-Raq Fr. Mike Corridan
2016 Boom Bust Boom Self Documentary
Cell Clayton Riddell Also executive producer; direct-to-video
2017 Arsenal Sal Direct-to-video
Blood Money Miller Direct-to-video
Singularity Elias van Dorne Direct-to-video
2018 Distorted Vernon Sarsfield
River Runs Red Horace Direct-to-video
2019 Never Grow Old Dutch Albert
2022 Pursuit John Calloway Direct-to-video
2024 Decoded Liseiwicz Completed


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Frasier Greg Voice role; Episode: "Our Father Whose Art Ain't Heaven"
1999 The Jack Bull Myrl Redding Television film; also executive producer
2014 Doll & Em John Episode: "Three"
2020 Utopia Dr. Kevin Christie 8 episodes

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1989 Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Actor Say Anything... Won
1999 Independent Spirit Awards Best Male Lead Being John Malkovich Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Best Ensemble Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2000 American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) High Fidelity Nominated
BAFTA Best Adapted Screenplay High Fidelity Nominated
Empire Awards Best Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Hissy Fit Nominated
University of Southern California Scripter Award Nominated
Writers Guild of America Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
2001 American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Nominated
2007 Saturn Awards Best Actor 1408 Nominated
2009 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor – Sci-Fi 2012 Nominated
2012 Village Voice Award Best Supporting Actor The Paperboy Nominated
2013 Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture The Butler Nominated
2014 Canadian Screen Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Maps to the Stars Won


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Further reading