Most Known For: “Being John Malkovich,” “High Fidelity,” “Say Anything”
Snubbed For: “Being John Malkovich,” “High Fidelity”
John Cusack is probably best known not for any one specific role, but rather a single image from one of his movies. Holding the boom box over his head while it blasts Peter Gabriel in attempts to win back the woman he loves in “Say Anything” not only was an iconic image of the 80s, but remains a pop culture reference even to this day. One thing the actor hasn’t even had the chance to hold yet in his career, though, is an Oscar.
Despite being more recognizable from a single image, Cusack has had a strong career that has spanned thirty years. He’s been the heart breaker, a Woody Allen surrogate, an action star, and even John Malkovich. But Cusack’s still hasn’t been asked to dance by the Academy.
Early on in his career, Cusack proved that he could easily adapt to all different kinds of genres. You had your romantic comedies like “Say Anything,” he dabbled in sports with “Eight Men Out” and also showed his flair for drama in films like “True Colors.” His big breakout role would come in his second collaboration with Woody Allen, “Bullets Over Broadway.”
As a pseudo-intellectual playwright, Cusack proves to be one of the better Allen surrogates, effectively channeling bits of the director’s neurosis while not seeming like a bad imitation. Diane Wiest stole the film and would eventually take home her second Oscar, rightly so, but “Bullets” helped to solidify Cusack’s status as a leading man who would lead to the best stretch of roles in his career.
With “Bullets,” “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “Con Air” and “The Thin Red Line,” Cusack was all over the place in the 90s and one of the bigger names in Hollywood. 1999-2001, however, would prove to be the highlight of his career.
The world was first introduced to the unusual palate of Spike Jonze with “Being John Malkovich” in 1999. One thing that helped audiences relate to this bizarre tale was the three main performances from Catherine Keener, Cameron Diaz and John Cusack. Keener would earn an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, but a strong case could be made for Cusack and his performance as the selfish puppeteer Craig. The fact that he disappeared for a good chunk of the movie, as his character inhabits John Malkovich probably hurt his chances, however.
The next year would bring what most people cite as their favorite Cusack movie, “High Fidelity.” Cusack plays a record store owner who tries to get over his recent break-up, but soon realizes that he really wants to win her back. It’s a solid performance from Cusack, wouldn’t say it is his best, though he did earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Comedy/Musical.
Where the Academy should have looked to nominate him was for Best Adapted Screenplay. He shared a BAFTA nomination with D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink and Scott Rosenberg, but there was a lot of competition in that year at the Oscars, including “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” “Traffic” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Cusack would close off his run with one of his trademark romantic comedies, “Serendipity.” It’s a sweet film that rises above its potential thanks to the performances from Kate Beckinsale and Cusack. Can’t say he was snubbed here, but it should be given notice as the final film in a very strong run for Cusack.
Since 2001 though, Cusack hasn’t been able to find that same kind of success. Outside of the occasional solid flick, most of his work has been utterly forgettable. Things could be changing rather quickly though. Next week Cusack will head to France for the Cannes Film Festival where he stars in “Maps to the Stars.” After that, he has a role that has the potential to get him some Oscar attention playing Brian Wilson, the former Beach Boy who struggled with mental illness, in “Love & Mercy.”
Cusack is clearly a well-respected part of the industry, but it’s hard to say that he is due to win an Oscar. He’s given some note-worthy turns, but his movie choices aren’t ones where he is clearly trying to grab one; as someone who doesn’t have a great affinity for celebrity culture, it doesn’t seem like he’s longing for it either. But, if Cusack goes the rest of his career without a nomination, he will immediately be one of the bigger names on that list.
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