“While he was making intense, beautiful, esoteric poetry, and metaphysical philosophy papers and doing social criticism, he was also writing pulp, shocking Saturday evening thrillers, where at the end of stories orangutans were coming out of chimneys and cutting up women. So, he was a master of high-brow and low-brow; he was esoteric and pulp. He was such a contradiction. There’s also a theme is all of his work that has to do with that space between waking and dreaming, between life and death; between sanity and insanity. That was his sweet spot.”
John Cusack dissected his Edgar Allen Poe character in the upcoming “The Raven,” when Zap2it caught up with him at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. While madness, he says, isn’t good for anyone, the actor and “Say Anything” cult fave did manage to find beauty in the dark side of human nature and his character in the movie, which opens Friday (April 27).
Asked whether or not an artist has to be self-destructive or “high” to be creative, Cusack had this to say.
“Those emotions, dealing with them, experiencing them, are sort of the portal to creativity, right? That’s the idea of it. But I don’t think you necessarily have to go drink yourself into the DTs and do laudanum to know what that is like. Also, you know, we all have muscle memory from our 20s,” he jokes.
Cusack continues, “So, you know, you have to graduate to a more sophisticated form of madness. I think you definitely have to push yourself to the edge of it, to where you’re frightened. But that’s kind of the job, that’s kind of the gig. But I don’t feel like you have to be f***ed up to be creative. Let’s put it this way — to be an artist, you have to have a problem. To be a good artist, you have to start to deal with your problem in some way.”
Describing Poe and his poetic style of narrative, Cusack sounded every bit as astute as his on-screen persona.
“He [Poe] was also very calculated and manipulative and analytical in exploiting in some ways, or exploring the current zeitgeist, so he was very adept at tapping into the fears and obsessions or neuroses of the current era,” says the actor.