BEVERLY HILLS, California — Attention Zack Snyder: After years of playing the characters we all wanted to be — you know, the guys that were just a bit smarter, just a bit braver, just a bit funnier than the rest of us — John Cusack wants nothing more for himself than to be, well, wanted. The everyman actor sat down with MTV News to discuss his new horror movie, "1408" (which is based on a Stephen King short story of the same name); what he remembers from "Better Off Dead"; what it's like working with Hilary Duff; and why, more than anything, he wants Snyder to cast him in his upcoming "Watchmen." (And if he does, John, what do we want? Ten percent.)
MTV: ["1408"] isn't what I think of as a typical John Cusack role. ... Why horror? Why now?
John Cusack: Well, sometimes you're lucky, because if there is a good piece of material, it sort of finds you, or the people who are doing it want you to do it and they're smarter than you so they come after you pretty hard. ... The script is pretty great — I've always loved Stephen King. And I was always a fan of very, very good horror films — like "The Exorcist," "The Shining," those types of movies. ... This one had a whole psychological component to it that I thought was kind of ballsy to do. Like, can we pull this off? ... It was pretty aggressive and ambitious and out there.
MTV: This seems to me a total horror throwback in that respect. It's adult material.
Cusack: This one creeps you out so later on at night you wake up and you think about it, or it gets to you or gets inside you in a way. When I was a kid, I saw "The Shining," and I remember I snuck into a 6 o'clock show. When I came out, it was night and I had to walk home by myself. And I remember that being one of the scariest 25 minutes of my young life. I was freaked out.
MTV: What scares John Cusack?
Cusack: I think there are certain elements from the past, or it's more like places you've been in that you don't want to go back to, whether it's terrifying moments or when your life was in danger. I don't like rats either.
MTV: I'm curious how you navigated on a day-to-day basis because this movie is so claustrophobic.
Cusack: Yeah, it was strange. It was a strange environment we had. Whenever we were in the room, in a bizarre way we felt safe, and when we had to go outside the room we started to feel anxious. So we had Stockholm syndrome, we were identifying with our captor.
MTV: You can't Google your name without getting a hit for "Watchmen." Everyone wants you to be in this movie.
Cusack: I'm in. Talk to Zack [Snyder].
MTV: Have you read the comic?
Cusack: Yeah, I actually love the comic. Maybe this is how people get jobs in the modern world. Like, I come on MTV and then he'll see it and give it to me.
MTV: Are you familiar with the character of Nite Owl?
Cusack: There's that guy and then there's Rorschach, right? I like that. I like that stuff.
MTV: Would you prefer to play Rorschach or Nite Owl?
Cusack: I haven't read the script nor have I ever met Mr. Snyder. I thought that was a really, really cool comic. I'm into it. But, you know, we have to talk to Zack's representatives. What studio is doing the film?
MTV: Warner Bros.
Cusack: See, who knows. Warner Bros. might want Ashton Kutcher.
MTV: I don't think that would work. John Cusack would work.
Cusack: Welcome to my world.
MTV: Is it true you requested [Hilary Duff for "War, Inc."]?
Cusack: Yep. Well, the part was ... she played a pop idol from central Asia. So, she was like a Hilary — but not Hilary, because Hilary is so classy — but like a real, and I won't name names, but a real slutty pop star. ... Hilary is the opposite of that, of course. I think for her to play that, or to parody that, was really great.
MTV: What's the biggest misconception [of her]?
Cusack: I think probably people wouldn't know how talented she is. I mean, she's a great actress. I just spent the entire fall with her and she was a revelation every day. I don't think people know that yet, but they're gonna.
MTV: You're responsible for some pretty iconic film moments [like in "Say Anything"]. Do you look back with the same reverence that your fans do?
Cusack: I don't really look back that much, but I think there are certain times that I felt like things worked out. ... Like I look back on that movie and I dig that people talk about it, because it was a movie that I worked really hard on and I loved. ... It's nice that people keep bringing it up in a nice way. It's a high-class problem.
MTV: Do you get people coming up to you and referencing those movies a lot?
Cusack: I actually get ... "Better Off Dead" a lot, which is weird 'cause ... it was two months of my life when I was, you know, 18 years old. And I don't really even remember the movie. ... I remember people coming up and talking about that movie kind of obsessively. I have more knowledge of that than I do of actually making the film.
MTV: You've written screenplays. Would you ever be interested in directing?
Cusack: Yeah, probably. I don't know. I'm still trying to get this "Watchmen" job.
Check out everything we've got on "1408."
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