Actor John Cusack Takes ‘Say Anything’ to Milwaukee

Following a screening of the 1989 Cameron Crowe film “Say Anything” this Saturday at the Riverside Theater, actor John Cusack will lead the audience in a conversation about the film and his career.

John Cusack is no stranger to Milwaukee. He’s called Chicago (and nearby Evanston) home for most of his life, a short drive from Milwaukee. And he’s a big fan of visiting the Brew City, although he admits it doesn’t happen often enough.

I like it there. I haven’t been there enough, but I think it’s a cool city,” says Cusack during a recent phone interview.

Fortunately, Cusack’s next visit is very soon. He will get the opportunity to visit on Saturday, Feb. 3, for a screening of the iconic 80s film, Say Anything, and post-screening discussion.

Of his upcoming visit to Cream City, Cusack says he’s excited to see what has and hasn’t changed in Milwaukee since the last visit. “I want to re-familiarize myself with the city,” he says.

Likewise, the show at the Riverside will offer an opportunity for fans to reenter the world of Say Anything and discover some behind-the-scenes tidbits from Cusack’s career. After the success of Say Anything, Cusack went on to star in many other popular films such as High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blank and Being John Malkovich.

Even after nearly 30 years, Say Anything‘s story of love against all odds still resonates with viewers. The romantic comedy/drama film first hit theaters in 1989, marking the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe. It tells the love story between Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) and Diane Court (actress Ione Skye). Lloyd is an average student and aspiring kickboxer who fights for the love of Diane, the high school valedictorian who is seemingly out of his league. Add in the fact that her divorced father Jim Court (played by John Mahoney) doesn’t approve of their love, and Lloyd has a steep mountain to climb.

“[Lloyd’s] a bit of a nonconformist character and very independent sort of person,” says Cusack. “People like those types of people I think.”

Roger Ebert called the movie “one of the best films of the year” and Entertainment Weekly ranked the film as one of the greatest modern movie romances and #11 on the list of 50 best high-school movies.

One of the film’s most recognizable scenes has Lloyd lifting a boombox over his head, playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” in an effort to win over Diane. It’s a scene that has been referenced frequently over the years, including recently on ABC’s The Goldbergs.

Following the screening, fans will get the opportunity to experience a moderated discussion and Q&A session with Cusack. Cusack says he’s excited that “people still remember the film and want to talk about it or want to ask me about it after a screening of it.”

“That’s what they call a high-class problem,” he says.

He says he likes that the film tells a very American story. While it was filmed in Seattle, he says it’s a story that could happen anywhere. He credits the Midwest’s “straightforward” sensibility for his acting style, which comes out in the film. And while filming in Seattle, he was reminded frequently of his home town. “It could have been Chicago,” he says. “Seattle feels like Chicago in a lot of ways.”

While he’s not sure when his next visit will be, you’ll likely see him this summer at Miller Park enjoying the Brewers-Cubs rivalry.

“I’ve always threatened to go follow the Cubs up there,” he says. “Now that the Brewers are doing really well it should be fun this summer. I have a couple friends up there, so I’ll let them show me around. It’ll be fun.”

Go See It: John Cusack with ‘Say Anything’; Riverside Theater; Saturday, Feb. 3



Joshua Miller covers music and culture for Milwaukee Magazine. He also writes for various other outlets in Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. You can follow him at @JoshuaMMillerWI.