Sometimes appearances aren’t deceiving.
Take Tom Hanks, an actor many consider the successor to all-American superstar Jimmy Stewart. Hanks routinely plays Everyman heroes, characters who accomplish the incredible without incredible gifts or tricks.
Think “Saving Private Ryan,” “Sully,” “Cast Away” and “Captain Phillips.”
Hanks isn’t a superhero in real life, but he’s navigated Hollywood’s choppy waters for decades without scandal and with routine acts of kindness. His early COVID-19 diagnosis, for example, allowed him to calm a shattered nation’s nerves.
He’s no saint, but audiences sense something solid, and decent, when he graces the screen.
And then there’s John Cusack. There could be a reason why the quality roles have dried up for the 54 year old star, and it has little to do with his age.
He sounds … unhinged. His recent declaration? Nearly one-third of Americans are Nazis. And that’s just the tip of the dystopian iceberg for Cusack.
I know why Biden is preaching reconciliation
But 30 % of country that
Are nazi -- are enemies
— John Cusack (@johncusack) November 8, 2020
Let’s go back to see how the actor got here, and why his future prospects are far from certain.
The teen Cusack racked up a string of memorable comedies few actors can match.
- “Better Off Dead”
- “Sixteen Candles”
- “The Sure Thing”
- “One Crazy Summer”
- “Say Anything”
The latter was more of a drama, but it allowed Cusack to cap his teen years in grand style.
He aggressively left those roles behind with work in “True Colors,” “The Grifters” and “Bullets Over Broadway.” Those gigs allowed him to survive any possible Brat Pack-style curse as well as the ’80s excess that snagged some of his peers.
He was a serious actor, one demanding your respect. He routinely earned it.
He eventually built a multi-faceted career, leaning on his teen rom-com fame (“Serendipity”) as well as his edgier persona (“Grosse Pointe Blank”). In between, he stretched his talents, bouncing from blockbuster action (“Con Air”) to personal features (“Martian Child”).
His career downtown started, roughly, around the time a certain reality show star entered the White House.
Suddenly, Cusack films went straight to home video or VOD, with generic titles like “Singularity,” “Blood Money,” “Arsenal,” and “Never Grow Old.”
The Chicago native found himself in Bruce Willis territory. He was an older “name” churning out generic films that rarely reached theaters. Unlike Willis, Cusack doubled down on his Twitter histrionics. That meant a steady stream of President Trump attacks, but with a difference.
The actor joined a dubious group of stars who seemed … crazed … by Trump’s very existence. Cusack, along with Robert De Niro, Rob Reiner and Bette Midler, found the “Apprentice” star obsessing their thoughts. He routinely lashed out at any who dared support the unconventional leader, too.
- In 2017 Cusack Tweeted a message saying Trump was “dead” and needed to be “buried.”
- The liberal news site TheWrap.com wondered if Cusack and Trump were more alike than they realized.
- He’s cheered on riots if it meant removing Trump from office.
- Most recently, he vowed not to speak with anyone who wasn’t aggressively “anti-Trump.”
That’s just a cursory look at his hateful social media past.
What’s next for Cusack? He landed a role in Amazon’s “Utopia” series, a project that hasn’t captured the zeitgeist like fellow originals “The Boys” or “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
The only IMDB credit for future work is a movie called “My Only Sunshine” co-starring J.K. Simmons.
His social media antics won’t necessarily hurt his career, but it could still give future employers pause. It’s also possible his Trump Derangement damaged his skills. Look no further than Reiner, a former A-plus director (“Stand By Me,” “Princess Bride”) whose recent work is a shadow of a tracing of his past glories.
Actors are always one role away from a comeback. Just ask John Travolta, who came roaring back -- twice -- thanks to the “Look Who’s Talking” franchise and, later, “Pulp Fiction.”
To Cusack’s credit, he has enough self-awareness to realize his current Hollywood stock.
“We-e-e-ell. I haven’t really been hot for a long time,” he told The Guardian earlier this year.
“In the last few years, I haven’t been able to get projects financed,” he says. “That could be a function of getting older. Or it could be a function of being cold.”
Travolta’s resurgences came before social media’s ascendancy. Now, with Cusack’s “cold” Tweets front and center, there’s less chance audiences will be ready and willing to rally to his side once more … even if his own “Pulp Fiction” looms in the horizon.