John Cusack cant be cowed

CanWest News Service
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Actor persevered in making film that takes aim at Bush administration

John Cusack is an activist. And finally hes putting a movie where his rhetoric is to underscore where he stands. Opening on April 25, the Cusack manifesto is an outlandish satire called War Inc.

John Cusack is an activist. And finally hes putting a movie where his rhetoric is to underscore where he stands. Opening on April 25, the Cusack manifesto is an outlandish satire called War Inc.

The comedy defines war profiteering generally and U.S. President George W. Bushs government policies on Iraq subliminally.

Bush and company are never named in the film, but the indictment of Yank-paid mercenaries, freelance assassins and mercurial political intrigue is clearly stamped Made in America.

In Toronto recently to promote the film, Cusack merely shrugs when hes asked about the inferences as if to say, Its about time. Indeed, he says, the politically charged project took more than four years to make because most potential backers wanted to stay far away from the message.

Its an impossible sell given the fact that Bush is still strutting around like a conquering hero, Cusack says. People kept telling us, You better watch what you say. But we werent cowed.

In fact, Cusack - who produced and co-wrote the film - insists that while we sometimes felt like deranged salmon swimming upstream, perseverance and stubbornness paid off. So did cutting the budget to less than $10 million US.

In War Inc., Cusack portrays an American hit man assigned to eliminate the prime minister of a new oil-rich republic thats aligned with the U.S. The agents cover is to produce a trade show, but he inadvertently ends up arranging a wedding for a local pop star (Hilary Duff).

Besides Cusack and Duff, other familiar faces include Johns sister, Joan Cusack, as another operative. Dan Aykroyd portrays a former U.S. vice-president who seems to have vested corporate interests. Marisa Tomei plays a muckraking reporter and Sir Ben Kingsley portrays a southern-fried CIA chief.

How the movie will fare is anybodys guess. Nobody is sure - not even Cusack.

But the 41-year-old actor is accustomed to the whims of the box office. Last year was a good example of the erratic nature of film fans. His supernatural thriller, 1408, was a hit, yet neither the quirky comedy Martian Child nor the drama Grace Is Gone found its mark.

Maybe hes hoping War Inc. can repeat the success of another one of his triple-threat endeavours, most notably the 1997 hit Grosse Pointe Blank. Whatever happens, hes among the few actors who can fit into almost any genre, from an action flick such as Con Air to the oddball spoof Being John Malkovich. Somehow, War Inc. has a little bit of each with a much stronger point of view.

Politically, he refuses to compromise on behalf of War Inc. Thats not too surprising after growing up in Chicago with left-leaning Irish-American parents.

So, after reading a few of Mark Leyners books, he felt inspired. I was interested in doing a multiple-genre movie on American foreign policy, Cusack says.

Other books had their impact, including Canadian writer Naomi Kleins essays and her book The Shock Doctrine. All of that writing influenced War Inc. as Cusack progressed with developing a picture that had a provocative style and experimental tilt but was shot on one-third of the Gross Pointe Blank budget.

The idea, says Cusack, was to keep going further with humour so that you ask yourself halfway through, Im laughing, but should I be?

Organizations: CIA

Geographic location: America, Iraq, Toronto Chicago

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