John Cusack

When you’re acting, you should get into trouble with no exit strategy—and have the cameras rolling.

Award-winning Actor and Writer | Outspoken Activist | Early Supporter of the Freedom of the Press Foundation

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John Cusack | Award-winning Actor and Writer | Outspoken Activist | Early Supporter of the Freedom of the Press Foundation
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

John Cusack is, like most of his characters, an unconventional hero. Not only has he built a successful Hollywood career, but he’s become one of the most outspoken, politically astute artists of his generation. As an early supporter of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and as co-author of Things That Can and Cannot Be Said (with novelist Arundhati Roy), he uses his high-profile position to raise awareness of today’s most urgent political issues.

John Cusack is a passionate and articulate political activist. A vocal critic of US government policies such as the War on Terror and its drone program, he was one of the initial supporters of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which focuses on the defense of transparency journalism and of government whistleblowers. The Foundation also advocates protection against pressure and censorship of media organizations that act as watchdogs of the government. Recently, Cusack joined novelist Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things) and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers) in a secret meeting with Edward Snowden in Moscow, assembled to discuss government surveillance and its effect on the American people. The result of their dialogue is the book Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations, co-written with Roy. Whether through acting or activism, Cusack is constantly seeking new ways to educate, impact, and influence people’s perception of art and politics.   

 

Cusack was born in Evanston, Illinois, and like his brother and sisters, he became a member of Chicago’s Piven Theatre Workshop while he was still in elementary school. By age 12, he already had several stage productions, commercial voice-overs and industrial films under his belt. He made his feature film debut at 17, acting alongside Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy in the romantic comedy Class (1983), appearing in the now-classic films Sixteen Candles (1984) and Better Off Dead (1985), and starring as the stereo-blaring romantic Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything … (1989).

 

Cusack has always favored offbeat material, so it was no surprise when he turned up in the fiercely original Being John Malkovich (1999): a performance that won him a Best Actor nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. Cusack was back to his clean-shaven self in High Fidelity (2000), in which he starred as the sarcastic record store owner Rob Gordon, earning him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. His most recent roles continue to push his indefinable acting range, with his portrayal of Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy, and a priest weathering the violence of Chicago in Chi-Raq. He has also written the screenplays for the movies Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity, and War, Inc., with Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser, among many others. 

 

Speech Topics

U.S. Politics
Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

How do we translate our deepest beliefs into action? Besides being an Oscar-nominated actor and writer, John Cusack is a tireless activist for political causes: freedom of the press and transparent journalism, in particular. A vocal critic of U.S. policies like the War on Terror and its extensive drone program, Cusack was also one of the initial supporters of the Freedom of the Press Foundation: a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the rights guaranteed to the press under the First Amendment. In this revealing talk, Cusack invites listeners into his fateful Russian assembly with novelist Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things), Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers) and Edward Snowden to discuss government surveillance and its effect on the American people. Drawing on the resulting book he co-wrote with Roy, Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations, Cusack reflects on some of the most high-stakes issues touching contemporary citizenry today.

Filmmakers
Say Anything A Candid Talk on Acting and Authenticity

John Cusack is more than your typical actor. Star and writer of some of the most iconic films of the last 30 years—think Sixteen Candles, Say Anything, High Fidelity, and Being John Malkovich, to name a few—Cusack has carved his own unique path through the ups and downs of Hollywood, fame, and growing up on film. In this intimate talk, Cusack discusses finding—and sustaining—success in a notoriously fickle industry, all the while keeping his integrity and never losing his creative spirit.  Framed as a short talk followed by an in-depth Q&A, the ever-affable Cusack applies his trademark wit and transparency to questions about movie-making, growing up in the public eye, persevering with your values, and finding a community that supports you in that quest.