John Cusack

Why are so many in our government and press and intellectual class so afraid of an informed public?

Award-winning Actor | Supporter of the Freedom of the Press Foundation

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John Cusack | Award-winning Actor | Supporter of the Freedom of the Press Foundation
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Not only has John Cusack built an iconic Hollywood career, but he’s now one of the most 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—dialogues between himself, novelist Arundhati Roy, Daniel Ellsberg, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—he uses his high-profile position to raise awareness of today’s most urgent issues.

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.  He’s one of the initial supporters (and now member of the Board of Directors) 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 (author of The God of Small Things) and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers) in a secret meeting with NSA whistleblower 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—which explores “the nature of the state, empire, and surveillance in an era of perpetual war, the meaning of flags and patriotism, the role of foundations and NGOs in limiting dissent, and the ways in which capital but not people can freely cross borders.” 


Whether through acting or activism, Cusack is constantly seeking new ways to educate, impact, and influence people’s perception of art and politics. Born in Evanston, Illinois, Cusack became a member of Chicago’s Piven Theatre Workshop while he was still in elementary school. By age 12, he already  appeared in several stage productions, commercial voice-overs, and industrial films. He made his feature film debut at 17 in the romantic comedy Class (1983), then appeared in Sixteen Candles (1984) and starred Say Anything … (1989). Ten years later, he appeared in the fiercely original Being John Malkovich (1999): a performance that won him a Best Actor nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. His starring role in High Fidelity (2000) earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. Having appeared in over 60 films, his most recent roles continue to push his indefinable acting range, with roles in Love & Mercy and Spike Lee’s 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 Mounting Meaningful Resistance

John Cusack is a passionate and articulate political activist. A vocal critic of U.S. government policies such as the War on Terror and its extensive drone program, he 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: state, empire, surveillance, patriotism, dissent, and meaningful action.

Film & Television
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.