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Hey kids, we had the chance to sit in on a chat with John Cusack who let us into the dark, creepy world of Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven, the new actioner which makes Poe a victim of his own horror stories.  Cusack regaled us about playing the “First American Goth.”

Dig it!


The Raven

John Cusack


The Lady Miz Diva:  There are so many ways people have perceived Edgar Allan Poe.  What in the script or in your own research inspired or gave you notes as to how to portray him in The Raven?

John Cusack:  I don’t think you can ever do a definitive version of somebody; certainly not in one book, or one movie, or one song.  I don’t think we have ever seen the writer, Edgar Allan Poe; I think you’ve seen The Raven, or some of his stories, or The Pit and the Pendulum, or The Fall of the House of Usher, or some of those types of things.  What I read about him from his letters and from his biographies, there were some surprising things.  The movie’s sort of a blend of fact and fiction and legend, but the conceit of the movie is very Poe-like in that it’s Poe getting wrapped up in one of his own stories, or getting enmeshed in one of his own creations, which is sort of the meta-Poe version of his thing where he’s always trying to figure out the difference between waking and dreaming, and living and dying, and sanity and insanity.  He’s trying to get into that place beyond that looks into that.  I think that allowed him to deconstruct his own work in that way.  And then you have all this stuff that you can actually use, cos you know what he thinks about all of his stories -- he wrote about his stories.  We know what he thought about Wordsworth and Longfellow and what he thought about other writers.  We know how much he loved Virginia and he wrote Annabel Lee for her.  We know all these authority figures that he was talking to and we know what he talked to his editors like.  So, you put them all into this fantasy and it’s a mix of real Poe and fantasy Poe, but Poe’s Poe.


LMD:  One of the things I wonder if you might relate to as a film producer and creative artist is Poe’s constant need to acquire money?

JC:  Totally!  If you read Poe’s earliest letters, he’s always saying he’s in desperate circumstances, help me with some money.  He was always scrabbling for money his whole life.  Literally saying he was living on dandelion salad and couldn’t afford a drink. Basically, he was always on the verge of ruin.  And he was world famous!


LMD:  That’s just it, there’s that scene where he offers a drink to anyone who can quote one of his poems and there’s someone in the bar who knows it.

JC:  There was no copyright.  He wrote The Raven and he went all over the world and he actually got invited to the White House.  He was a well-known poet and intellectual, but nobody could make a living as a writer.  He tried to make a living as a writer by doing the stories in the paper, where he’d do the gore and horror stories.  They were very successful, but he probably got paid by the word one time and that was it.


LMD:  We’re here in this bar that serves $16 cocktails and it’s ironic because Poe would never have been able to afford to drink in this place.

JC:  Yeah!  I think he was kind of a binge alcoholic.  From what I’ve read in my research, he would stop drinking for a while and then write and get it together, white-knuckle it, then something would happen and he’d be off to the races.


LMD:  He was the first American Goth.

JC:  First American Goth!  He was the Godfather of Goth, for sure. {He started} the detective genre, satire, burlesque, science-fiction before Jules Verne.  {He was} the first person who gave his take on the perverse; the need to do the exact wrong perverse thing.  He was pretty out there.


LMD:  Have you thought about what the reaction will be from people who take Poe and his works very seriously to this fantasy, action hero version of the author?

JC:  I think they’ll probably like it.  Some of them, maybe not.  Roger Corman certainly took the burlesque, satiric side of him and turned it into the camp movies in the sixties. This takes his terror much more seriously than those, certainly, but there is an element of burlesque and vaudeville and mashing-up genres and mindfucking that goes into Poe’s stuff, so I thought it was cool.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

Apr 18th, 2012





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