This weekend director James McTeigue’s imagined version of horror/suspense author Edgar Allan Poe’s final days, ‘The Raven,’ opens in AMC theatres. We had the chance to speak with the film’s star John Cusack about portraying an icon, the human fascination with death and the drive to attain celebrity and fame.
Take a look at our interview with the actor and the synopsis for the film below.
“The Raven” Synopsis:
The macabre and lurid tales of Edgar Allan Poe are vividly brought to life - and death – in this stylish, gothic thriller. When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Poe’s darkest works, a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) joins forces with Poe in a quest to get inside the killer’s mind in order to stop him from making every one of Poe’s brutal stories a blood chilling reality. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, which escalates when Poe’s love (Alice Eve) becomes the next target.
AMC: You said something at the Comic Con panel for the “The Raven” that stayed with me. You quoted Poe as saying: “There is nothing more fascinating in the world than a beautiful woman dying." Do you think there’s something in that idea that speaks to the appeal of the horror genre in general?
John Cusack: “Absolutely, I think that the horror genre is the language of the subconscious. In a strange way and it’s all of our shadow, all of the things that we keep hidden, the fears, obsessions and neuroses and terrors that we have when we’re alone with ourselves. Obviously there are only a few things that you can never prepare for and you can’t rehearse: being born, dying and falling in love. Those are the themes.”
AMC: And that was what Poe was writing about wasn’t he? He was kind of operating from the creation/destruction instinct simultaniously in some ways.
JC: “Yes. That’s the perversity that he writes about. He was mashing up genres and styles as well. He was doing everything from shock jock stuff to metaphysical, philosophical writing. He was a real genius.”
AMC: Were you familiar with his work previously?
JC: “Yes. I grew up being a fan.”
AMC: Did you pursue this project?
JC: “It came to me and I jumped on it. I thought it was a great opportunity. I already knew who he was and the impact he had on people and had loved Lou Reed’s album ‘The Raven’ and knew the influence he’d had on the detective genre and science-fiction and Gothic Horror and gothic music and heavy metal so I knew who he was it was just nice to read him again as an adult and go, ‘oh wow, that’s really who he was’.”
AMC: One of the other themes in the film is fame and the desire to be famous.
JC: “No doubt.”
AMC: Do you think there’s sort of an attraction/repulsion instinct with fame as well?
JC: “Probably yeah. The act of acting itself is kind of a strange thing to do like, ‘why do you want attention?’ Not everybody wants attention but actors really need it and it’s probably some way to validate that your here on earth and get people to scream to the heavens to admit that you were here by watching you. I don’t know what it is but it’s some sort of aggression in the face of annihilation.”
AMC: Absolutely. I feel like fame is, among other things, the defiance of one’s mortality.
JC: “It’s also the idea of facing your ghosts and getting into your subconscious and wanting to explore that way. Explore those things. We explore things and try to feel things that most people try to avoid. It’s a strange counterintuitive impulse. Why would you want to feel all those things, why are we attracted to them? I think it’s a search for authenticity. Because we know it’s not authentic to pretend that everything is perfect all the time and you don’t have all those feelings and so we’re feeling them so you say ‘yep, I’m human, I knew I was human.’”
AMC: I think Poe doing the same, operating from a similar place.
JC: “I think so yeah, that’s right.”
AMC: It’s interesting, this idea that he has about a beautiful woman dying and what that represents. Alice Eve is the female lead in the film, so she is that female. What do you think she represents in the story? What would that character represent to Poe?
JC: “She’s the anima, the eternal feminine and that’s the mystery. That’s what he lost his entire life. He was always looking to find that union with his mother who died, and then his stepmother who died and then his wife. He was a great seeker of truth and love and felt love very passionately but then he saw it dying. He saw it being destroyed so he was always juxtaposing death and beauty, love and death. Those were the juxtapositions that he was always playing with. So for him the love for a woman is the most beautiful thing in the world. Thereby the death of a beautiful woman has to be, by definition, the most traumatic thing in the world.”
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