John Cusack thinks his new movie “War, Inc.” could be the most political one he’s made in his three-decade career — even though he’s not thrilled with the word.
“Political — what does it mean, anyway?” he asked during a recent phone interview.
Yet he doesn’t mince words when describing what the filmmakers behind the “punk rock” effort are trying to do: “Be as obscene, absurd and tasteless as the war profiteers are.”
Cusack, who co-wrote and co-produced the satire, stars as a hit man sent into a Middle Eastern war zone to kill an opposition leader. The situation in the fictional Turaqistan is an obvious metaphor for the American occupation of Iraq. In the movie, the country is at the mercy of a U.S. corporation running the show.
Cusack’s character gets involved with a journalist trying to go behind the scenes, as well as with a native pop star whose fame has taken on social relevance.
All cast members climbed aboardthe decidedly non-Hollywood project quickly after reading Mark Leyner and Jeremy Piker’s script, according to Cusack, who calls the screenplay “experimental, with tonal shifts from black comedy to Telemundo.”
Marisa Tomei plays the reporter, Hilary Duff the singer, Joan Cusack the corporate coordinator and Dan Ackroyd, the vice president.
Duff plays against her former child-star persona as a foul-mouthed Britney Spears-type character, whose personal life is the topic of major news. Cusack said the role wasn’t written to knock Spears (whose troubles hadn’t happened when the movie was written four years ago), but to take on the West’s love of cultural “sexploitation.”
Packed with funny site gags, including advertisements on tanks and a Turaqistani leader who hides behind a “Wizard of Oz”-like disguise of a changing video screen flashing images of characters from Ronald Reagan to the Fonz, the film showcases a “sense of cultural kitsch,” Cusack says.
“The idea was to be sophisticated and stupid at the same time,” he adds.
For Cusack, “War, Inc.” has the opposite tone of another of his recent movies, “Grace is Gone,” where he plays a father who has to tell his children their mom died in the war.
His appearances as a dad — he’s not one in real life — in movies lately, he says, is a “weird, strange coincidence.” He doesn’t seem to have any immediate plans for fatherhood.
For the short term, he’s looking forward to going back to his hometown Chicago to see the Cubs.