John Cusack describes playing legendary author Edgar Allan Poe as “being on a bender for eight weeks. I didn’t sleep much. I stayed in the headspace of it. But when I came back to my family on Christmas, they were like, ‘What happened?’ It took a while to shake it off.”
The actor, a great admirer of Poe’s writing, claims he was ‘a bit of a rockstar in his day’, but playing him was just that much more difficult. Cusack recalls, “Poe was dirt poor and an alcoholic, so I got as gaunt as I could. I got down to about 190 pounds (86.4 kilos), which is below what I was in high school. Then I just immersed myself in the material, all of his letters and writings, and got into that spook house vibe. It helped that it was winter in Serbia and Hungary (where the film is shot). I felt like I was a vampire.”
This is not the first time the actor’s been so immersed in his part. “In 1408 (2007), I was locked in a room with only my director. It’s a bit of a high-wire act and you have to trust each other. We made a weird and berserk film — just me, him and the camera,” claims Cusack.
He admits that he was “lucky” to grab this part.
“It would usually go to Johnny (Depp) or Robert (Downey Jr), who have made bigger box-office movies. Some days you’re higher up on the food chain than others, and sometimes you’re not. I was glad that it was my turn to get lucky,” says Cusack, adding “I want to do different things, and that’s what I’ve tried here too.”
‘Emily is Poe’s equal’
Alice Eve, who plays Poe’s fiancée Emily Hamilton in the film, is thrilled about her part. “I like that she’s not a typical damsel in distress. She may be a 19th century English woman, but she’s as strong and intelligent as him. She’s shown as his equal, and that really appealed to me,” says the young actor, who along with Cusack, read a lot about Poe to brush up on his character and writing. Eve also stars in Men In Black 3 and is best known as the girl Vince ends up on TV show Entourage.
Cusack’s favourite works by Poe:
The Raven (poem)
The Cask of Amontillado
The Tell-Tale Heart