John Cusack sat before me with a long, green-tipped electronic cigarette clasped between two fingers, blowing out harmless vapor as I struggled with my inappropriate impulse to ask him something, anything about "The Grifters". But my professionalism won out.
I was there, of course, to interview Cusack about his latest film "The Raven", a Gothic horror flick that blends fact and fantasy in a plot that sees 19th-century writer Edgar Allan Poe (fact) caught up in the hunt for a serial killer who uses Poe's own stories as inspiration for his gruesome crimes (fantasy). Cusack stars in the role of the brilliant-but-troubled wordsmith, a man with unspeakable personal demons who becomes even more entangled in the case when his lady love Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) is kidnapped and imprisoned by the murderer.
"We were [shooting] in Serbia, and it was an eight-week bender, kind of," explained Cusack of playing Poe. "It was a very trippy headspace to be in."
And an intimidating challenge, to be sure, given the task of portraying such a legendary and beloved historical figure. Still, it was an opportunity he simply couldn't pass up.
"If you were gonna do a Gothic story, this would be the gold standard," he explained of his decision to play the part. "It would be to play Edgar Allan Poe in a fantasy about Edgar Allan Poe."
Next up on my interview roster was Cusack's icily gorgeous co-star Alice Eve, the British actress who will soon be seen in not one but two high-profile franchise films: this summer's "Men in Black 3" and next year's as-yet-untitled "Star Trek" sequel. I gave the rising thesp a few moments to finish chewing a delicious-looking fudge brownie before taking a seat opposite her to get her take on the film, in which she plays the beautiful Emily, a high-class woman who somewhat inexplicably falls in love with the tortured Poe - and ends up buried alive by the killer as a result.
Of course, I had to ask the actress what it was like to film the squirm-inducing "coffin" scenes, which are likely to send any and all claustrophobic audience members racing for the exits. And yet one thing I found rather telling about her character was the fact that instead of immediately flipping out as one would expect her to do, Emily is remarkably calm when she first becomes aware of her enclosed surroundings - in an already-confining corset, no less.
"In the box, the period dress wasn't that confining," she remarked when I asked her about the double-whammy of filming not only in restrictive period-wear but in a tiny box as well. "In fact, that was the most comfortable thing I wore. It was like pajamas compared to carrying around that huge cage [the rigid steel structure of the type that gave women's dresses their hoop-like shape in the 19th century] and the corset and everything."
As for Emily's romance with Poe, Eve explained that their rather unlikely pairing can largely be chalked up to her character's high level of intelligence.
"Because she was intelligent, she could recognize the brilliance in his writing, and she understood him," she explained. "That's what she loved him for."
You can check out the full interviews with Cusack and Eve above and below. As for the film itself, it hits theaters this Friday.
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