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John Cusack

June 21, 2007|Jessica Gelt | Times Staff Writer

Thanks to underdog roles such as that of the iconic, boombox-carrying Lloyd Dobler in 1989's "Say Anything" and Rob Gordon in 2000's "High Fidelity," Jon Cusack, 40, has become the poster boy for sensitive, lovelorn slackers. Still, the actor is the first to point out that he's not a "one-trick pony," which he proves with creepy intensity in "1408," the psychological mind-bender based on a Stephen King short story, which opens Friday. Reality gets blasted away bit by bit as Cusack's character, a writer specializing in paranormal phenomena, attempts to debunk the legend of a haunted Room 1408 in a New York Hotel.

You're not usually a horror guy. What brought this on?

This is horror, but it's also a paranormal thriller in the Rod Serling "Twilight Zone" mode. By the end of the movie -- when my character is hanging upside down and there's an earthquake in the room and I attack the painting and the room itself starts to sink -- you definitely have a sense of doom. It wouldn't stop, so it was kind of fun in a perverse way, but then, I sort of enjoy that kind of thing. There might be something wrong with me.

What's your definition of good horror?

It's not where you have perfect innocence being invaded by perfect evil. In really good films you have complex characters who find that in the evil places, they are going to face parts of themselves -- like in "The Exorcist" or "The Shining," where the characters have to confront their own demons in the course of the narrative.

What's on the horizon for your production company, New Crime Productions?

We're cutting a film called "Brand Hauser," which is a dark political satire based on the Iraq misadventures.

We're aspiring to be in the rarefied [company] of "Network" and "Dr. Strangelove."

Do you have a favorite bar or restaurant in L.A.?

Yes, I do, but I would never tell you because then it wouldn't be my place.

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