John Cusack is trying to figure out whether famed mystery author Edgar Allan Poe would be a fan of the Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox.
"Oh, well I think he'd have to like the endless suffering and misery of the Cubs," he begins. "But the Sox wear all black and are sort of the darker, more mysterious team. You know, I think maybe he'd like both."
That's one commonality between Cusack and Poe, whom the actor plays in the new film "The Raven." A native of the Chicago suburbs, Cusack grew up cheering for Jose Cardenal and Larry Biittner on the Northside, but also rooted for Southsiders like Chet Lemon and Carlton Fisk.
Cusack knows he'll always get flack for supporting both of Chicago's baseball teams, but he believes he deserves at least a little credit for admitting his split allegiance.
"There's another Chicago guy, Craig Robinson, who I did 'Hot Tub Time Machine' with; he likes both teams, too," Cusack said. "When we were filming, we would watch a lot of baseball. There would always be either a Cubs or Sox game on. A lot of people like both, they just won't admit it."
Cusack has always been outspoken about his love for Chicago teams, but admits today's Bulls don't have quite the same cache as the Jordan-era teams.
"It's hard to really re-engage after Michael," he said. "I think the NBA isn't the same these days; they don't play with the same fundamentals. I think maybe you could take some of those old Cleveland teams that never could beat the Bulls and they might beat some of the best teams now because of their good fundamental play."
You might not see Cusack courtside at a Bulls game, but he did hit up The Cell during the White Sox's World Series run in 2005. He was also spotted sitting along the glass during the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup run and has led the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field on a number of occasions. Cusack even played former Sox infielder Buck Weaver in "Eight Men Out," a film about the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
Cusack has spent more years playing characters than he has just being himself. In the movies since 1983, the 45-year-old has played a lovesick high school kid, a mercenary, a record store owner, a U.S. Marshal and, now, a legendary literary figure.
Part fact, part fantasy, "The Raven" (which hits theatres April 27) finds Cusack's Poe tasked with hunting down a serial killer who uses Poe's stories as inspiration for his murders. Cusack spent three months shooting in Serbia, and dropped 25 pounds to play the skeletal, impoverished author, whose works did not receive much acclaim until after his death. Because the film combines facts and quotes from Poe's letters and novels with a fictional story line, Cusack isn't worried about literature buffs taking the film to task for authenticity.
"The movie isn't meant to be a historical account," he said. "There's never going to be an exact, true telling of Poe, because there weren't tape recorders, video cameras or anything."
Cusack isn't worried about his legacy as an actor, either. He is only concerned with doing work that interests him. (He claims he signed on for "The Raven," in part, so he could read a whole lot of Poe.) He won't be bothered much if the film doesn't enjoy a great deal of success right off the bat. He's used to starring in the kind of cult classics that grow more popular over time.
"I don't listen to what people say [about my movies] right away," he recently told New York Magazine, "because later the people either like or hate them more."
If it sounds like Cusack is living some sort of worry-free, Zen existence, that's not entirely true. He'll always enjoy a certain terrible agony unique to Cubs fans. And you can be sure if Poe were alive today, he'd find a macabre beauty within more than a century of sadness.