Interview conducted May 22, 2008. Listen
to the interview.
"War is the improvement of investment climates by other means" -Clausewitz
Alright everybody, welcome back to Antiwar
Radio KAOS 92.7 FM
in Austin, Texas. Introducing actor, writer, producer, John Cusack, on the phone
from England today. He's the star of Say Anything, The Grifters,
The Thin Red Line, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity,
Grosse Pointe Blank, Identity, 1408 and dozens of other movies
including his brand new War
Inc., which he also co-wrote. It also stars his sister, Joan Cusack,
Marisa Tomei, Dan Aykroyd, Hilary Duff, Ben Kingsley, Montel Williams and John
McLaughlin. It starts tonight in New York and LA, and then hopefully soon thereafter
nationwide. Welcome to the show, John.
Cusack: Hi, how are you doing?
Horton: I'm doing great. Thanks very much for joining us on the show
Cusack: It's my pleasure.
Horton: My first question for you really, I think is, "You know Marisa
Cusack: I do.
Horton: That must be pretty nice?
Cusack: Yeah, that's pretty nice especially if you get to know
her too, in 3-d. That's even better.
Horton: Alright, so this movie is great. I've already watched it about
3 times and shared it with a couple of friends of mine. It's pretty ruthless
satire of empire and the so-called "war-on-terrorism." I'm going to
see if I can go ahead and start us off with a couple of clips of Dan Aykroyd
The Vice President (Aykroyd): I hope you like the smell of fresh
Brand Hauser (Cusack): Turaqistan. What's the gig?
TVP: Omar Sharif, CEO of Ugi-gas, the Ugijastani conglomerate. The
son of a b*tch is trying to build a pipeline through his own sheep fu**ing country.
We didn't liberate Turaqistan to get hustled by some co**-sucking fez-head,
Hauser! Terminate! You will be working directly under the Viceroy just
appointed by the President. Tamerlane is sponsoring a trade expo, "Brand
USA." It's our big launch bringing democracy to this part of the world
plus now that we've bombed the shit out of them, well there's
lot of rebuilding to do.
Hauser: That shows a nice spirit.
TVP: Well, somebody has to help these poor people. This moment presents
a great opportunity for Tamerlane and the United States for that matter.
Not to mention the people of Turaqistan. This is a historic moment, Hauser;
the first war ever to be 100 percent outsourced to private enterprise: Tamerlane
jets, Tamerlane tanks, Tamerlane soldiers, and to top it all off a "Brand
Horton: All right. So that's you, you're Hauser, the hit man having
some personal problems, and you're the fixer for this company, "Tamerlane,"
running the very first all-outsourced war.
Cusack: Yeah, I guess Halliburton and Bechtel and a lot of the Green
Zone gang now, they got about half of it done, but there is still the
problem that they have to use the United States military but they are
trying their best to make it a totally outsourced war. There are 180,000 troops,
I think, and 140,000 contractors, or it might be the other way around, but we've
got about a half-privatized war now. So this is a logical extension of that
trend. So it could be two weeks into the future or two years unless we can get
this administration out of power and what they represent; that strain
in the Republican party and hold them accountable for their crimes.
Horton: You know, I interviewed this guy named Bruce
Falconer from Mother Jones magazine, and he had written this article
all about Blackwater, and he talked about how they really are now building their
own navy, their own air force and their own ability to actually do an entire
Cusack: Yeah, that's the future that the Republican Party, and of the
Democratic Party, if they're going to be complicit in this, are offering us.
If you want a world where corporations can hire their own armies, run around
with weapons and kill people without any accountability to international law,
and do it on our tax dollar then that's what you can get with this ideology.
Horton: Now have you always been this opposed to empire? I don't remember
you really being lumped in with the members of the "Film Actors Guild"
from Team America or anything earlier in the war.
Cusack: Yeah, I guess I didn't make the cut there, but I think that's
just because my agent is the agent of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. So I think
he said, you know, "you ain't using Johnny." So I think it was basically
the threat of my agent to Trey and Matt, probably, that they didn't lump me
in there. But I always thought that was a completely jive argument anyway, you
know? I mean, I think it's fine to make fun of celebrities, but to kind of equate
actors and artists who may or may not be self-righteous with dictators and corporate
war profiteers is a bit of an uneven comparison to put it mildly. I always
thought that making fun of actors was a kind of paper tiger thing. I don't know.
I don't get it.
Horton: You know, at least those people, self-righteous or otherwise,
were trying to stop this war and pretty much everybody seems to agree that it
was a bad idea now.
Cusack: Yeah, I think the biggest thing to fight now, and the whole
reason we made War Inc. was to fight apathy. I think the first thing
people need to reclaim is their sense of outrage and their sense of defiance
and their spirit, right? It may take awhile and to hold people accountable for
this but we don't have to just roll over. It should feel good to be subversive.
It should feel good to tell the right people to go to hell. It should be empowering.
I can't really tell many people to go to hell, because otherwise I would be
living in a glass house. And I don't really want to tell that many people to
go to hell. But war profiteers, who then come back and then deny the GI Bill
of Rights to the real soldiers? I can wake up in the morning every day, look
in mirror and tell those people to go to hell.
Horton: Well, part of the joy of the movie for me and was just seeing
you get away with it, because it really is very ruthless in its delivery of
the satire, gag after gag for the first forty minutes. You know, it's pretty
shocking. That was part of the joy for me was that "Wow, John Cusack and
these guys even got this movie made." Was that difficult?
Cusack: Yeah. The thing is that we haven't really gotten away with it
yet. That's maybe where people who listen to your show and some other people
can come in, because we got it made, but we don't know have a lot of support
out there for it obviously. If any of your listeners want to go to MySpace
and go to John Cusack at MySpace,
the MySpace page, there's reviews from people, who I think a lot of antiwar
folks would respect, from Naomi Klein to Jeremy Scahil to Gore Vidal, Tim Robbins
just a whole bunch of people who have come out in support of the film.
But we really don't have the support of a lot of the corporate media, obviously,
because they say the movie is not funny enough or it's "too close to home"
or we're supposed to be Wedding Crashers or something. I like Wedding
Crashers, but it's just a different vibe. A lot of people say "you
shouldn't make fun of something when we're already so close to having a privatized
war. It shouldn't be the time for this..."
Well, I don't know exactly when the right time would be. Should we wait till
everything is a corporate profit industry like every function of the
state? Is that the time to make fun of it? When there is no more public sphere?
So if people go see the movie tomorrow it's playing at the Landmark Theater
in LA and the Angelica Theater in New York, and sell out the weekend, then they
are going to put it in more theaters, and we'll bring it to all the different
cities and keep playing it. But if it doesn't make money right now without any
corporate backing then it'll have its life on DVD, and it'll play all over the
world, in Europe and the other countries. But if we want to keep it in the theaters
if we really want to piss off the right people we have to get
people to see it now.
Horton: Well, it really is funny. It seems like you probably have the
best shot of any antiwar movies that have come up lately of really breaking
through to the public here, because it's a hilarious movie. The other ones aren't,
and haven't done that well so I think you stand a really good chance.
Cusack: I was hoping that people would they would use it as a springboard
to get people riled up and reclaim their spirit about this. If you think about
the war it's really depressing too, and at some point when you know all this
stuff, as every one of your listeners already know, you get a little bit down
about it and you get a little doom struck about it, and you think, well it's
just inevitable that these bastards are going to keep doing this. So I think
the first thing you want to do is just reclaim that sense of outrage. Name it
and shame it and tell 'em to go to hell. So people can use the movie as a springboard
to take action to take the country back in some way in some small way,
that would be great. If they want to, go see it this weekend don't wait.
If we can keep it in the theaters maybe we can have some real fun with this.
I would love to keep it in the theaters all the way to the Republican convention.
Horton: Well, your character in the movie kind of goes through that.
He is sort of a Tin Man character with no heart who's got to reclaim his outrage,
Cusack: Yeah, I guess so. The character in it... I don't know if he's
quite so redemptive, but I think certainly the politics of the movie are things
that people who are interested in ending the war and ending some of the abuses
of empire would really like.
Horton: You said something very interesting in an interview with
I forget the guy's name, the Scottish guy that does the TV talk show at night.
Cusack: Craig Ferguson?
Horton: Craig Ferguson, that's right. You said something in the interview
with him that this "disaster capitalism" is not the free market.
It's actually a big protection racket welfare for billionaires.
Cusack: Yeah, absolutely. Let's just say for example... I mean, here's
some of the arguments that the movie makes, and this is also something a lot
of your listeners would know if you would read Jeremy Scahill's book Blackwater,
or Naomi Klein's book, The
Shock Doctrine or Anthony Arnoves's book
or the blogs of RawStory a lot
of these journalists who are doing unbelievable work is... Well, we all know,
we hear about this "privatization" thing and it's kind of an abstract
thing. It's like "globalization" Like, "What does it really
mean? I don't really know."
But when you really get down to it, if you want to believe that it's okay for
Exxon to, say, hire a private army to protect their oil fields, well then okay
let's say you could make that argument: that it's okay for corporations to have
a private army that's totally outside international law and not accountable
to anybody. Well then you could say, "Alright, well you know, they're producing
the oil and they've got to protect their pipeline or whatever they've got to
do, so I guess, you know, yeah, let them pay for it." Well that's an insane
argument: to say that it's okay for a corporation to have its own private killing
army, but let's say you went with that, but even that's not true, because we
pay for it. We are paying Blackwater the U.S. taxpayers. So it is not
even like a free market. It is not even these people kind of just taking care
of themselves in the lawless international land, I mean all these myths are
bullshit, you know?
Horton: Right they like to call it "free market fundamentalism"
when what it really is, is fascism. It's mercantilism at war. What else could
you call it?
Cusack: Yeah. I don't know another name for it. Nor do I think you should
be polite with it anymore. I think We have to be past that point. So, you know,
if you think it's okay for these corporations to help create these conditions
for war, drive us into war, and then make money bombing the place, make money
rebuilding it, all the while barring other people from the competition, right?
And then come back on television and preach about the free market, when they
are orchestrating a vast protectionist racket, where they are securing their
market and profiting off of people's death and destruction. I mean that's what's
happening, We're in a place right now where it's okay for people to not only
do the United States' torture, but we've turned torture into a for-profit business
that is paid for by and the U.S. taxpayers. We have outsourced interrogation,
right? you know, a gentle semiotics for torture.
Horton: Right. CACI
International at Abu Ghraib.
Cusack: That's the reality. So I don't know... If this isn't enough
for revolt, I don't know what is. And the Democrats have got a lot to answer
to as well. I mean, if Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is "off the table,"
what does that mean? That means that you commit crimes as long as the Democrats
are within striking distance of capturing power?
Horton: Yeah, that's exactly what it means, apparently.
Cusack: That's what it means.
Horton: Hey John, let me take this opportunity to complement your sister
Joan. I think she is so funny, and I think she ought to win Best Supporting
Actress or something for her portrayal in this movie of the pure banality of
evil, as Hannah Arendt called it. I want to play this short clip.
Marsha Dillon: (Joan Cusack) [making announcement]: Progress
Update, people! Bank Swiss didn't even wait for the opening ceremony, closing
a $1.3 billion deal with Root, Branch and Blossom to restore essential water
services to the people of Turaqistan! [applause] Oh, come on! I sure they'd
like to give a shout out to the Tamerlane Third Bomber Wing for those humane
precision strikes that have created this... wonderful opportunity for everyone!
Horton: Alright, that ought to give ya'll a little bit of a taste of
what this movie is about.
Cusack: You know what you should probably do? You know that really long
winded speech that I just gave before before this? You should just play that
clip and I should shut up.
Horton: No way! No I love it.
Cusack: [Laughs] Because that was a lot better example of what
I was just talking about.
Horton: Well, it's the perfect example. What you said was the setup.
Horton: We'll go with that. Uh... listen, you mentioned the media,
and in this movie, you really kind of heap praise on the bravest reporters in
the form of Marisa Tomei's character, and you absolutely skewer, well, the same
people who have panned the movie, I guess, right?
Cusack: Uh no, because the people who pan the movie are people who mostly
go to junkets and watch movies all the time. I think the people who have studied
this stuff even the media people, like Bill Maher, who liked the film
and gave us a quote, Laura Logan, who is chief foreign correspondent for CBS
News and 60 Minutes, Rachael Maddow, you know, who studies this stuff,
people on Internet like Howie Klein, Crooks and Liars people who are
keeping an eye on this stuff they all love the film or really like it.
The people who have and not liked it are the people of the trade papers in Los
Angeles, who said it was a little too close to home, and it made them uncomfortable...
Horton: Oh... Some criticism!
Cusack: Yeah, well, I think you should feel uncomfortable about all
Horton: Yeah, I mean what kind of praise is that?
Cusack: I don't think the role of satire is just make you feel good.
It's maybe meant to provoke you too, But, um, so we'll see what happens tomorrow
with these reviewers, but I am not expecting much from the corporate media,
to be honest. I've been the beneficiary of snobbery from that class. So I don't
mind so much that they don't understand or like this movie because I've never
really expected them to.
Horton: Yeah, tell me about Hilary Duff's character, Yonica Babyyeah.
Cusack: Yeah, she plays and if a pan-Eurasian sex symbol who wants to
be like an American pop star. Her goal is to come to America and write soulful
music and be sad and rich. That's her ultimate goal.
Cusack: She's great in the movie too. I think even the people who haven't
liked the movie and there haven't been that many there has certainly
been some blowback on the movie they all love Hilary in it. She is pretty
great. Very funny.
Horton: I'm not even familiar with her. Is she a pop star or an actress?
Cusack: She's both!
Horton: Oh, okay well, I guess she is now, but she was a pop star originally
is that it?
Cusack: Yeah. She had a TV show, she's done a bunch of tours and does
music. Yeah, she does it all. She was happy to secure that world, I guess.
Horton: And her character is the centerpiece of the big "Brand
USA" synergy, marketing, corporate-culture-at-war kind of thing that you
have going on there.
Cusack: Yeah, she's a perfect branded synergy between the modern young
woman getting her own and getting it on, with all the strength and tradition
of a kept mistress for a warlord. So she's a perfect crossover star.
Horton: Yeah. I'm curious about the portrayal of the "Emerald
City" there the Green Zone. It's... well, it has that Wizard of
Oz sense as I was saying before, I was wondering, did you actually go to Iraq
and see what the Green Zone was like for yourself?
Cusack: No I didn't, but I have read from a million accounts of it and
talked to a million journalists who have been there, including, as I've said,
Naomi Klein, Laura Logan and a bunch of them, so...
Horton: Yeah, you have the atmosphere of that situation just... It's
just pretty insane the way it comes across.
Cusack: I really think the people who read these books and this accounting
this heroic journalism that's going on from over there, they don't
think the movie goes far enough. But people who, I guess, haven't studied it
so much, think maybe we're, you know, sniffing glue and taking blotter acid.
But that's okay.
Horton: Have you considered offering a free screening to Congress?
Cusack: Uh, yeah. I think that sounds like a good idea. I don't think
many would show though, do you?
Horton: I don't know, you might get a couple of the braver ones.
Cusack: I bet Jan Shakowski would.
Horton: Yeah, um...
Cusack: Yeah, I actually bet a bunch of then would, but I don't know...
I don't think a lot of them knew when the Blackwater hearings were happening
I didn't have a real sense that any of them really knew that they were
taking state money. I didn't think that many people knew that the $600 million
are so that they take is from us. Our taxpayers, our budget.
Horton: That the Congress people didn't even realize it?
Cusack: I don't think a lot of them did.
Cusack: I swear to you, when I was watching those hearings, I had a
sense that they were learning for the first time what was going on during the
Horton: That's funny. Yeah, I don't doubt it. I think most of them are
pretty uninterested in their actual job, and more just in themselves.
Cusack: If you think about what the Republicans have done that
their version of government is to create a feeding frenzy for corporations and
to let these corporations come in and basically use the State Department as
an ATM like they can just put their card in and just take money out for
whatever project they think they want to do at a cost plus basis, you know?
So that's the gig. It's a great gig if you can have it. It's basically a completely
deranged and evil to do that. Especially when you think that these soldiers
were not getting all of the equipment that they needed, or they weren't getting
everything that they needed, or they had to go on these extended to tours or
that they aren't being guaranteed the GI Bill of Rights.
Horton: Yeah, or even decent health care...
Cusack: Yet we have much higher salaries, at a cost plus basis, for
private mercenaries? I don't know... If that doesn't get people outraged I don't
know what would. I really don't... I think we're so far down the rabbit hole
here, that of I don't know what it'll take. So that's probably why we wanted
to be so over the top with War Inc. It is just to get people talking
about it or thinking about it.
Horton: Are you familiar with the writer, Nick Turse?
Cusack: No sir.
Horton: Well and he's a progressive writer and he's got a new book out
Complex. It's the military-industrial-everything complex. It's
grown so much since the days of Ike
Eisenhower and is so pervasive. And one of the things that he talks about
a lot actually is the Pentagon's role in Hollywood, and how if anybody wants
to have good military equipment and special effects and high tech gear, that
the military is always there are ready and willing to cooperate, that kind of
thing... I don't guess you got any kind of help from them on this?
Cusack: From the Pentagon? No, no, no, no... We had no contact with
Horton: That's something that is pretty pervasive in Hollywood though,
Cusack: I don't understand. Are you saying that the Pentagon is kind
of infiltrating Hollywood to give pro...? I don't think I understand what you
Horton: Yeah, sure, exactly like that. Like Transformers and
it's all F-22 Raptors and the latest technology because the military helps them
make the movie, basically.
Cusack: Oh, I think they probably do some stuff like product placement
deals, certainly. No, I know they're going to try to keep their brand vital
and alive, there's no doubt about that. So I don't know a lot about that, but
I'm absolutely sure that you are right, just based on principle.
Horton: Well, this has been a great interview and the movie was absolutely
excellent. Everybody please go out and watch it. It'sWar Inc. It comes
out Friday night in New York and LA. If you can sell it out there...
Cusack: Yeah, it's at the Angelica and at the Landmark, and if you want
to keep it in theaters and if you want to have fun, you can do whatever you
want with it. You can throw stuff at the screen who cares? just
have fun with it. But if you guys go, we will keep it in the theaters and we
will keep the conversation going, and we can use it to I think the antiwar
movement can use it, and I'll be thrilled if they did to get more attention.
Horton: I sure wish you the best of luck with it, and I congratulate
you on it. It really is good. The hot sauce helps too!
Cusack: Thanks man!
Horton: Alright, thanks a lot. Everybody - John Cusack.