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John Cusack says he never gets tired of questions about 'Say Anything'

The actor, who starred as Lloyd Dobler, sat down with Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Even after decades in Hollywood, John Cusack still gets asked about the same iconic movies — including some cult favorites.

"It's weird, it's like having your yearbook pictures on cable all the time," he said, laughing, during a wide-ranging interview on Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist. "It's kind of a strange one. It's nice that people still are actually thinking or talking about some of those old movies."

While fans often ask him about famous moments — like his iconic boombox scene as Lloyd Dobler in the 1989 hit movie "Say Anything" — he said it's something he never gets tired of.

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"Does it ever get old hearing about the boombox?" Geist asked.

"Yeah, but they come up about other things too," Cusack said. "And then, I figure, you know, that's kind of a champagne problem, right? I think if that's as tough as it's going to get for me, I'm a pretty lucky guy."

"Say Anything"
Cusack still gets questions from fans about the boombox scene from "Say Anything."Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock / Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Those interactions have been limited in the past few months during the coronavirus pandemic, as people quarantined at home. Cusack said that he is finding time to watch baseball while he stays in.

"Finally baseball games came back, and both Chicago teams are doing great, so it looks like they're going to both be in the playoffs. So that's pretty exciting," said Cusack, who grew up in Evanston, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. "But, yeah, I've been sort of hunkered down and reading and writing a bit and catching up on a lot of old movies."

Some of those old movies star Cusack and his favorite co-star, one of his older sisters, Joan. The siblings grew up in a family that loved theater, film and other art forms.

When the Cusacks were teenagers, Chicago became a popular site for filming. "They started making some films in Chicago about teenagers, which wasn't really a genre at the time," Cusack explained. "John Hughes made one called 'Sixteen Candles.' And so we both got small parts in that."

Even now, the two both love to work together.

"Is it a cool thing to work with your sister, to be on a movie set and look at her and say 'Wow, that's the girl I grew up with in our house (and) we're making movies together?'" Geist asked Cusack.

"When I'm producing a movie, I know I can get her cheap. I'll say 'I want you to do it.' And she just pretends like she doesn't hear me. And I just go, 'You just read that, okay? And you're going to come by and call me an asshole in this scene, OK?'" he joked, referencing a scene from "High Fidelity." "And then she just comes on the set and, you know, like Wile E. Coyote, just like runs you over, and you're just like a flat pancake. And then everyone's really happy. It's usually the funniest scenes in the movie."

Joan isn't the only family member who inspires Cusack's work now. The actor has always been vocal about what he sees "outside his window," advocating for progressive politicians and policies, something that he said was driven by how insurance companies responded to his father's death.

"I can remember very clearly, just when my father passed away, it was very hard. But I was aware that when the insurance company said 'We're not going to pay for it,' that I could pay for it because I was a successful actor, right? So I knew that was the truth," he said.

"But I thought to myself 'I couldn't imagine what the families were going through when they were trying to get care for their loved one and, you know, getting the brutal cold shoulder from the insurance companies."

To cope with what he calls the "enormous amount of suffering" in the world, he thinks solutions need to be found at the structural level and from both parties.

"There has to be a correction, and it has to be a New Deal-style correction," he said. "They can choose whatever language they want, but let's just re-watch those middle of the road Ken Burns documentaries. It has to come in an FDR-style way, in my opinion, with all humility. I just hope that the Democrats don't think that they can squeak by without doing the structural change that's needed."

In his current project, "Utopia," a science-fiction series on Amazon Prime, written by "Gone Girl" author Gillian Flynn, Cusack said he sees plenty of parallels to the current moment.

"I guess 'surreal' would be the only word you could use to describe the fact that what happens in the show, you know, you look out your window and look at the television and read the papers and it seems a little bit too eerily similar," he said.