"Nobody sees themselves as a bad guy or a good guy fully. They have all these conflicting instincts so, I think if you look with the right set of eyes, you can find some humanity to any kind of human endeavor. You fill in the blanks as you go," the actor says about fleshing out a role. "It’s like you get to create a human. It’s kind of fun."
Set in Wichita, Kansas and directed by Harold Ramis, The Ice Harvest follows Arglist, an attorney who works for gangland types by day and frequents strip clubs when he’s not springing less-than-wholesome types out of jail. Eventually, Charlie teams up with Vic Cavanaugh (Billy Bob Thornton) and together they manage to finagle $2 million from a bellicose crime boss (Randy Quaid). Shortly after pulling his caper, Arglist unveils plans to skulk out of town on the down-low with a sultry strip club manager (Connie Nielsen). First, though, he’s got to outfox the small army of henchmen who are hot on his and Cavanaugh’s trail.
Cusack’s new outing is a far cry from the loveable lugs that have become his cinematic signature since cutting his teeth as a member of Anthony Michael Hall’s "nerd posse" in 1984’s Sixteen Candles.
"I don’t know if he [Arglist] is very ‘loveable,’" adds Cusack, using air quotes. "I sort of wanted to play him because [Robert] Benton and [Richard] Russo had written a terrific script and I knew that Harold [Ramis] was going to have a very interesting take on this whole noir world."
Ice Harvest also marks Cusack’s re-teaming with Thornton, who costarred with him in the 1999 film Pushing Tin. According to Cusack, the reunion was definitely a good one.
"It’s like [one of those] friendships where you haven’t seen somebody in eight months and then you go out to dinner and you just pick up right where you left off and it’s as if no time has passed at all," states Cusack. "Billy Bob is the kind of guy that you can’t really go down a road or make a choice that [he] won’t follow and vice versa; there’s no way to go ‘too’ outside the box. I think Billy knows that if he wants to go try something bizarre that I’ll be right there with him ... so there’s a complete lack of pretense with Billy."
In films past like Say Anything and High Fidelity, the storylines were driven by eclectic soundtracks. This begs the question of whether or not tunes are an integral part of Cusack’s creative process, whether writing or acting.
"Absolutely," he admits. "For example, I gave Harold mixes and stuff – I do internal soundtracks in my head and, for some reason, when I read the script and I heard Harry Simone’s ‘Little Drummer Boy’ it was really, really haunting in relation to this narrative and I would listen to that and it would just set a certain mood."
The actor, who adds that, "I’m always listening to music as kind of an emotional cue," also confesses his love of the Apple iPod. "Man, I am so digital. I couldn’t keep a vinyl [collection]," he says, wrapping up. "iTunes is the greatest fucking invention since the combustion engine, personally."
Ice Harvest is currently in theaters.