It was a strange reunion, at least aesthetically. After the 30th anniversary screening of Say Anything — during this 18th Tribeca Film Festival, there was Ione Skye and Cameron Crowe and James L. Brooks on stage – and hovering over them all was the floating head of John Cusack, Skyping in from Chicago.
The weirdest moments came when Cusack wasn’t talking, instead just his giant projected head listening and smiling and nodding, like he was lording over us all. By the end, I wish there were other situations we could have Cusack’s head monitoring the situation. Maybe even project his head up there during future congressional hearings, it couldn’t hurt.
To Cusack’s credit, he didn’t phone it in, even though he was literally phoning it in. He was surprisingly engaged (Cusack isn’t one to hide his lack of enthusiasm if he’s not interested) and seemed to really appreciate reminiscing about Say Anything. One interesting fact came when Crowe mentioned he thought Cusack’s character’s name would be pronounced Lloyd Dobe-ler. Like Doberman. (Crowe even referenced former St. Louis Cardinals football player Conrad Dobler as an example.) It was Cusack who, incorrectly, started referring to Lloyd with the pronunciation that we all know today. Cusack seemed a little mystified by this, saying he had never once heard it pronounced the other way.
The other interesting moment came when Crowe was talking about the casting of John Mahoney as Jim Court. Dick Van Dyke had expressed interest in the part, but eventually was deemed a little too old. (It was kind of a sad story. Crowe said that Van Dyke had been getting a lot of auditions at the time but not many parts because casing directors just “wanted to meet Dick VanDyke,” but not seriously consider him. Richard Dreyfuss had also been considered for Jim, but returned the script with a note that said, “Great script, I want to play Lloyd.”
But the real attraction was just watching Say Anything again, in a packed theater. Say Anything is a weird movie for me, so intertwined in my own high school experience (it was released when I was a freshman) I kind of avoid it today as to not be overwhelmed with those high school feelings today. (I’m one of those people who has never been to a high school reunion because it’s something I just don’t really want to re-live in any kind of way. Watching Say Anything again is as close as I’m going to come to that.)
And, boy, did those memories come back. That’s the lasting legacy of Say Anything, because it captures the high school experience from that era better than anything else. Look, the boom box scene gets all the attention (for some reason half the theater decided to take a picture of the screen during this scene; I’m not a huge fan of this new phenomenon), but this movie works because of the little things: like psyching yourself up before calling the girl you like, or the fact Lloyd is just “some dude” and not anywhere near the cool guy in school, but he’s not the dork either – he’s just there, like most of us were just there.