Starting Friday, when "The Raven" opens, we can all see John Cusack bring the 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe to life. The premise of the film seems pretty 21st century: a serial killer is murdering victims in the style of Poe's stories, and the writer sets out to discover who it might be. Yet it actually hearkens back to Poe's work -- he is often credited with inventing the detective novel with stories like "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."
In advance of the film, Cusack is talking about his experiences with playing the notoriously dark-visioned writer. At a film screening Sunday night, the L.A. Times' Ministry of Gossip blog asked Cusack how he got into Poe's head. "Read," Cusack answers in the video below. "Read his stuff. I read biographies on him, but I read mostly his stories. Tried to immerse myself in his stuff, in his imagination .... It was like going into a nightmare, in a way."
At the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the Huffington Post caught Cusack's answer to the question: What are you reading now?
"The Sugar-Frosted Nutsack: A Novel" by Mark Leyner (who interviewed Cusack on stage)
"In the Hands of Dante: A Novel" by Nick Tosches
"Walking Since Daybreak" by Modris Eksteins
"A Movable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway (after seeing "Midnight in Paris")
He also said that he likes e-books for the dictionary apps, but when he has a hard copy he writes in the margins of his books so that he can "make them mine."
Cusack also promises that Poe aficionados will find the film packed with nods to his real life and work. All of Poe's work can be downloaded for free, in e-book form, from Project Gutenberg.
On Thursday, Cusack will be doing an online chat with fans at the L.A. Times -- sign up here to be a part of that conversation.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: John Cusack and friend at the April 23 screening of "The Raven" in Los Angeles. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images