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DB Film Squad: The Cusack-Piven Theory

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Actors John Cusack and Jeremy Piven have been friends for many years. But an in-depth study of their film careers exposes an alarming trend:

They’ve appeared in at least seven films together.

Why hasn’t this fact been exposed and rooted out before now? I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide.


One Crazy Summer (1986)

Cusack’s in early career wacky romantic comedy lead mode. Piven plays a pissed off blue blood asshole, and friend to the blond haired dude who was the bad guy (Karate Kid I – VIII, Just One of the Guys) in every 80s comedy.

Say Anything (1989)

Quintessential tale of late 80s teens searching for love and the meaning of life. More importantly, Cusack and Piven make physical contact during the pivotal “key master” sequence. “You must chill! You must chill!” Cusack advices Piven. Indeed.

The Grifters (1990)

Dark noir crime drama. Cusack plays the lead and gets his throat (accidentally?) sliced open by moms, played by Anjelica Huston. I have no idea what Piven did in this film… was that the grift?

Bob Roberts (1992)

A classic dead-pan political comedy. Unfortunately, I can’t remember much about it except this: Cusack and Piven were both in it. Grift and intrigue afoot, no?

Gross Pointe Blank (1997)

Great black comedy featuring Cusack and a right smart looking Minnie Driver. More importantly: the intense reunion between long-time “friends” Cusack and Piven. “Ten years it’s been! Ten years!” Piven intones. What’s he really trying to tell Cusack here, and the rest of us?

Serendipity (2001)

More romantic comedy, this time 21st Century style. Cusack and Piven have perhaps the most screen time they’ve ever had. They rap about philosophy, love, and life. Piven is subdued, even whimsical throughout.

Is this where we can set our watch and warrant on the Cusack-Piven Theory? Is this the point where we get under our desks, interlace our fingers together, place them overhead, and rock slowly and gently back-and-forth, mumbling the tune from The Bridge On the River Kwai (a Piven-Cusack-less film… or is it?).

No. We must press on.

Runaway Jury (2003)

John Grisham and dirty dealings. Runaway… but from what?

Is it madness, folly, or the search down the wormhole of meaninglessness, existence, and the power of finely written, deftly acted, modest box office fare in the lives of everyday souls wandering this Earth in search of the grains of filtered, finely ground sand to make it all worthwhile, tangible, terra firma?

In other words:

What is your take on the Cusack-Piven Theory?

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  • Nick Jones

    I’ve liked them both for years – that all I have to say.

    And Angelica Huston did indeed intend to cut Cusak’s throat, as well as appeal to his unconscious incestuous urges – I had the advantage of having read the novel before the movie was even announced.

  • Eric, not sure if you are being serious about your surprise, but if I recall correctly, it’s been a bit of an inside joke for some time now that Cusak gets his (less famous) friend parts in most of his films.

    The two have actually been in ten movies together. In addition to the ones you’ve listed above, they co-starred in Ben Stiller’s comedy anthology “Elvis Stories” and 1994’s “Floundering.” Also, they were both in “The Player,” though Cusack was playing himself and was on-screen for only seconds.

  • Eric Olsen

    all this and no one has mentioned Kevin Bacon? And why does Piven always end up getting killed, by the way? The casual brutality of The Grifters shocked the hell out of me, I might also add.

  • RJ

    What about all those Damon/Affleck flicks?

  • Scott – It’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek piece, if no one caught on (the Cusack-Piven theory analagous to the Cain-Hackman theory espoused in Piven’s PCU).

    Eric – Piven does get killed off in a few films: Judgement Night, Very Bad Things (both fairly brutal films) and Grifters, which was particularly nasty.

    He’s also got a host of comedic roles (including time on the Ellen sitcom) where he comes through unscathed.

  • Yes, much can be done on the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon (how the hell did that get started, anyway?).

    I’ve always had a strange affection for the cast of Swingers (particularly Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston) so I’d like to do a post looking at their careers.

  • Eric Olsen

    the Kevin Bacon thing was started by some frat boys back in the early-’90s – I remember seeing what I believe was their first mainstream media exposure on Letterman at the time. They used a chart – it was funny as hell if only somewhat convincing: some of the “connections” were quite tenuous.

  • John Wayne and Ward Bond had a similar arrangement. Far as I know, no one ever made anything of it other than John and Ward’s friendship.

    Now Monk‘s executive producer and star Tony Shaloub and Captain Stottlemeyer, Ted Levine – who played bad Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs – that’s a relationship worth examining.

  • Seeing that I have only seen one movie on that list, I certainly didnt notice it. I like the question above regarding Damon/Affleck. If it aint broke, dont fix it.