“The Raven” intends on showing Edgar Allan Poe in a new way, while keeping the Poe fans satisfied, said John Cusack, who plays Poe in the film.
According to Cusack, having Poe as a character in his own stories allows for Poe to deconstruct himself as well as his stories. “[I]t’s a smart way to do the movie and a smart way to stay true to the source material. The movie sgot to show all sides of him and the metaphysical side of him,” he said.
Part of the research Cusack did for the film was read some of the many letters Poe wrote. “There were no telephones back then, everyone wrote letters,” he said. “You can see the human parts of him, the manipulative parts of him. He was at war with the world.”
Other research included reading Peter Ackroyd’s “Poe: A Life Cut Short” as well as, of course, reading Poe’s stories, which run the gamut from murder mysteries to dark romanticism to satires to comedies. “What I respond to most in his writing is the space between waking and dreaming,” said Cusack.
Through this process of becoming one with Poe allowed Cusack to learn about several aspects of Poe’s life that he didn’t know about, causing him to become much closer to Poe.
“I didn’t even know he was very famous when he was alive, went to Westpoint, had a swimming record,” he said. “I didn’t know about his bitterness towards other writers. He adored women…[and] he felt competitive and threatened by men…He definitely had a tortured life. He had a brittle, frenetic side to him. He had a very rogue quality to him.”
Alice Eve, who plays Poe’s love interest Emily Hamilton, also had her share of history homework to do, even though her character isn’t a historical person.
“My character is based on several people,” Eve said. “Poe’s cousin, Virginia Poe, who was very innocent– she was dying for five years–and another muse who also died of tuberculosis. There were other women who danced around him and didn’t need him and that’s her at the beginning of the film,” she said. “She’s the damsel in distress but not before she’s the man’s equal. Her regality was imposed on her by society at that time.” Virginia’s influence on Eve’s character gives Emily her vulnerable side, she said.
Eve joined the film for two reasons, the first being one that a lot of actresses and actors face–creating well-rounded characters on film.
“I was recently in a romantic comedy called ‘She’s Out of My League,’ which I’m really proud of,” she said, “but I consciously made the decision to play women with more dimensions.”
She also said she joined the cast “100%” due to Poe. “He’s like a superhero. What I gravitated towards was the love story,” she said. “He’s a [huge] literary figure in America, [and] it’s nice to see such a figure in poetry immortalized on film.”
Both Cusack and Eve believe the audience will be thrilled by the film and will also tickle Poe fans’ fancies. And, with the film opening April 27, it just might be on the right track to do both.
You can follow Cusack on Twitter (@JohnCusack); you can see Eve in the upcoming “Star Trek” sequel as well as “Men in Black III.”