Get your Top Five lists ready, your devastating breakup stories, your musical obsessions. John Cusack is coming to town and he's bringing "High Fidelity."

Cusack will screen his comedy from 2000 at the Akron Civic Theatre on Saturday night. It's part of an off-and-on national tour that includes similar presentations of other Cusack films, including "Say Anything" and "Grosse Pointe Blank." The Civic will show "High Fidelity" and Cusack will jump on stage afterward to talk about his career and answer audience questions.

"Whatever people want to talk about I'm cool with," said Cusack on the phone from Chicago.

"Questions usually range from highly intelligent to silly to ridiculous," he said. "Some people have intense memories of where they were when they first watched the movie and they want to tell it to you. Some people are very into the filmmaking process and want to know how you arrived at certain decisions."

The Civic has presented similar movie events with William Shatner ("Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan") and John Cleese ("Monty Python and the Holy Grail"). The shows are produced by Mills Entertainment's Backlot Project, which also offers evenings with Mel Brooks, Jane Fonda and Nathan Lane.

"Apparently people like to see some of the old movies and look at them up on the big screen with a nice print and great sound in a cool hall," said Cusack. "And afterwards we have a Q&A and get kind of rowdy and fun."

In "High Fidelity," Cusack starred as Chicago record store owner Rob Gordon. Having been recently dumped by his live-in girlfriend, Rob sets off on a quest to revisit the women on his "Desert Island, All-Time, Top Five Most Memorable Breakups" list and tries to decipher why he keeps losing at love. (Rob spends a lot of time making Top Five lists and talking directly to the camera.)

The film, based on the novel by Nick Hornby, was directed by Stephen Frears, who had worked with Cusack previously on "The Grifters" in 1990. The cinematographer on "High Fidelity" was Seamus McGarvey, who went on to shoot "The Avengers," "Anna Karenina" and "The Greatest Showman" among other movies.

"High Fidelity" also features Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa Bonet, Iben Hjejle,Tim Robbins, John's sister Joan Cusack, Sara Gilbert and, as Dick and Barry — Rob's two bickering, eternally annoying employees at Championship Vinyl — Todd Louiso and Jack Black (in his signature breakout role). There's even sage advice provided by a guitar-fingering Bruce Springsteen.

"We were very fortunate to get the cast we got," said Cusack. "There's not a weak link in the whole movie."

And how did he land Springsteen for a cameo?

"You know, I am lucky enough to have been able to meet with a lot of my heroes and idols and work with them, so I just called him up and asked," said Cusack. "You got to throw a Hail Mary every once in a while. He knew about the cast and that the film was basically a love letter to music, so it was something he was more predisposed to thinking about doing."

 

London to Chicago

Cusack loved Hornby's book when it was published in 1995 and was interested in the film adaptation. There was one catch: Hornby's novel is set in London. Cusack wanted to set it in his native Chicago. So he called up Hornby, whose books and screenplays include "About a Boy," "Fever Pitch," "An Education" and "Brooklyn."

"I didn’t want to do it if Nick wasn’t okay with it," said Cusack. "He was all for it. He knew it was about a lot more than British accents. It’s a pretty universal story about men and insecurities and fears and neurosis. Once we had his blessing we were in great shape."

Cusack worked on the script and called in his co-writers from "Grosse Pointe Blank," D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink, along with Scott Rosenberg.

"It all came through me," said Cusack. "Usually, when I’m writing the screenplay, I like to get it about 80 percent done and then give it to the actors, and they always have great instincts and ideas."

The movie features a torrent of musical references and needle drops, from The Clash to Kraftwerk, from Hendrix to The Shangri-Las, from Marvin Gaye to Green Day. The soundtrack is equally eclectic: The Kinks, The Velvet Underground, Stereolab, Smog and The 13th Floor Elevators.

"High Fidelity" became a short-lived Broadway musical in 2006, and Disney is currently developing a TV series for its new streaming service based on the movie and the book. The twist: The lead character of Rob will be a woman played by Zoe Kravitz, and the theme will pivot from male anxieties to female. (Irony note: Kravitz's parents are Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz. Bonet played sultry singer and one-night stand Marie De Salle in the original film.)

 

Cusack on screen

Cusack, 52, has appeared in more than 80 films. He is extremely active on Twitter, where his more than 62,000 tweets often call for the impeachment of the current White House resident and for a Bernie Sanders victory in 2020. 

"High Fidelity" was a mid-career high point sandwiched between "Being John Malkovich," with Cameron Diaz, and "America's Sweethearts" with Julia Roberts. He is forever beloved for hoisting a boombox over his head in 1989 and blaring Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" as the lovesick Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything."

Cusack has mixed small budget films with commercial successes, such as "Con Air," "Eight Men Out," "2012," and "Lee Daniels' The Butler." He has played Richard Nixon, Brian Wilson, Adolf Hitler's art dealer and defied the laws of physics by riding in a "Hot Tub Time Machine." The Oscars have thus far ignored him. His lone Golden Globe nomination was for — what else? — playing Rob in "High Fidelity."

At one point in the film, Rob admits that though it may sound superficial, obsessing over books, movies and records really does matter. "You are what you like," he concludes.

I asked Cusack if there were any similarities between him and Rob.

"Of course, of course," he said. "I’m not as sort of anal about things like him. I’m not an obsessive collector of things, or as organized. But I can definitely relate to being a bit of an artistic slob."

I re-watched the movie recently and it's as funny and insightful as it was 19 years ago. It is still dead on in terms of drilling into the vagaries of the male psyche and men's immaturity and insecurities (especially when it comes to women). Depending on your perspective, Rob is either a lovable loser or a jerk.

Last April, Dan Ozzi wrote a lengthy essay on vice.com dissecting Rob and concluding that he was a "terrible human — a sociopathic womanizer, a stalker ex, and a [expletive] boyfriend."

Cusack has heard some of the navel-gazing and character deconstructions.

"It’s a comedy about how Rob is kind of inept at everything," he said. "I know some people like to put things in these little boxes and silos. But what’s lost sometimes in movies is that ambiguity is a really interesting thing. So if you ask, 'Is he an [expletive]? Is he a hero? Is he this or that?' You don't really know."

"I think ambiguity is a wonderful thing. Especially with comedies. I don’t think you’re supposed to tell people exactly what they are supposed to think or feel. You just want to provoke."

 

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or coconnor@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.