A Political Awakening

John Cusack and Mark Leyner on the Transformative Power of Film

John Cusack and Mark Leyner talk with Anne Shoup of Reel Progress about the transformative power of film.

John Cusack starts in "War, Inc.," a film co-written by Cusack and Mark Leyner and directed by Leyner. (War, Inc.)
John Cusack starts in "War, Inc.," a film co-written by Cusack and Mark Leyner and directed by Leyner. (War, Inc.)

Actor John Cusack and director Mark Leyner took some time out of their publicity tour for “War, Inc.” to talk to Reel Progress about the film, which they co-wrote. "War Inc." follows a troubled hitman, played by Cusack, who’s hired to kill a Middle Eastern oil minister in the fictional country of Turaqistan, which is currently occupied by a private American company.

Cusack explains that “War, Inc.” is an absurdist take on the future, one where the current military roles of companies such as Blackwater and Halliburton are followed to a logical conclusion—a world where war is entirely a corporate affair.

Cusack and Leyner’s goal in making “War, Inc.” was to take a merciless look at American materialism, imperialisms, and hero worship. The final product is a seething indictment of the policies of the Bush administration. They hope the audience leaves their film eager to question those in positions of power in our country.

Both the actor and director believe that film can be an important catalyst for change. Cusack emphasized that he thinks everyone, but particularly young people, should seek out literature, art, music, and films that show an alternative reality and to question the narratives being fed to them by the powers-that-be. Leyner agreed, saying that film, and art more generally, can transform a person to the point where he or she can have a political awakening. He recalled “the first time I saw a “Hard Days Night” or listened to Bob Dylan… they made me question certain suppositions and made me rethink how to be a person in this culture.”

Reel Progress is the progressive film series sponsored by the Center for American Progress. Since March of 2005, the Center has hosted free screenings open to the public in DC and around the country. These screenings are followed by provocative panel discussions with leading policy experts, actors and filmmakers. We aim to advance a progressive agenda through innovative films that connect the arts to campaigns for social change and progressive public policy.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Anne Shoup

Associate Director, Press Relations