”Hey, I know you,” the man in the sports bar said to Joan Cusack. ”You work in the Laundromat down the street, right?” Cusack, a 13-year movie veteran, suppresses a giggle as she tells the story. ”I was like, ‘No, I don’t. Sometimes I act in films. Maybe you saw some of them.’ ” The man only laughed at that. ”He totally wouldn’t believe me, so I go, ‘Yeah, I do — I work in the Laundromat.’ ”
Maybe the reason people can’t always place Cusack, who plays the Addams Family Values’ Marilynesque murderess, Debbie Jellinsky, is because she comes off much more, well, normal than the eccentric characters she plays. Her supporting roles — the big-haired buddy in Working Girl, Robin Williams’ catatonic sister in Toys, the relentlessly nurturing nurse in Men Don’t Leave, and even a performance as brother John’s sister in Say Anything — veer off in all kinds of wacky directions, but the actress remains resolutely stable. It helps that she still lives in her hometown, Chicago, far from Hollywood.
”I guess I just don’t really like L.A. that much,” says Cusack. ”Here I can be an actress and a person.” In fact, her mother (the only nonactor in the seven-person family) often stops by on slow afternoons to take her daughter shopping.
Sitting in her beach-view warehouse loft, which she’s adorned with country antiques and her two cats, Velcro and Katie, Cusack, 31, contemplates life outside the movies. ”It’s so bizarre to me. Like, I know women are not the things you see in magazines. It’s so cliched, but the women I knew growing up were all about what’s really going on,” she says with her subtle lisp. ”Mostly I’m looking to have a life. To get married, have kids. I don’t want it to be all about work.”
At the moment, Cusack isn’t working on anything and even turned down a small movie part recently to stay close to home. Though she doesn’t love the idea, she says that TV might be the answer. ”It would be a more normal kind of life.”
Of course, if the acting thing doesn’t work out, there’s always the Laundromat down the street.