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Joan Cusack was born in New York City to Dick Cusack, an advertising executive, writer and actor and Mary Cusack, who was a math teacher. She has four siblings, John, Susie, Ann and Bill. Raised in Illinois, Joan’s parents encouraged her creativity and as a child she joined the Piven Theater Workshop and went on to perform improvisation at the Story Theater and The Ark. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. While attending college, Joan took some small film roles but her big break came after graduation when she joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. She only stayed on the show for one season when she left to pursue other projects. In 1987, she turned out a memorable performance in the romantic dramedy Broadcast News and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the romantic comedy Working Girl. She’s known for her quirky portrayals and razor-sharp humor. In honor of her 51st birthday, here is a Top 10 list of Joan Cusack movies.
10. Martian Child: – This 2007 family dramedy had Cusack starring opposite her brother, John. David Gordon, played by John Cusack, was a famous science fiction writer who lost his wife when they were planning to adopt a child. Joan played David’s sister, Liz, who helped him try to get know a young boy named Dennis, who he was matched with, who thought he was from the planet Mars. Joan’s performance was heartfelt and endearing as she tried to help her brother cope with his wife’s death and learning to be a father to a unique little boy.
9. Two Much: – This 1995 romantic comedy had Cusack starring opposite Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith and Daryl Hannah. Cusack played Gloria, the assistant of Bandares’ character, Art, a philandering art dealer who bedded the wealthy Betty (Griffith) but she wanted Art as to be her latest husband but then Art fell for her sister, Liz (Hannah.) Cusack was hilarious as she got mixed up in Art’s scheme to win Liz’s heart but not breaking Betty’s by pretending to have a twin brother named Bart. Cusack has some classic one-liners in the movie, which caused her to upstage Banderas in many scenes.
8. Toy Story 2: – Cusack voiced the bubbly Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl in the 1999 sequel to the hit 1995 animated classic. Jessie met Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, when he was kidnapped from Andy by a toy collector. Cusack gave Jessie a brash yet fun-loving flair as she tried to convince Woody to stay with her, her horse Bullseye and Stinky Pete the Prospector because the toy collector wanted to sell them to a museum but only as a complete set, otherwise, her, Bullseye and Pete go back into storage. Cusack gave life to a computer-animated character by using her voice to invoke emotion and in the end, true friendship.
7. Addams Family Values: – Cusack played the evil nanny/”Black Widow” Debbie Jellinsky in this 1993 fantasy comedy sequel to the popular 1991 film. This time around, Morticia and Gomez Adams, played by Anjelica Huston and the late Raul Julia, needed a nanny for their newborn son, Pubert. Cusack played Debbie, the nanny they hired to look after Pubert along with Wednesday and Pugsley, who attempt to kill the baby many times throughout the movie but the baby outwits them each time. Lonely Uncle Fester, played by Christopher Lloyd, fell for Debbie, not knowing she wasn’t a nanny at all but the “Black Widow” who married wealthy men and then killed them on their wedding night for their money. Cusack was hysterical as a woman hell bent on her achieving her nefarious goal but was continually thwarted by this offbeat family. Playing a villain wasn’t usual territory for Cusack but she did it brilliantly and with a dash of her signature panache.
6. Nine Months: – This 1995 romantic comedy directed by Chris Columbus, had Cusack co-starring with Hugh Grant, Julianne Moore, Tom Arnold and Jeff Goldblum. Samuel (Grant) and Rebecca (Moore) learned that Rebecca was pregnant and deal with their situation, Rebecca better than Samuel. Cusack played Gail, who Rebecca befriended and helped her deal with Samuel’s inability to deal with his impending fatherhood. Arnold played Cusack’s husband, Marty, who Samuel gets in many off-the-wall situations with. Cusack did provide some profound moments that shined through all the humor giving the movie some genuine sentiment along with the laughs.
5. Mr. Wrong: – Cusack starred opposite Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Pullman and Joan Plowright in this 1996 comedy. DeGeneres played Martha Alston, a lonely television producer, who one day seemed to meet the perfect man for her, Whitman Crawford (Pullman.) Yet, as their relationship progressed Martha learned that Whitman wasn’t all he pretended to be and was really a raving loon. Cusack played Inga Gunther, Whitman’s ex-girlfriend, who kidnapped Martha to warn her to stay away from Whitman, even though Martha told her she wanted nothing more to do with Whitman. Cusack’s Inga was so bizarre along with her sidekick Bob that the strange things she did to Martha like always putting sticky stuff like gum and honey in her hair, were hysterical. Cusack does off-the-wall extremely well but this part took her talent to a whole new level!
4. Runaway Bride: – This 1999 romantic comedy, directed by Garry Marshall, reunited Pretty Woman co-stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Roberts played Maggie Carpenter, who kept leaving her grooms at the altar and now she was on her fourth attempt. Gere played reporter Ike Graham, who is sure Maggie will flee again and wanted the exclusive but who instead, ended up falling for her. Cusack played Peggy Flemming, Maggie’s childhood best friend, who tried to help her deal with her apparent fear of marriage. Cusack’s sincere portrayal of the loyal yet somewhat eccentric best friend offset Roberts’ confused Maggie perfectly.
3. In & Out: – Cusack garnered her second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this 1997 comedy. Directed by Frank Oz, Cusack co-starred opposite Kevin Kline as Emily Montgomery, the fiancé of Howard Brackett (Kline.) Brackett, a Midwestern school teacher was all set to marry Emily until his ex-student-now Hollywood star Cameron Drake, played by Mat Dillon “outed” Howard in his Academy Awards acceptance speech. Afterwards, though he tried to fight it, Howard finally saw that he’s been gay all along. Cusack made moviegoers root for Emily to find love and in the end, she does with Drake, who we learn loved Montgomery even as a student.
2. Working Girl: – This 1988 romantic comedy gave Cusack her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress starring opposite Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver. She played Cynthia, Tess McGill’s (Griffith’s) best friend. As Tess tries to get her deal together, unbeknownst to her idea-thieving boss, played by Weaver, Cusack’s Cynthia was Tess’s conscience and staunch supporter. Cusack’s unconventional antics as Cynthia won over moviegoers and she even stole some scenes from Griffith and Ford with her wackiness.
1. My Blue Heaven: -This 1990 crime comedy, written by Nora Ephron, had Cusack co-starring with comedic heavyweight Steve Martin and Rick Moranis. Cusack played District Attorney Hannah Stubbs, who trying to arrest and convict Vincent “Vinnie” Antonelli (Martin,) a former mobster recently inducted into the Witness Protection Program for his petty crimes but is thwarted by uptight FBI agent Barney Coopersmith (Moranis.) Martin’s Vinnie succeeds in breathing life into both Hannah and Barney’s lives after their respective spouses leave them and Barney and Hannah eventually fall in love. Cusack’s portrayal of the originally stuffy Hannah, who morphs into a fun-loving carefree lovable woman was irresistible to moviegoers.
image: Wikimedia Commons