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John Cusack's '80s flashback

The ”Hot Tub Time Machine” star on quantum physics and Crispin Glover

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In the new comedy Hot Tub Time Machine (in theaters March 26), John Cusack travels back 24 years with the help of, yes, a hot tub. The 43-year-old star of Say Anything and 2012 recalls his own memories of 1986.

In addition to starring in Hot Tub Time Machine, you also produced it and helped write the script. How did that come about?
MGM said, ”We’ve got this script called Hot Tub Time Machine.” I just laughed at the title. I thought it was so ridiculous. Of course, I didn’t have to say ”What’s it about?” It was one of those things where they said, ”We need to start [shooting] in six weeks!” So I said, ”All right, can we do it with Steve [Pink, co-writer of High Fidelity], because he’s an old dear friend and writing partner?” MGM said, ”Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you’ve got to start tomorrow!”

So, it was like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show — except the show involves your character going back to 1986 and doing enough magic mushrooms to have most people freaking out for days.
Correct. But when you go through time travel, it makes the psilocybin [wear off faster].

At any point did you stop to consider the quantum physics of hot-tub-powered time travel?
Not at all. We just kept changing the rules of the time travel to suit whatever problems we had.

Crispin Glover plays an embittered hotel porter. Was his casting a deliberate wink to the fact that he was in Back to the Future?
He’s such a great actor. But yeah, he and I were in movies in the ’80s. What I thought was interesting about the movie is that we could be smart and postmodern because some of the actors were of that era — Crispin and Chevy [Chase] and me — and then we could be really stupid. It’s a mixture of smart and really, really stupid.

What do you recall about 1986?
I remember the ’85 Bears won the Super Bowl. And I was there, I think, on mushrooms.

I wouldn’t want to be at a Super Bowl on mushrooms.
I did. [Laughs] That was my problem. I remember it being very ’80s. Reagan coming on the Jumbotron and Up With People at halftime.

There are quite a few gay jokes in Hot Tub Time Machine. Did you have any concerns about that?
Not really, because the homophobia is so obviously coming from the total masculine inferiority of the main characters. I mean, homophobia is funny because it’s the ultimate fear of so many guys. Like, God forbid they should be gay! Anything that makes the characters look stupider seemed to work.

If you could go back in time to 1986, what advice would you give your younger self?
I would probably say ”Stay out of politics.” [Cusack has written blogs for the Huffington Post and also shot an anti-McCain ad during the 2008 presidential election.] That’s a berserk junkie’s game. The more you learn about the way politics works, the less you want to know.

And ”Don’t do mushrooms at the Super Bowl”?
No, I would definitely still do that.