John Cusack: Kickboxing comes in handy during filming

Kickboxing practitioner John Cusack (above) enjoyed his experience filming in the Silk Road region for Dragon Blade.
Kickboxing practitioner John Cusack (above) enjoyed his experience filming in the Silk Road region for Dragon Blade.

From his resume with films such as classic romantic comedy Say Anything... (1989) and eccentric comedy Being John Malkovich (1999), John Cusack looks more like a sensitive actor than a serious fighter.

Actually, he has trained in kickboxing for more than 20 years under former American world champion Benny Urquidez, who had worked with action star Jackie Chan in Wheels On Meals (1984) and Dragons Forever (1988).

Cusack had watched those movies and decided to pay them homage with a Hong Kong-style fight in the crime comedy Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).

Hence, working with Chan on the East- meets-West period action movie Dragon Blade is "a wonderful, full circle thing for me", says Cusack, 48, as he nurses an iced lemon tea.

He plays Lucius, a Roman general on the run who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Chan's upright protector of the Silk Road.

The bond apparently took place on set too.

Cusack says of Chan: "Jackie is a very complicated person. All the good things people say about him are true. He feels a lot of things and he's a very intelligent man."

The good vibes he has regarding his co-star extend to the shoot, despite the merciless environment.

Describing the Silk Road region as "beautiful and historical", he says: "It's very hot, it's very dusty and it has difficult conditions, but would I rather be there than on a sound stage with a green screen?

"I like this. Actors want to have an adventure and an experience. And this was a great experience."

Communication was not a problem for the actor, even when Chan's stunt team was firing off commands at rapid-fire speed in a mixture of languages he did not know.

"I've been doing martial arts for so long, I understood the body rhythms even if I didn't understand the commands," Cusack says.

The American started out in teen flicks such as Sixteen Candles (1984) and, over the years, has proven his versatility in everything from black comedies to romances and indie dramas.

His timing, though, could be better, he admits.

"I'm usually either a little ahead of my time or a little late - I'm never right there.

"Sometimes I'll make something and a few years later, people say 'Ohhh' and they understand it a little more."

He has been in cult movies such as Say Anything..., comedy-drama High Fidelity (2000) and killer comedy Grosse Pointe Blank, all of which were not the biggest box-office successes, but lived on long after the average shelf life of a movie. And he is contented with that.

"If something is still interesting after five years, then it's good."

He himself has had a long shelf life as an actor, a fact that can be attributed to his tenacity and humility, he believes.

"I think you have to be stubborn and humble. If you think you're better than other people, you're going to fall," he says, adding that resting on past glories is not an option.

"You always have to be looking at the present and looking forward. You have to be passionate about your work all the time.

"And you need a lot of luck."