‘Chi-Raq’ Star John Cusack Joins Spike Lee in Anti-Gun Crusade: ‘There Is No Middle Ground’

“If you’re going to get a gun, it should be as difficult as getting a driver’s license or registering to vote,” actor tells TheWrap

John Cusack
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The task of playing a gun-hating white priest in a predominantly African-American church — for director Spike Lee, no less — turned out to be a breeze for actor John Cusack.

He fell into the part of Father Mike Corridan, who is based on real-life Roman Catholic priest and social activist in Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger. Turns out, the men have similar political views.

“He suggested that if you’re going to get a gun, it should be as difficult as getting a driver’s license or registering to vote,” Cusack told TheWrap. “Nobody can argue that there is a problem with weapons in the United States. It becomes a black-and-white issue: You either have to take everyone’s guns or– [pauses] There is no middle ground.”

“Chi-Raq,” which co-stars Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, follows a group of women who abstain from sex until their men agree to put an end to the gang violence in Chicago after a child is murdered by a stray bullet.

Lee also led an anti-gun violence protest after the premiere of his new movie in New York on Tuesday night, marching with the film’s attendees from Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theater to Times Square.

The film is timely, given the various theater, mall and school shootings that have been happening — as well as the rash of gun fatalities in Chicago. A video was released last week that shows a white police officer in Chicago firing 16 rounds at Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, in October 2014. After criticism spread over how authorities responded to the shooting, Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy was asked to step down from his post on Tuesday.

Police brutality has been the catalyst for widespread unrest. In October, Quentin Tarantino attended an anti-police brutality rally in New York and prompted a nationwide boycott of his film, “The Hateful Eight” for suggesting that cops were murderers.

But Cusack said “Chi-Raq” doesn’t solely blame the police for gun violence in the U.S. “This movie is not blaming the police, it’s not blaming the economics, it’s not blaming the African-Americans, it’s not blaming the black-on-black violence, it’s not blaming anyone in specific,” he said. “It’s blaming all of the problem and every aspect of it is going to have to be addressed to find a solution.”

The Chicago-born actor said that there is a “state of emergency” in terms of gun violence, given that 2,752 people have been shot in the city this year, and he hopes that “Chi-Raq” will “assist in making people aware of how severe the crisis is.”

The film, hitting theaters this Friday, is drastically different from Cusack’s other 2015 movie, “Love & Mercy,” in which he portrayed Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson. While the subject matter of both films is different, Cusack sees similarities between Pfleger and Wilson.

“The common denominator between Pfleger and Brian Wilson is that there is pure love coming out of them at the end of the day,” he said. “Pfleger is very intellectual and radical, but he’s a fierce humanist, and wakes up every day to spread love around. In essence, I think that’s what Brian does as well.”

And Cusack loved playing both characters equally, although they are dealing with two different dilemmas — Wilson has to fight against his inner demons, while Pfleger takes on the dangerous gangs of Chicago.

“They are both terrific people, so to be able to play them and immerse myself around them and talk to them was quite an honor,” said Cusack.