Craig Schwartz Memories


On Friday night, and in preparation for Where the Wild Things Are, I rewatched Spike Jonze’s first feature, Being John Malkovitch.

What struck me was not the film’s final childlike shots or how Christopher Walken and those expensive, “absurdly heavy” monster suits are anticipated by its puppet shows, but something else–namely how goddamn much John Cusack looked like David Foster Wallace.

In the film, Cusack plays a character named Craig Schwartz, and, to me, at least, he bears an uncanny resemblance to DFW circa Charlie Rose. I can’t find a good image of Cusack-as-Schwartz online, but you’ll have to trust me. Both men sport the same long, thick, unmanaged hair; the same weak, stubbly jaw; the same tight white shirt and skinny red tie; the same unhip round glasses; and even some of the same facial tics (especially once Cusack discovers “the portal”).

Wallace recently got his own film treatment–for the titular sections of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, directed and adapted by Office-ite John Krasinksi. Thanks to that, we can connect these dots–Krasinski to Dave Eggers (Away We Go), Eggers to Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are), Jonze to Cusack–with no Kevin Bacon needed¹. But I’m starting to sound far more glib than I felt after finishing Being John Malkovitch. In fact, for me, the Wallace/Cusack effect quickly went from oddly creepy to deeply saddening. But then I decided to rewatch that Rose interview, where guest and host meander through A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Strangely, the real dead person cheered me up where the silly doppelganger got me down. And I think that’s because that lofi Wallace interview stands as a better piece of visual entertainment than Being John Malkovitch or Where the Wild Things Are or just about anything else–and that’s because of what Wallace says.

Watch that interview. Read that collection’s essay on television and contemporary fiction. Cipher on the ghostly parallel to Cusack (the trailer’s here). Just remember that DFW’s body of work lives on, and that it’s a little less bitter on each return.

¹That said, Being John Malkovitch‘s original script did call for Bacon to play one of Malkovich’s friends.

Craig Fehrman is a grad student and writer living in New Haven. You can find more of his work here. More from this author →