At an event to promote John Cusack’s new film Grace Is Gone, the thinking girl’s heartthrob opened up to OK! about playing a guy who loses his wife in the Iraq war and has to cope with telling his two young daughters about the loss.

Donning glasses and bad posture, John’s character is a far cry from the cads he usually plays in his films. But the role of dad is one he’s taken on as late playing a father in the thriller 1408, his family comedy Martian Child and now Grace Is Gone.

But does John have any real-life experience to use when playing these parts? “It’s kind of a complicated answer," the actor explained to OK!. "But you just use your life, your imagination — your writing sparks your imagination — you try to put yourself in other people’s shoes.”

Playing a distraught and confused husband turned single father is the plot of the story and although it’s not something he’s personally experienced, John, like everyone, has lost loved ones. “If you have friends who died or family members, or if you can just have some empathy and compassion — it’s pretty harrowing stuff.”

And he hopes people can look past the war themes of the movie and just see it for what it is — a movie about loss and a way to gain perspective on such an intense time as the war. “You can’t put your mind around — it’s too abstract — the stuff that is really happening,” he added, “it’s really hard to process. This is a way to maybe make it more real — make it less abstract.”

By Jocelyn Vena

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