Picks and Pans Review: Having a Good Cry with ... John Cusack

updated 12/17/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/17/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

• The proud Chicagoan, 41, gets Oscar buzz as a dad who loses his wife in Iraq in Grace Is Gone.

THIS IS A REAL TEARJERKER. WHAT WAS THE DRAW? It came from a place of outrage when the war started and Bush banned photos of soldiers' coffins coming home. I wanted to cut through politics and get to universal truths about suffering.

HOW DID YOU PULL OFF LOOKING SO ... AVERAGE? It's a little bit of trickery and 10 extra pounds. If you wear tight pants, you look bigger.

STILL IN TOUCH WITH THE GIRLS WHO PLAY YOUR KIDS? I call when I'm in Chicago. I told [Shélan O'Keefe, 13] I'd meet her for tea, and I haven't yet. I've been properly chastised.

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