If American actor John Cusack is known for anything throughout his long career, it’s the quirky, offbeat characters he’s portrayed in his many films.
There was Martin Q. Blank, the professional assassin in Grosse Pointe Blank, who combined a contract hit with an opportunity to attend his high school reunion. Who could forget Lane Meyer, the suicidal teen in Better Off Dead? What about eternal nice guy Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything?
Another frequently common trait in Cusack films are sporting references. In the film Eight Men Out, he portrayed Buck Weaver, third baseman for the 1919 Chicago White Sox and one of eight players suspended for life from baseball for fixing the World Series.
Dobler in Say Anything was a kick boxer. In Better Off Dead, Cusack’s Meyer is obsessively pursued for drag race showdowns by a young Asian man who only speaks English in the voice of legendary American sports presenter Howard Cosell.
Perhaps the most puzzling Cusack sports connection is one that you couldn’t have gotten odds on it occurring your favorite online sports betting site, even as a wild, off the wall prop wager.
It happened in the movie The Sure Thing. In that film, Cusack’s character Walter (Gib) Gibson appears on screen in the jersey of the Australian Kangaroos national rugby league team.
An Australian rugby league kit randomly appearing in a Hollywood film set in New England on the East Coast of the USA. It made no sense at all. And for years, people puzzled over this development, seeking to make sense of it, to no avail.
An unsolved mystery for decades – The Sure Thing first appeared in theatres in 1985 –after 35 years, it appears that the answer to this age-old riddle has finally been attained.
Going to the Source
The guessing game about the Aussie rugby league sweater went on for years, with no real method to ascertain a definite answer. However, the advent of social media within the past decade created an opportunity of sorts.
In 2018, Twitter user @lawless_62 opted to go directly to the horse’s mouth in search of an answer. He tweeted a message to Cusack’s official Twitter feed, bringing Fox Sports Australia presenter Andrew Voss into the debate in the process.
“I tell you what would really be great,” @lawless_62 asked Cusack. “Tell Australians and @AndrewVossy why you were wearing an Australian Rugby League jersey in your flick ‘The Sure Thing.’ What was the significance, and did you know then that men have laid down their lives for that jersey?”
To be fair, the laying down their lives line was laying it on a bit thick, but inquiring Australian minds needed to know the answer.
Would Cusack get the message? Would he respond to it? Could he provide closure to this puzzling development?
Yes, yes and no.
“Nope,” Cusack responded. “I knew nothing except it was a rugby shirt - random choice.”
The actor added a smiley face - 🙂 - at the end of his tweet. Was it a gesture of politeness, or a sly smile suggesting that Cusack actually knew more than he was letting on to his inquisitor?
The mystery deepened.
Ferris Bueller Winged It
The Sure Thing wasn’t the only mid-1980s Hollywood flick to present a jersey foul to fans.
A year after in 1986, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was released. Set in Chicago, oddly enough, Cameron, best fried of Ferris, spends the day traversing around the Windy City while wearing the No. 9 ice hockey jersey of Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe, at the time the all-time scoring leader in the National Hockey League.
Detroit’s Red Wings and Chicago’s Blackhawks were bitter rivals, and as it turned out, that was the whole point behind the jersey. John Hughes, director of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, was an avid Red Wings fan. It was his call to rub Chicago’s nose in it with not only a Red Wings jersey but the jersey of the most famous Red Wings player.
It would be like wearing a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs jersey throughout a film set in Parramatta.
In the end, Hughes and Howe exchanged jerseys, so to speak. Hughes send a signed official shirt from the movie set to Howe. In turn, Howe shipped a signed Red Wings No. 9 sweater to Hughes.
Finding an Answer
Back to the still-unsolved mystery at hand, Cusack’s Australian Rugby League jersey. Surely, there must be someone who could put The Sure Thing puzzler to rest.
The solution would be found in costume design.
Fox Sports Australia was able to track down Durinda Wood, a costume designer for the film. She was the one who hunted down many of the odd clothing choices that adorned Cusack throughout the movie.
“I wanted his character to be kind of crazy, fun and worldly in a sense and his nemesis/future girlfriend to be more uptight and narrow in scope,” Wood told FoxSports.com/au. “At the time, sports jerseys were more colourful and fun, and I wanted him to have jerseys from around the country and around the world.”
Wood scoured thrift shops and Salvation Army Stores in search of unique clothing choices. But an Australian Rugby League jersey? That was news to her.
“There was no internet or cell phones in those days so (it was) a little hard to research,” she explained. “I remember thinking it was a British soccer jersey or something. Somewhere outside the USA.
“But I loved the foreignness of it. I’m glad we were able to represent your team in the end.”