Brian Graham’s take on the “Say Anything…” movie poster. Photos by Matt Reber and Aaron Mello, graphic design by Dean Merrill

I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year than sharing the story of “I Wanna Be Your John Cusack.” It’s a hopeful tale full of cinematic delight, romance, music and love.

One of the first things Portland sax player Brian Graham, a member of The Fogcutters, found out about his fiancée, Alyssa DiPietro, when they first started dating a couple years ago was that she’s a huge fan of actor John Cusack. On her birthday in March 2018, Graham presented DiPietro with a recording of a song he wrote called “I Wanna Be Your John Cusack.” For her birthday this year, Graham arranged a meet-and-greet with Cusack, which took place in May in Concord, New Hampshire.

A few weeks ago, on Dec. 13, the song was officially released with Zach Jones on lead vocals, Max Cantlin on guitar, Dan Boyden on drums, Phil Rodriguez on trumpet and Graham on sax and keys. It’s pure pop delight. The line “I wanna be your John Cusack like in ‘High Fidelity,’ and you can be my Kate Beckinsale like in ‘Serendipity'” is repeated a number of times. There’s also a “Say Anything…” reference, in the line “Oh girl, let’s dare to be great.” Graham told me he asked Jones to sing it because he loves his voice and knew his style would match the vibe of the song perfectly. He was right.

Alyssa DiPietro and Brian Graham recreate a scene from “Say Anything…” Videography and photo by Matt Reber.

Along with the song, Graham released a video for “I Wanna Be Your John Cusack,” which Graham and DiPietro spent about 18 months planning before filming it in September. It includes several recreated scenes from some of DiPietro’s favorite Cusack films, including “Better Off Dead,” “Say Anything…,” “High Fidelity” and “Serendipity.” What DiPietro didn’t know was that, instead of holding up a radio in the recreation of the famous “boom box” scene from the 1989 film “Say Anything…” Graham was going to hold up signs with a marriage proposal. It was a “Say Anything…”/”Love Actually” hybrid, and Graham nailed it.

“When I first heard the song, I obviously cried. I have never had anyone write something so special to me,” recalled DiPietro.

On the day of filming the video, there was a scene shot on a bench on Portland’s Eastern Promenade, the site of their first date. Because it didn’t reference a Cusack movie, despite the fact that DiPietro was dressed like Ione Skye’s Diane Court character and Graham as Lloyd Dobler from “Say Anything…,” DiPietro wondered if a proposal was coming. She was wrong. The proposal came later when DiPietro was looking out a second-floor window and saw Graham hold up a number of signs that read “Alyssa, You are the love of my life. I wanna be your John Cusack. Will you marry me?” DiPietro was all smiles as she nodded and ran downstairs to find Graham down on one knee, ring in hand. I’ve watched the scene several times, and I still get teary. Ain’t love grand? Both Graham and DiPietro assured me that this was the actual moment of the proposal, not a staged scene. Watch the clip, and you’ll have no doubts.

Graham and DiPietro will be wed in June, and I can only hope one of the songs they dance to is “In Your Eyes.”

Here’s “I Wanna Be Your John Cusack”

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