Witty, self-aware, smart and politically active – Mila Kunis is not your average starlet. She tells Stylist why her heart belongs to Barack
As a rule, the ‘safe’ areas to cover when you’re interviewing a celebrity include the following: body image, work, co-stars, relationships… body image. What you definitely don’t imagine you’ll end up debating are the potential landmines of sex, politics, religion and money. But then I don’t imagine Mila Kunis is much like any other young actress. For a start, when I walk into the suite at The Dorchester the tiny 28-year-old actress is sprawled on a chaise longue holding her stomach after eating fish and chips (“big enough for a family”) and caramel rice pudding. It may seem a frivolous observation but, among the aesthetically conscious stars of Hollywood, a hearty appetite is not something you stumble across often. Secondly, she doesn’t appear to view interviews as a chore. We meet at 7pm after a long day and Mila just smiles: “Oh, it’s fine, I’m not tired – go ahead.” She also doesn’t play down her intelligence or interest in things that appear outside the Hollywood bubble, becoming more animated when discussing her biggest passion – politics – than anything else.
Oh, and she’s incredibly modest, despite having just made the leap from supporting actress roles [in last year’s Black Swan} to co-star, alongside Justin Timberlake in new film Friends With Benefits – a comedy about friends who, well, do more than most friends advisably should. When I walked out of the cinema it wasn’t Justin I was discussing; it was the huge crush I’d developed on her.
Maybe it’s her background which sets her apart. Mila lived in Kiev, in the Ukraine with her physics teacher mother, engineer father and older brother until she was seven, when she moved to LA, without being able to speak a word of English. Her heritage has clearly given her more than just her ridiculously amazing looks (huge Bambi eyes – one brown, one green – flawless skin and the figure of a ballerina).
Mila started acting at the age of nine and has worked continually since then; first in TV roles such as Jackie in That ’70s Show alongside Ashton Kutcher and as the voice of Meg in Family Guy, before moving into film and winning audiences over with her performance as Rachel in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Lily in Black Swan alongside her friend Natalie Portman. She also famously spent eight years dating Macaulay Culkin – the quirky child star who the rest of the world can only remember eating macaroni cheese as he psyched himself up to fight off baddies with a glue gun. It’s clear there is so much more to Mila Kunis than your typical Hollywood actress
What attracted you to the part of Jamie in your new film Friends With Benefits?
When I got the script it was very dated but I knew it made for a funny movie so I took a meeting with Will Gluck [the director]. Will, Justin [Timberlake] and myself went out to dinner and that’s when we realised we wanted the same thing for the movie. We were able to workshop it, re-write the script and tailor the characters to what we feel our generation is like now. So that’s really what attracted me most to it – to be part of a process in making a character that I was proud of.
The film poses the timeless question: Can women have sex without becoming emotionally attached? What’s your take on that?
I don’t think it can work; I think it’s a very temporary solution but people are very busy, very driven now and there is a lot more that twentysomething girls want to accomplish. So it makes for an easy solution to a situation, but it is also a very temporary solution.
Your chemistry with Justin is brilliant – were you friends before?
We weren’t – we met during that first dinner and he had food poisoning, so… a really awesome dinner! We did workshop on the script for two months before production and created these characters that were so dear and special to us because they were so much a part of us. Then, on top of that, we didn’t hate each other.
Always a bonus…
It is, because you truly never know. A lot of the time you go to work, then you have lunch by yourself, then you go back to work. There are those few movies where you actually sit down with your co-star and your director and have lunch together. Three months in, we still enjoy having dinner together and we still go out to dinner in LA now.
What surprised you most about Justin?
I knew very little about him, but I loved Saturday Night Live [Justin hosted the US talk show earlier this year]; I thought he was hysterical in it. He’s one of those people who want you to succeed. He made me feel very comfortable and he’s great to the crew. He’s a very passionate person when it comes to his work, which is contagious. He’s very funny. He’ll be very humble about it but he’s very smart and I think to be funny you need to be smart.
The pressure to ‘be funny’ in a comedy must be quite overwhelming – do you ever get self-conscious?
I am nervous every day I go to work that I’m going to get fired. It’s only once we pass the halfway point through production that I’m like, “Oh well, they aren’t going to fire me now, it’s too late.” Otherwise, whether you have to be funny or mean or angry, whatever the character is... it is incredibly nerve-wracking to go to work because acting is based on opinion.
Are you ever a victim of imposter syndrome where you think you’re going to get found out at any minute?
Yeah, completely. I have no clue how I got here. I feel as if I tricked a lot of people and I don’t even know how.
How are you finding the transition from a supporting to leading role?
The experience has been incredible but not in the sense of, ‘this is what I’ve always wanted’, because this isn’t what I’ve always wanted. It was never my priority to be this type of actress. It was just to keep working. I love what I do and so when a movie ends I just want to get hired again – there is no sense of security so this means nothing, unless I have another job.
What are you looking for next?
I’ve always just looked at projects which I can learn from. I really do like working with people that are better than me because the only way you can become better at what you do is by observing other people. So if I can surround myself with people that are smarter, better, I’m set.
“I can tell you why I voted for Obama; what I agree with him on, and disagree with him on, for hours”
Who have you worked with that you’ve learned the most from?
In every film I can honestly say you either learn what to do, or you learn what not to do. If you work with an a******, you learn how not to be one. And if you work with great people then you see – more so than with acting – how they interact with other people. You see whether they are respectful or disrespectful and how the crew reacts to it and you learn from that.
Where do you consider home?
Los Angeles. I can’t wait until 8 December when I get to go home. When I finish Oz: The Great And Powerful [Mila’s currrently filming a prequel to The Wizard Of Oz], it will have been eight months since I have been home.
How do you make yourself feel at home when you’re travelling?
It’s hard, because I feel a little bit like a nomad so I take photos with me – of my family and my dog. That’s about all I do. You try and make it as comfortable an environment as you can, but it’s also very temporary.
How much of your childhood in the Ukraine shaped who you are now?
I came to LA when I was seven years old. I do think my parents upbringing shaped who I am, 100%. Whether we were in Ukraine or in Los Angeles, the rules I followed as a kid and as a teenager were that of European parents..
Very respectful. There was no ‘I want’; no slamming doors. There was a line of respect my parents taught me and there is a work ethic that they instilled in me at a very young age. I do know that I have the most incredible parents in the whole wide world. I respect them, I look up to them. They were my role models, and forever will be.
Do you think that coming from a country with such a politically contentious history has made you more politically aware?
Yes. Because when it’s taken away from you for so long and then all of a sudden you are given access to information, you just want to swallow it up. Me and my family are very political. We don’t necessarily agree on our beliefs but we talk about it a lot, like at dinner. My mom hates it because my dad and I are usually going at it – but in a good way! But it does make you very political.
How do you feel about the US debt crisis [at the time of interview, Barack Obama had signed a deal with the Republicans to end debt deadlock]?
I love Barack Obama, I voted for him and I will forever be proud of my vote, so I can’t say anything bad against him – other than I think America is in a very temperamental state, and the decision that was made and the compromises made mean, in my opinion, that people are going to pay for a very long time. There is no revenue that’s going to come from these compromises. None. We are no longer going to be the leading power, at all; if China takes their money away from the States we are done. Done. I know that he [Obama] tried. I know because you keep reading these reports of him trying to compromise with the Tea Party and the Republican Party and trying to come to a 50/50 agreement. I don’t think it was one. I feel the Democratic Party compromised everything and the Republican Party compromised pretty much nothing. It’s pretty terrifying how much power the Tea Party seems to have in the US – we’re watching Sarah Palin with open mouths. Honestly, I love politics, I do. And maybe they know something I don’t know, and that’s the only thing I can hope for. But, unless you show me some revenue that’s going to be made, we’re about to become a third-world country. OK I’m being dramatic, but we sure as hell are losing a lot of power. And when you lose financial power and the dollar drops that power is gone.
Does it frustrate you how many people are politically unaware, particularly in our age group?
Yes, because you are given such an amazing opportunity with so much information. Why is no-one taking advantage of it?You don’t have to watch Fox News or CNN or MSNBC; you don’t have to be part of a political party, you could just read. Why is nobody reading? I feel like, in our generation, people don’t read.
They don’t read books, they don’t read the paper, they don’t read the news. So obviously you are incredibly ill-informed to the point where they will go do these tests in Middle America… And they’ll ask, “OK, what party are you?” And they’ll say, “Republican”. “Why?” And they can’t even tell you. They have no idea what the Republican Party stands for. Why did I vote for Obama? I can tell you why I voted for him, what I agreed and disagreed with him on, for hours. It’s crazy to me that people don’t educate themselves about the world considering so many of them have children who are going to suffer because of it. Whoever you vote for, don’t do it just because. And don’t tell me it’s because of religion either because that whole thing is knocked completely out the window. So you better just educate yourself.
"I am so proud of Family Guy...it’s a low-brow show with high-brow humour."
What do you read?
Right now, I’m reading Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
Do you like it?
I do – the first 100 or so pages was rough – it’s just a lot of information. But once you figure out why he got hired, it gets really fun. But I’m behind on that one. And why don’t people learn from history? It all goes in one ear and out the other.
Are you keen on self-improvement?
I hope so. Lord knows I make mistakes. I make mistakes daily and you can’t take them back so the only thing you can do is acknowledge them and learn from them, and hopefully not make the same mistake again. I hope I can improve myself. I love learning. If I could go to school and just take lectures, I would. But I love the History Channel and Discovery’s Health and Science channels and I love random facts like, where does the phrase ‘not my cup of tea’, come from? I love to travel but when I travel, I want to see everything. I love food, so I want to eat my way around every country. All I want to do is eat and walk around.
Where have you travelled that’s most impressed you?
Japan. It’s the first place that I felt like I was actually on the other side of the world – not literally but culturally.
In the past, you’ve talked about being a computer game obsessive?
I used to be, yeah. The other self-improvement that I made? I stopped!
You played Meg in Family Guy for 12 years. How exciting is it to do something with such cult viewing that people feel so passionate about?
I am so proud of Family Guy, and so honoured to be a part of that show. It’s a low-brow show with high-brow humour. It’s relevant to today’s times: its smart, it’s poignant, and yet it has poop-fart jokes for your 12 year old to enjoy. And every time I walk down the street and someone yells, “Shut up, Meg!”, nothing makes me happier.
What makes you laugh?
I love Tina Fey – her book made me laugh out loud on the plane. I was by myself on the flight reading it – I was like a hyena. I think she’s brilliant, I think Kristen Wiig is brilliant. all those ladies in Bridesmaids are just completely hysterical.
Would you ever follow in Kristen’s footsteps and write a script?
I can barely write an email. I can’t form a sentence to save my life. I would probably never write a script, but I’d surround myself with really funny writers and workshop with them.
What’s on your bucket list?
I’ve ticked off one: I jumped out of a plane on my birthday last year – that was on my bucket list. I’m going to go to Africa. I want to – this is going to sound so cheesy – take a romantic stroll in Paris with somebody and just kiss on a public street. Nowhere is as romantic as Paris. We were there two days ago and Tracy, my make-up artist, and I were taking a romantic stroll at 11pm – we were walking from the hotel to the Ille Saint-Louis. I am not kidding you, someone was playing the violin and it was night-time and I literally went, “are you kidding me right now?” It was gorgeous outside, the weather was just spectacular, the stars were out, the city was glowing and there was a man playing the violin and I was like, “Trace, what is happening right now?”
What do you look for in a man?
A sense of humour. Someone who I can trust, who is patient. Somebody who has his life together and who is willing to compromise on things.
Friends With Benefits is out in cinemas nationwide now
Picture credits: Rex Features