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One of the most sought after young actresses in Hollywood, Mila Kunis established herself as the voice of Meg in Family Guy and in the sitcom That 70s Show, but has since proved to be a diverse actress in some very dramatic roles.
Born Milena Markovna Kunis on Aug. 14, 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine, this raven-haired beauty moved to Los Angeles with her parents, Mark and Elvira Kunis and older brother, Mike, at the age of seven. After learning English by watching American television shows, Kunis enrolled in after-school acting classes at Beverly Hills Studios while attending Hubert Howe Bancroft Middle School in Los Angeles. Discovered by a manager while performing in an acting showcase, the young actress was soon cast in children’s programs and television commercials including campaigns for Barbie and Payless shoes.
Making her small-screen debut in 1994 in an episode of “Days of Our Lives” (NBC, 1965- ), Kunis soon landed small roles on a number of television shows including “The John Larroquette Show” (NBC, 1993-96), “Baywatch” (1989-2001), and “Walker Texas Ranger” (CBS, 1993-2001). She went on to appear in recurring roles on “Nick Freno, Licenced Teacher” (The WB, 1996-98) and the WB’s “7th Heaven” (The WB, 1996-2006). With her dark hair and exotic looks, Kunis portrayed a young Angelina Jolie in the critically acclaimed 1998 HBO bio-pic “Gia” about the life of supermodel Gia Carangi.
Lying about her age, Kunis landed the career-breaking role of Jackie Burkhart on the sitcom “That 70’s Show (1998-2006) while still in high school; though the role required Kunis to be at least eighteen, she was only fourteen at the time of her audition. Regardless, Kunis was cast in the role of the fast-talking Jackie, and worked on the series while attending Fairfax High School. Kunis received two Young Star Awards for her role on the series. Lending her distinct voice to animated television, Kunis was also cast as the voice of Meg Griffin on the popular series “Family Guy” (1999- ). Though the series was cancelled in 2002, its popularity with viewers and performance in DVD sales led to the show’s resurrection in May of 2005.
After receiving her high school diploma in 2001, Kunis soon branched out from her work on “70’s” by appearing in a number of films. She landed a supporting role in the teen flick “Get Over It” (2001) with Kirsten Dunst, starred in the horror sequel “American Psycho II: All American Girl” (2002), and played the role of Tina in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” (2004) opposite Joseph McIntyre. Kunis also appeared in the music videos for Aerosmith’s single “Jaded” and for The Strokes’ single “The End Has No End.” In 2006, Kunis Appeared in the films “After Sex” and “Moving McAllister” opposite Jon Heder and Rutger Hauer and lent her voice-over talents to the Xbox 360 game “Saints Row.” She also continued to received moderate tabloid coverage of her ongoing romance with former child star, Macaulay Culkin but her next two films are bound to raise her profile: the female lead in the upcoming spiritual themed actioner Book of Eli opposite Denzel Washington and Darren Aronovsky’s secretive Ballet drama both of which she discussed with PAUL FISCHER.
QUESTION: The great thing about the characterin Book of Eli is that she starts out as a victim, and then evolves in such a really interesting way.
MILA KUNIS: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you think you would have been attracted to this character if she had remained as subservient as she was in the beginning?
MILA KUNIS: No. Very rarely am I attracted to characters that are “woe is me.” Like, I’m not a big fan on women that have to be the victim, and need to be saved at all times. I don’t necessarily think that’s how it is in real life, and I don’t think that’s how it should be in films. I think anyone, if given the right tool, will persevere. And she was given the opportunity to learn and become stronger and grow. And I think it would be an unjust portrayal of people, if you didn’t let the character grow.
QUESTION: Did you do any research at all on any aspect of the themes of this? Either the religious aspects, or the –
MILA KUNIS: I tried to read the Bible.
QUESTION: You tried?
MILA KUNIS: I attempted it. I did.
QUESTION: How far did you get?
MILA KUNIS: The first.
QUESTION: Genesis? Really?
MILA KUNIS: Yeah. That’s about – I didn’t finish it. I gotta be honest, I didn’t. I mean, I thought the stories were great. I just had a hard time reading it. I did. I wasn’t raised with religion. I was raised with faith. And so I didn’t really know much about the Bible. And I was like, “Well, this would give me a really good opportunity to actually learn about the Bible.” And they had amazing stories, and I thought they were all really – they were great messages. I mean, I think every story that was given to you has a specific message, and I think it’s great. I couldn’t finish it.
QUESTION: Were you surprised that this movie was as religious or spiritual as it was?
MILA KUNIS: I don’t know if it’s religious. I read the script, and I did not look at it as a religious film. I looked at it as a film of faith, and a film of hope.
QUESTION: Did you also see it as a Western, in a way?
MILA KUNIS: Yeah, a little bit. Not Western, but desolate and dusty, and – yeah. it’s like, going forward, but going backwards.
QUESTION: While you were doing interviews for Extract a few months back, you described this character as being a very lovely character. What did you find was unique about Solara?
MILA KUNIS: Her will power. I think her passion to survive and live and learn and experience the world. You know, she grew up in a small town, in an area where she didn’t even know anything outside of it, and didn’t know what the rest of the world was, but she was always hungry for it, and always wanted to explore and experience what the rest of the world had to offer. And I think that’s a great attribute to a person.
QUESTION: How did you deal with the physicality of this? .
MILA KUNIS: It was fine. It wasn’t as bad as what I’m doing currently, I’m training for a ballet movie. And that, to me, is a thousand times worse. So, in retrospect, I think The Book of Eli was easy. I.
QUESTION: Ballet dancing ?
MILA KUNIS: Yeah. For Black Swan that I’ve been doing for five months. And that, to me, has been the most physically strenuous thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.
QUESTION: Were you a fan of ballet before you took that on?
MILA KUNIS: I mean, I was aware of ballet. I’ve seen ballet. But I didn’t realize what you have to go put your body through in order to look like a ballerina, walk like a ballerina – you can’t fake ballet. You can fake running. You can fake looking like you’re active, and throwing things and shooting a gun. You could fake it. You cannot fake ballet. That’s what I learned. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
QUESTION: Why do it?
MILA KUNIS: Because I love Darren Aronofsky. And if anybody was ever gonna get me to do it, it would be him. And if I was ever gonna trust anybody to make me look like a ballerina. I have two left feet. Like, good luck. [LAUGHTER] So far, it’s been going great. But oh my God, what I’m doing right now is by far the most physically strenuous thing ever.
QUESTION: A walk in the park. So, what was the process with the Hughes brothers? I mean, how did they direct you? I mean, would one come in one day and one the other? One was more –
MILA KUNIS: No, no, no. They were there – oh, can you imagine? That would be hard. It’s like, “Which day is it? Is it Wednesday? Is it Allen day or Albert day?” That would drive people crazy. Can you imagine? No. They were both there the same day, every day.
QUESTION: But, dealing with two masters. I mean, how do you – were they on the same page all the time?
MILA KUNIS: No! Let’s be real. Have they been in here? Look at. No! Nobody can be. I mean, you know. You’re gonna disagree, but it’s part of the job. More times than not, they are on the same page.
QUESTION: Does one have a particular strength over the other? Is one more an acting director, for example? And the other a technical director? Or are they both in unison?
MILA KUNIS: They’re in unison, but one gravitates more towards the others. I mean, like – they are in unison. Albert, I guess, would be considered more technical. Allen would be considered more actor. But they do give each other notes on other things.
QUESTION: How did the script come to you, and what were your thoughts when you first saw it?
MILA KUNIS: It came to me as an audition. It wasn’t anything different. It was – you know, I read it, and it had the Hughes brothers and Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman attached. And I would be really – you know. What was I gonna do? Like, “No.”
QUESTION: More money, please.
MILA KUNIS: “I don’t think this is a good project.” No, it just came to me, and I was like, “Great.” And then I went and auditioned for it, and read with Denzel. And then I went and auditioned for it again and read with Denzel, and that was it.
QUESTION: How much improv was there on your part, if any? Was there any improv at all?
MILA KUNIS: In the film? No. In the audition, there was a lot.
QUESTION: Oh, really?
MILA KUNIS: Uh-huh [AFFIRM].
QUESTION: With Denzel?
MILA KUNIS: Yeah.
QUESTION: How was that experience?
MILA KUNIS: He’s an intimidating man. He is. He just is. There’s a presence about him that’s intimidating. And so whether you know who Denzel Washington is or you don’t, when he walks into the room, you’re gonna pay attention, because he’s just such a powerful man. But it was great. I mean, he was great. He kind of – I think it was just to test me, how much I could take.
QUESTION: How surprised are you that your career has taken off the way it has? I mean, after all, people still know you as Meg in Family Guy, yet obviously there’s so many more layers to you than –
MILA KUNIS: I’m shocked. I am. I think I got very lucky. I do. I think all of LA, all of New York is filled with brilliant actors that never get a chance. And it’s just luck. I mean, there’s people that are so great, that you’ll never hear of, because they just didn’t get lucky. And so I think as talented as one can be, there’s other parts that need to – you know, be put in place.
QUESTION: You still have time to fit in Family Guy?
MILA KUNIS: Oh, yeah. I record Family Guy. Right now, I’m working .
QUESTION: Are you a Russian ballerina in Black Swan?
MILA KUNIS: I’m a ballerina from San Francisco. But maybe via Russia. We don’t know.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the basic story structure, story line of Black Swan?
MILA KUNIS: Sure. Okay. Black Swan – it’s a very hard movie to explain.
QUESTION: It’s Darren Aronofsky.
MILA KUNIS: It’s Darren’s movie, which makes no sense, because i it’s just a hard movie to explain. So, Natalie Portman and I play rival ballerinas. Her character gets the lead in Swan Lake. Then my character appears, and my character is everything that she wants to be in life. Her character’s very professional, very strict, very neurotic. And my character’s very loose. And the talent that my character has in ballet comes naturally to her. She’s not as technically good as Natalie’s character, but she has more passion naturally. And that’s what Natalie’s character lacks. So it’s a battle, it’s like, the yin and yang. And ultimately, it’s a story of Natalie’s character going through a downward spiral, mentally, through Swan Lake. Oh, it’s such a hard movie to explain.
QUESTION: And the movie’s just hard, it’s a supernatural drama.
MILA KUNIS: It’s a really hard movie to explain. I have no idea. I can’t say anything, is the problem. It’s just that her character is in a world that’s just falling apart all around her. And so because everything’s falling apart around her, crazy things start happening.
QUESTION: And are you involved in any of that craziness?
MILA KUNIS: Yes.
QUESTION: In a very direct, confrontational way?
MILA KUNIS: Yes.
QUESTION: So, you are a bad girl in this movie?
MILA KUNIS: No. No. No, no. I’m not a bad girl. There’s no, like, protagonist-antagonist. I don’t know how I’m gonna do press for it because I cannot explain this movie to save my life right now. There are no bad people in this movie. I mean Natalie’s mother is not necessarily the greatest mother in the movie. Let me say that. That would probably be the antagonist. But as far as she and I go, no. If you know the story of Swan Lake, if you know the black swan, in the third act – it’s the movie within the show.
QUESTION: And there’s much of Swan Lake in the movie, presumable.
MILA KUNIS: Yeah. So, the characters are dancing Swan Lake and the characters within the film mirror the story of Swan Lake. That’s the best way I can explain – it’s a fascinating story.
QUESTION: What are you doing after The Black Swan?
MILA KUNIS: Eating. After Black Swan? I’m eating.
QUESTION: So, you’re on a strict dietary regimen, as well as the physical training for that?
MILA KUNIS: Yeah.
QUESTION: You must be loving that.
MILA KUNIS: I’m so hungry all the time. I’m just gonna eat, and not work out, and not do anything. Nothing. I plan on doing nothing. I end Black Swan in February, and I am just gonna be a couch potato for a good month.
QUESTION: See you at the ballet junket. And by that time, make sure you know what the movie’s about!
MILA KUNIS: I can’t explain the movie! I’ve been trying to explain in, like, one sentence. And you can’t! I can’t explain it.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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