The Book of Mila…. Mila Kunis

Posted on 05. Jan, 2010 by Administrator in Profiles

by Devoe Yates

Mila Kunis

Picture 1 of 5

sweater by Stella Mccartney belt by Blumarine necklace by Moritz Glik

photos by Robert Todd Williamson
styled by Amit Gajwani
hair by Peter Butler
make up by Genevieve
art direction by Laura Ann

Tis a cold autumn day in New York, and though there’s not a gust of blustery wind about, Mila Kunis has had some trouble making it to the coffee shop at Bowery and Bleecker, where we’ll soon discuss the best Star Trek moment in history over some hot tea. As she unbundles her layers and removes her spaghetti string headphones, she confides, “Walking here, I tripped. I’m clumsy every day, every hour of the day. I trip on my own feet.” I wonder if this curse to bear has ever annoyed her, and she replies with a smile, “No, I wouldn’t know what it’s like not to trip.” I wonder as well if there might’ve been a magical day when her body was in harmony with her surroundings and she nods, “Yeah, there’ve been days where I was like, Whew! Had a good day today. I didn’t fall, I didn’t embarrass myself, good for me! Oh yeah, it happens.”
Mila’s currently in New York preparing to shoot Darren Aronofsky’s latest brain tickler, Black Swan, in which she plays the possible phantom adversary to Natalie Portman in a dark tale of a ballerina finding madness. Though it’s set to be a dark and conjuring film no doubt, the humor here lies in a self-professed klutz filling the stiff point shoes of a ballet virtuoso. “Am I good? I mean, good as in what I can do at 26 in three months. I think I’m doing great! I can get on point. But I’m broken! I’ve pulled so many ligaments, I have tendinitis in my left knee, I have this (a bandaged shoulder she pulls back her shirt to reveal). I had to get an MRI because I popped my shoulder out, and then it inflamed, that was last week. That was exciting. My toes are bruised, this over here (a hip area she points to with gusto) is bruised from being lifted.” Though she might not be making an appearance on Dancing With The Stars any time soon, there are benefits, she confides. “I’m in the sickest shape I’ve been in my life. By far. I’m also on a really strict diet. So I’m dieting, then working out three or four hours a day.”
For those of you unfamiliar with this spitfire nymph from her days as Jackie on That ‘70s Show, her breakthrough film role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or her wails and sobs as Meg on Family Guy, you must know that she is a bundle of energy, a geyser of comedy, and nerdy enough to talk about farts and Tolstoy in the same five minutes. She’s normal, and there’s no false sense of celebrity, a word she scoffs at. She simply thinks of herself as a working actress with a blessed life. Normalness is hard to find amongst the actor lot, but it’s her parents that showed her how to remain grounded through the years as a recognizable face in the crowd. With their children’s future at stake, Mila’s parents, once scientists in the Ukraine, brought her and her brother to the States in 1991. With Los Angeles as their new home, Mila’s father took up a job as a taxi driver and her mother found work as a Rite Aid clerk. For seven-year-old Mila, it was rough-going at first; unable to speak or understand English, she was thrust into an elementary school the day after their arrival, and she claims to have blocked out memories of that first year because it was so alien and painful. Eventually she caught on to the language, thanks to watching The Price Is Right, and studying the over-pronunciated slow drawl of Bob Barker. Even so, times were still tough for the impoverished family as Mila remembers her first real Halloween. “I had just learned what Halloween was, there was no Halloween where I came from, and we were really poor and there was no way we were ever going to buy a costume. The school had a parade where all the kids would go around in a circle in their costumes or whatever, and the day before the parade, I came home and I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.’ My mom didn’t understand why. Eventually she realized it was because everybody was going to be wearing costumes and I didn’t have a costume. So she made me a costume, and it was a tiger; the costume was my brother’s shirt, which was striped black and yellow, and a paper bag that she painted to look like a tiger’s face, with my ‘lil face cutout. So I went to school and I wasn’t embarrassed, and years back, I realized how cool my parents were about all that.”
But such lean times soon came and went after Mila’s parents enrolled her in an acting class for fun, and Hollywood hands plucked her from the fold. She began doing commercials, the first of which was for Barbie. “I was with a group of kids and we went camping, so I think it was an outdoor Barbie of some sort. I ended up doing like 40 commercials when I was little so they all kind of run together. But the Barbies, I still have them. You weren’t able to keep all the Barbies that you did commercials for because a lot of them were testers.” But the golden toy at the time was not Barbie, it was none other than Telephone Tammy. A bit irked, Mila leans in, “I never got to keep Telephone Tammy. When I was nine, that was a kickass doll. It talked. I wanted that one, but I never got it. But I have glitter hair Barbie at home. And then I have winter Barbie, I don’t know (laughs).”After a string of commercials, Mila went in to audition for a pilot, a sitcom called That ‘70s Show, and though they were looking for actors 18 and above, Mila lied about her age and won the part of Jackie, the spoiled high school princess. The producers found out about her age, but didn’t mind keeping her on for eight seasons, and in the meantime, she began her tenure as the tortured high school nerd, Meg, on Family Guy, a role she still does voice over for once a month. And though fame soon arrived, Mila didn’t let it become her life, and managed to maintain a normal healthy social life. Her friends at the time never once found weirdness in what she did for a career: “They wouldn’t be my friends if they did! They’re all very normal, very nice, hard-working adults now. When we were little, they couldn’t give two shits about what I did. We take a yearly girlfriends trip, every year since we were 16. The first one was in San Diego. We were still young, so there were only so many places our parents would let us go. And you would think that 16-year-olds on vacation by themselves would go crazy, but we got massages, rented movies, swam in the pool, we stayed up ‘til 3 a.m. by the pool having a glass of wine. That was our big thing, ‘Oh we’re having wine!’ And that’s it. But since then, that started a tradition, every year we go somewhere else. Not necessarily far, they work full-time and they’re in school.”
As her time in high school drew to a close, it soon came time for Mila to make some tough decisions. “I didn’t know that this was going to be my career, it was just fun. At 16, it was still fun, but I was going to go to college, I was going to quit. When I consciously made it my job, in my late teens, early 20s, that’s when I really changed. The way I went about it changed. ‘What’s my next step, what am I going to do, why do I want to do this?’ It wasn’t so haphazard anymore. So that was kind of a learning process. You can’t learn how to act, you either can act or you can’t. But that’s also a matter of opinion. You might think someone’s a great actor, I might think they’re awful, so it doesn’t even matter. So, really, it’s just about making smart decisions.”
But now, let’s dispense with this bit of A&E biography and get to the current times and the goings on. Mila is soon to be seen in The Book of Eli, the Hughes Brothers pic starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, which offers the promise of, if not a shitload of awesome action, a great acting showdown between the two screen legends. I ask Mila if she was nervous at all about working with actors of such stellar accomplishment, and she shrugs. “If I was, it only worked for the character. I read for The Book of Eli twice, and both times with Denzel. The first time, I didn’t know Denzel was going to be there, so that was a little strange. ‘Cause he’s big. He’s a big man. And the second time I read, I knew he was going to be there, and in the scene, he wanted to improv the scene where my character first meets him. The scene took a turn during the audition where he became very aggressive with the character. That was fantastic, but me being slightly intimidated by him only worked for the character. So yes, you can’t not be intimidated, but it’s not intimidating in the sense that you’re scared, it’s more like I’m going to try and keep up with you. I’m going to do the best scene that I possibly can and I hope it sticks. That’s all I can do.”
As she’s obviously figured out acting without training, I ask Mila what’s been the best education so far. “Trial and error. Really, that’s the best way to learn. I’m not discrediting people that go to school and study it, I think that’s great, but I think it’s just as important to go and do it, and you learn from your peers and the people that you’re surrounded by. A lot of times you end up learning what not to do versus what to do. Because there’s no right or wrong, it’s all a matter of opinion. You figure out what works for you by watching other people and trying things.” I prod, asking if it was weird working with two very supposed intense actors, and if there was indeed some method acting going on. She thinks for a bit and replies, “If I say no, everyone will be disappointed, you would be surprised about who would be method and who wouldn’t. And that’s all I want to say. Gary Oldman has this reputation of being so tough, so serious, but he was one of the funniest, most easy-going people I’ve ever met. In the middle of takes, he’s dropping jokes and dancing. So, I would say no. He maybe was incredibly method at one point, but he’s a brilliant actor and he can switch it on and off at the drop of a hat. Truly, we’ll be having a simple conversation about The Monkees and you’ll hear action and then he’s grabbing my hair and pulling me to the ground and threatening to kill me and I’m like, ‘Holy shit!’ Yeah, he’s pretty badass. And Denzel, they’re both serious actors, and just saying that you can shoot the shit in a middle of a take does not discredit their seriousness at all. It’s just…they both just have a natural presence and a natural way of going about things where they don’t have to try. It’s indescribable.”
As for the comedy that she’s so good at, having been hand-tapped for roles by both the likes of comedy lords Judd Apatow and Mike Judge, I ask her if improv comes easy for her. “It frightens me, more than anything else. It’s more like what you think is funny right now, today, is not necessarily going to be funny a year from now when the movie comes out. The problem with improv is that the jokes that you make have to be sustained. And that’s something that you can’t predict. You can think you’re funny, and the whole crew will laugh, but it doesn’t mean it’s funny tomorrow. It’s hard, it’s different.”
Since Halloween had just passed, I ask her the last horror movie she saw, her favorite of all time being The Shining. “A Nightmare on Elm Street — the first one, we were watching it at a friend’s house. We watched A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, just for fun.  We watch those old horror movies because we do murder mystery tours in L.A., my friend sets up murder mystery tours, for fun, for my friends and I to do. One of my friends has a whole giant book of famous murders that happened in L.A., everything from the Valley to Orange County to Malibu, everything you could possibly imagine. And so when we do these murder nights, we watch movies, then we drive around at midnight, all around to these murder houses and take photos and we recreate the murder scenes, it’s really twisted and weird. Like, we went to the Black Dahlia house-well, it’s a house now, but it used to be a field in East L.A. or whatever it was, Compton. We went by the Hillside Strangler’s place and the Playboy model (Dorothy Stratten) who was murdered by her ex-husband; that house looks exactly the same now as it does in the murder book. Nothing’s changed and there’s an overpass next to it, it’s just creepy. That house gives us bad vibes every time we’re there. We should stop going; I don’t know why we keep going.”
You might find that weird, but it sounds fun. As for other Mila pastimes, she used to play a good deal of World of Warcraft, and in her heyday, she found it hard to be out doing anything other than playing WOW with her boyfriend of seven years, Macaulay Culkin, whom she refers to as Mac, the sane, very intelligent man who grounds her craziness. Since then she’s gone back to more primitive roots.“When we have ‘friends night’ and we all get together, we play board games. The Settlers of Catan. It’s a mixture of Risk and Monopoly. You trade wheat for ore, or brick for wood. It’s like Risk because you want to own the entire world, you want to populate it.” Unfamiliar, and a bit excited, I ask her if it’s like the old classic, Axis and Allies. “Yes! Exactly. Oh my gosh, it’s so nerdy, I love that game. There’s also The Seafarers of Catan and we combine them both. We don’t fuck around. Giant board games are great.” But enjoyment and skill are two different things and I press her on
whether she wins very much. “No. I like to think I do, but I don’t. I would get called out by all my friends if I said I did.”
As our time is drawing close, it’s time to have a showdown, nerd vs. nerd, and appropriately, a trading of our favorite Star Trek moments. I begin with mine first, the moment that I used to think about if I needed to cry, the moment when Spock dies in “Wrath of Khan” and tells a teary and pained Captain Kirk that, ‘The need of the many…outweighs the need of the few…or the one.’ I feel very proud of my chosen moment, but she replies, horrified, “Oh my God. Are you serious?”
I take my stance, ‘Come on! Spock died! You’d known this character for over 20 years. I cried.’ She shakes her head, then nods, “I did, too, but I don’t think that’s a good moment! How about when they killed Data off, then? How’s that for a moment. You were not sad when Data was blown into space?”
I seem to remember Data coming back, but The Next Generation is not my strong suit. She puts me in my place. “No! He did not come back. They left it open, remember how there are a couple of Datas? His evil brother was still intact…and you assumed that one day they would put Data’s brain into the evil brother? But they never finished that.”
She thinks momentarily and easily comes up with her favorite moment, which turns out to be a happy thing rather than a devastating thing, she begins: “There’s an episode in The Next Generation where Captain Picard lives an entire life in 10 minutes in the ‘The Inner Light’ episode. You remember this episode? One of my favorite songs is when Captain Picard is playing the flute. This entire race of people has died off, and the only way that they can sustain their legacy is if they come and implant their memories into human beings. Picard gets chosen to get one of these implants, and he lives this entire life in this olden world, gets married, has kids, has a whole life, everything, in the span of 10 minutes. He’s a flute player in this other life, and he wakes up and he has the flute there. He picks it up and starts playing and it’s the most beautiful song. It’s a beautiful episode, from start to finish, perfect.”
I have to agree, even though having never seen it, that it does seem quite perfect and beautiful. And the same description might not be far off from applying to such a one as this, a beautiful girl who doesn’t think of herself as such, but follows the things that make her happy, and in turn finds the real things that are important: friends, sincerity, and a damn good Star Trek episode. The time being up,
her scheduled events lingering, we leave the coffee shop and walk for awhile down the Bowery together. I ask her what she would do if ever this acting thing didn’t work out, and she speaks of using the money she’s gathered to travel the world and see its every corner, then return home and go back to school and maybe teach kindergarten. We both remark over the cuteness of a tiny puppy making its rounds,
and then our paths split and she heads off to whatever makes her heart happy, the way it should be.

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