At 15, Kunis became a pin-up for keg-swilling frat boys as Jackie Burkhart, the spoiled gossip on Fox’s That ’70s Show, a role she inhabited for eight years. (She was hired when she was 14, a fact she hid from casting directors who were reluctant to employ a minor.) Jackie was pretty, looked good in bell-bottoms and used her high-pitched voice to wheedle, gripe, whine and manipulate. You’d be forgiven for assuming, based on her performance, that she was destined to remain Ashton Kutcher’s arm candy forever.

Kunis didn’t do much to burnish her credibility, posing half-nude, at all of 16, on the cover of Stuff magazine under the barely legal headline, “Mila Kunis Dares You to Look.” (These days, she claims she would never be photographed in a bikini unless “someone air-brushed the shit out of it.”) On hiatus from the show, Kunis appeared in iffy movies like American Psycho 2, a bargain-bin sequel to the Christian Bale cult classic. “I didn’t think this was going to be my career at 16,” Kunis says without apology, twirling the drawstrings on her hoodie between her slender fingers. “Any movie I did prior to the age of 20, I did because I could.”

While carefully smothering a plate of raw oysters in cocktail sauce, Kunis talks about why Sarah Marshall worked. “It’s one of those movies that comes around once in a blue moon. You just go with it and don’t ask questions,” she says. “When [co-star] Kristen Bell and I got the script, we met with [screenwriter] Jason Segel and [director] Nick Stoller, and we talked about what these characters would do in different situations, how they would react. We talked and talked, and then they tailor-made the characters for us. Rachel is very close to me. To my personality, she’s the closest of any character I’ve played by far.”


Even Segel, who also starred in the film, was surprised by Kunis’ knockout performance. “When I wrote Mila’s part, I tried to imagine the perfect woman to meet at the wrong time,” he says. “I had no idea Mila would come in and not only be the perfect woman, but also add depth and complexity to the male fantasy of ‘the perfect woman.’ She made me look like a good writer.”

The film’s effect on her career has been palpable. “The quality of work I was able to get and fight for increased,” Kunis says, as proved by her next project, Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s top-secret follow-up to last year’s Mickey Rourke-resurrector, The Wrestler. “I first saw Mila in Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Aronofsky says of his casting choice. “She electrified me and made the screen sizzle. I instantly knew I wanted to work with her.”

Black Swan is a psychological thriller set in the ruthless world of ballet in New York City. To prepare, Kunis endured a punishing ballerina boot camp for more than two months, practicing seven days a week, five hours each day. “I just skipped about 10 years of ballerina training and started as if I’m a professional,” she says, laughing. “Every day, I tore the ligaments in my calves and I would think, What am I doing to myself?”

Kunis plays Lilly, the unhinged and possibly sadistic yin to the yang of Nina, her uptight rival played by close friend Natalie Portman. “It’s like a real-life version of the third act of Swan Lake,” she says, treading carefully around plot secrets. “I just feel like such a douche because I can’t talk about it. It’s not even that big of a deal. It’s a fucking movie. It’s not like I’m saving the world.”

Talk drifts to online chatter of a rumored sex scene with Portman, something she’s also weary of discussing. Surely, she understands why the rumor has fans in a tizzy. Kunis’ black nail-polished fingers hit the table in a cascade of taps. “Sure,” she says, with a roll of her eyes. “It’s two girls making out, and guys have a thing for that. And Nat is like every guy’s dream. She’s a nerd’s idea of heaven. The whole thing is silly, but I can see why people care.”

~ by jennylilbit on December 3, 2009.

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