Black Swan - Mila Kunis
Black Swan - Lily (Mila Kunis)© 2010 Fox Searchlight

Mila Kunis is one of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses. She was recently seen opposite Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli, also appearing in Max Payne, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Date Night, and didn’t dance in any of them. So her new movie, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, marks a new highlight in her career.

She portrays Lily, a new dancer in a New York City ballet company who is vying for the role of the Black Swan in Swan Lake, against Nina (Natalie Portman), an ambitious and neurotic ballerina who is consumed by dance and who would do anything to star in the production.

How did you get cast in this?

Black Swan - Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman
Lily (Mila Kunis) and Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) © 2010 Fox Searchlight

I don’t know how or why I got hired, I never really asked, I didn’t want Darren to second-guess himself. And so I just went with it. It was an amazing opportunity and I thank him every day for it.

Have you ever seen Swan Lake on the stage?

I did not get the opportunity to see a full version of Swan Lake until about a year ago. I think every time that I went to see the ballet it was always a fragment of it, I was never able to see it in its full length.

What was your experience like working with Darren?

Working with Darren was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. He’s a brilliant director, and it’s a rarity when you come across somebody that you trust so much, where you can just immerse yourself in a role and feel like there’s a safety net underneath you in case you fall. So I always looked on Darren as a safety net, so he was great, absolutely great.

Your physicality seems so effortless and sensual in this, was that easy for you?

It was far from effortless or sensual. It was pretty much the training beforehand. I was not a ballet dancer, so with the training you can only fake so much physicality. I had to immerse myself in this world of ballet and the way they walk and talk and handle themselves. It was two months of training, 7 days a week, 4 or 5 hours a day, before production started, and then during production it was pretty much exactly the same.

Here’s the thing about ballet that I never knew. It’s the most physical sport that I’ve ever been a part of, and I say sport because they train constantly ever single day.

In this you and Natalie have a love scene together. How many same sex scenes have you done in your career and did you ever worry about being exploited by the filmmaker?

Black Swan - Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman
Lily (Mila Kunis) and Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) © 2010 Fox Searchlight

I did something called After Sex with Zoe Saldana where she played my girlfriend. We never had a sex scene. We had what occurs after you have sex, so I guess maybe that doesn’t count, so this would be my first.

As far as being exploited, I again go back to your question about working with Darren. I trusted him. So it’s one of those things where, whether you have a same-sex scene or a scene with the opposite sex there’s always the fear that you’re a little uncomfortable. So doing something like this for Darren was very safe, and as comfortable as something like this could be. So, no I personally never had a fear of being exploited.

There are some scenes in the film where your character may or may not be real or present, did you have different directions from Darren for those scenes on how you played them or did you continue to play the character the same way?

It was the furthest thing from anything continual. I think whenever Natalie and I were in the same scene, I’m pretty sure we did it about every which way possible. So however she would do it, I would do the opposite. Because the truth of the matter is, as much as we worked on the script and as much rehearsal as we did, you didn’t even know how it was to be played. It was all so finicky that you just tried to give it as much as you can in every single take. And every single take was completely different.

People are saying that your performance is Oscar worthy, how does that make you feel?

I don’t know what to say to these types of questions. I think it’s an honor, and it’s great, and if people like it then I couldn’t be happier. Everything else is just all very new to me.

How did you respond when you saw the movie?

I saw it a couple of times. The first time I saw it, it was very, very rough, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the movie I made?’ And then the final cut that I saw I was blown away by it. I was there and I remembered most of it, but I had no idea how Darren was shooting it, because the camera really is a part of the movie, so you truly forget there’s a camera there because it is a whole other character. So I was blown away by it.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.