Mila Kunis is as much at home in dramatic roles as comedies, starring in such diverse movies as Black Swan, The Book of Eli, Date Night and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
In her new comedy Friends with Benefits she plays Jamie, a top-notch headhunter who persuades up-and-coming art director, Dylan (Justin Timberlake), to take a job at GQ magazine. As their relationship develops they decide to be ‘friends with benefits’ – to have ‘no emotion’ sex, and all the pitfalls that come with thinking about someone as more than a friend.
I spoke with Mila in Los Angeles about the movie, doing sex scenes and her favorite romantic comedy.
The movie’s director, Will Gluck, has talked about these characters as being kindred spirits. He said he saw that when you and Justin got into the room together for the first time. Did you feel that way, a kindred quality between the two of you?
We have the same sense of humor we realized early on. I think the chemistry had a lot to do with the writing and I think that once we got comfortable with the characters it was easy to put that across onscreen.
We became friends because we had two, three months of rehearsal, writing and rewriting and you don’t always get that. So, you hope that somehow that translates to the screen. When you have a great time doing a film you hope the audience has a great time watching it. But as far as feeling like kindred spirits, I mean I think we had a lot of things in common.
Can you give us your take on Jamie?
Jamie Ross is a headhunter. She’s a typical New Yorker who believes in true love and believes that Prince Charming is out there and is desperately seeking that.
You seem so comfortable with your body in this.
I like to run around naked on the streets all the time. (she laughs)
Are you comfortable doing the sex scenes?
No. I’m pretty self-conscious, I think, in general. It doesn’t help that I’m a female. The honest answer is that it’s very choreographed and very specific.
I think I hurt my back [doing those scenes]. You want to talk about the unsexiest sex scenes? Us for two weeks. At one point I was like, ‘I don’t even know what to say to you, I can’t feel my leg.’ So I would say ‘friends with benefits’ does not work in life!
How did it compare having fake sex with Justin to fake sex with Natalie Portman in Black Swan?
Well, the only thing I can say is that one was funny and one was scary.
What’s it like working with Will Gluck?
Will is so great to work with. He’s neurotic and crazy and brilliant and he just kind of yells his lines at you. I don’t think we ever cut (a take) ever. I’m pretty sure we rolled out the 45 minutes and within that 45 minutes you will always see Will running into a shot, running out, running in and out …and all he’s doing is throwing out lines. He thinks so quickly and so fast it’s indescribable.
The set was a very fun set, because Will was so eager and loved it so much, and had no ego whatsoever. He just wants to make it fun, and he truly loves making films, which is so rare because you find that directors, as much as they love directing, lose their love or their passion for filmmaking over a certain period of time.
Will’s never lost it. Every day he comes to work and he’s so excited and when he gets the shot he’s so thrilled. So everybody wants to do a good job for him because you want to make him happy.
The movie references other movies, was that fun?
The movie references other films so much that life starts imitating art a little for these two, but they’re so cynical, they don’t even see it. [At the core though] you don’t have that fairytale romance. This is a very organic version of how two people meet and how things evolve. It’s very much the truth.
Can you talk about working with Patricia Clarkson, who plays your mother in this?
I was completely and utterly in awe of her. I love her, everything about her. Justin is in love with her. Justin and Pat love each other. I love the person that she is. I love her work. I mean, I truly admire her. She’s amazing.
Do you have a favorite romantic comedy?
Other than When Harry Met Sally? Truly one of my favorite movies and it’s a bit of a cheesy answer but it’s honest, is Pretty Woman. I can put that movie on mute and go word for word on each piece of dialogue. I love that movie. It truly makes me happy.
How you known anyone who’s had friends with benefits?
I was interviewed by a reporter when I was doing press for Black Swan, and she told me that her current husband started off as a friend with benefits. It wasn’t until then that I actually started paying attention to that idea.
I feel like the concept has been around forever, but that people are more willing to talk about it now. It’s not as taboo as it comes to a lot of things.
I think that our generation is a little more forthcoming, a little more honest and I think females are embracing their sexuality, more so now than they were thirty, forty, fifty years ago.