Best known for her long-term roles in Family Guy and That 70s Show, and turning heads in films such as Max Payne and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Mila Kunis’ appearance in Black Swan has opened her up to a new kind of attention.
Her performance as Lily, the extroverted, ambiguously-drawn rival to Natalie Portman’s ballerina, bagged her the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the Venice Film Festival, as well as a Supporting Actress nomination at the Golden Globes.
Back at the London Film Festival, we sat in on a roundtable interview with Kunis, chatting about the odd circumstances which led her to Black Swan, the enduring appeal of Family Guy, and where she sees her career going in the future.
Was Mr. Aronofsky someone you particularly wanted to work with?
Yeah, I think Darren’s a brilliant director. I’ve been a fan of his since I saw Pi and then Requiem, so I was looking forward to working with him, for sure.
What attracted you to this particular script?
Darren did. Before I’d even read the script, I knew Darren and Nat were a part of it, and I would have loved to work with the both of them. So, reading the script and then having the script be as great as it was was not even a question for me.
Weren’t you in or LA or New York with Natalie at some kind of flea market when she told you she was doing this role, and they were looking for somebody else who looked similar and could dance?
Kind of, I mean – Did Nat tell you this story? I guess I don’t remember this, and I’m going to get in trouble with Nat. Yes, Nat and I like to go to flea markets. And we were in LA and we were flea market shopping for bargains, because that’s what we did on a Sunday morning.
I have a different version. I remember her telling me, I said, “What do you have to do this after this?” And she said, “I have to go to my ballet lesson.” And I was like, “Okay!” I didn’t even think about it. And she goes, “Yeah, I’m doing a movie about a ballerina.” And that’s all I remember from it. But I guess it makes sense, because this movie came about.
Was it the most physically demanding movie you’ve done so far?
By far. Because aesthetically I had to look like a ballerina and hold myself like a ballerina. I think, by the end of it, I was 95 pounds. So, 20 pounds was lost. It was gained back like that. I had no problem gaining it back.
So, I guess you were comparing war wounds with Natalie?
We didn’t have to compare. We saw them happening right before our very own eyes.
An opportunity like this very rarely comes about, so in order to complain, you kind of feel like a baby, so you choose not to complain.
In terms of your recognition from fans, how much does Family Guy count towards that?
For its fanbase? Family Guy‘s got a strong fanbase, man, like no other. It’s great. Everywhere around the world, it’s pretty amazing. It’s amazing that people love Family Guy as much as they do. It’s great.
Is that something you want to carry on doing?
For the rest of my life! I hope it lives on forever and ever and ever. The greatest job, ever.
Why? Because you can turn up in your pyjamas?
[Nods enthusiastically] And I can do it from anywhere in the world.
Could you tell us something about the transition from television to film, because you started with American Psycho 2.
Well, let’s just be specific. That was not transition into film. That was exactly the same time as I was doing television. So, the transition didn’t happen until I was 21, 22. Because up until then it was never a career.
I went to school, I graduated high school, and went to college, [then] dropped out of college. But it was never a career choice of mine. I always assumed that this was going to be something I did short-term, and inevitably did something as a career, like an adult.
And when I decided that I didn’t have any other skills in life, that this is all I knew how to do, and this is what I loved to do, and when I made this my career is when all these decisions started happening.
But American Psycho I did when I was 16. Twenty-two was when 70s Show ended.
Do you think Black Swan will be a transitional film for your career?
I don’t think you ever know. I stand by every movie that I did. I don’t regret any decision I made.
Whatever I did, I always learn from. Whether it was what to do, what not to do, it was always a learning experience. But you never know what movie’s going to open what door for you, and it’s always the one that you least expected.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall got me Black Swan. I didn’t audition for Black Swan. I would have auditioned. I would have flown to New York and read for it, and for one reason or another, he trusted in me due to what he saw in Sarah Marshall.
To me, it couldn’t have been two more different characters. I never asked him why. I didn’t want him to second guess himself. I just went with it.
We chit-chatted once, then I was sent the script, then I read the script. Then we chit-chatted again about the script and about the character, and how I viewed the character. And then the third time, he literally gets on iChat and I open my computer, and he’s like, “Hey! So, are you ready to do this?”, and I was like, “What are we doing?” And then he was like, “The movie!” And then I went, “Did you just offer me the movie?”, and then I made him get on video chat to offer it to me, semi-in person, so I could see his face saying it. And then I had to call my agentsand tell them that I’d just got Black Swan. So, it was very backwards.
But, how strategic are you with your career?
As strategic as one can be. You know, in this industry, it’s not a game of chess. It’s a game of checkers, as I like to say. So, you can’t think four or five steps ahead, because it’s impossible.
I am in the position where I don’t have to work for the sake of working, so I’m very lucky, in a sense. So, I can always sit back and wait for a project that I respond to, that I want to do.
But it’s not anything to do with genres. It’s not like I particularly look and say, “Next project I do, I want to be a drama.” It’s just a matter of finding a project you’re drawn to.
Ms. Kunis, thank you for your time.
Black Swan is released this week.
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