Mila Kunis: I'm not curing cancer but I like to entertain and empower young girls

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The star of Black Swan has moved into the big-budget league in a new visit to Oz. And she's a producer now, too

When Mila Kunis arrived in California from her native Ukraine, aged seven, with her parents (a physics-teacher mother and mechanical-engineer father), her older brother, and $250, she could not speak a word of English. “The first book I ever read in English was Return to Oz”, she recalls. “I was nine or 10, I think. It was the first time I'd read a big book, a real book.”

Two and a bit decades later, her new film, her biggest yet, is Oz the Great and Powerful (a sort of Wizard of Oz prequel, based on Frank L Baum's classic Oz book series). But she doesn't get all “it was meant to be”. Kunis isn't like that. Anyone who saw how she hilariously dealt with the lovestruck, nervous Radio 1 interviewer Chris Stark and his questions about Watford FC and Jägerbombs this week will know that. No, she's pragmatic, smart and eminently sensible.

“I loved the book,” she continues, not entirely convincingly. “I mean, I'm assuming I loved it. There were a lot of memories. I think it may have had little to do with the content and more to do with the experience.”

Kunis, 29, is big on experiences. For all its kudos and awards, 2010's Black Swan – the film which thrust her onto a drastically higher pedestal – wasn't an enormous, expensive Hollywood production. Nor was last year's unlikely hit, Ted, the most successful adult-rated comedy of all time, from the warped but brilliant mind of Family Guy creator and Oscars host, Seth MacFarlane. It's easy to imagine other actresses, still slightly ahead of Kunis on the A-list totem-pole, turning up their noses and chastising their agents: “Really? You think I want to star opposite a talking teddy bear?” Kunis laughed first, saw the film's potential second, and laughed last when the film earned half a billion dollars worldwide.

Oz the Great and Powerful probably cost more than double those two films cost put together. Sam Raimi's first high-profile outing as director since his Spider-Man trilogy wrapped in 2009 is rumoured to have a budget of $200m. But Kunis wanted to do it mostly for the chance to work with James Franco, who stars as Oz. “He's an old friend. And Sam became a great friend. For a movie this size, the most important thing was that I trusted the people.”

She didn't meet her fellow witches Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz until they convened for the shoot in Detroit, Michigan.

“They were both hired about two months after James and I attached ourselves. They are wonderful mums, wonderful women. Just fantastic.”

She and Weisz play the evil sisters and Williams is Glinda the Good Witch, yet she insists the threesome “all bonded equally”.Her Theodora isn't all bad in any case, she insists: “She only wants to see the good in people ultimately. She has a little bit of an internal fight of good versus evil. I rooted her in as much depth, honesty and humanity as I possibly could, in a world that's so grand and bigger than life itself.”

She has learnt a great deal about a world grander and bigger than life itself of late. Though a recognisable face in the US since winning the role of Jackie on the TV comedy That '70s Show in 1998 aged 14, Kunis's public profile soared once Black Swan took critical and commercial flight. Since then she has retreated deeper into the privacy she craves. For nine years from 2002, she dated Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin yet there is barely more than a handful of pictures of the pair together. Since last year she has been dating her That '70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher, 35. The pair reportedly moved in together last year.

Reticent on the subject of her private life, when it comes to her professional life she isn't averse to telling it like is.

“I loved the costumes on Oz,” she says, with a half-grimace, half-smirk, “... on a mannequin. Stunning. Hand-stitched, hand-designed, but on a human being, no. They are not comfortable or wire-friendly. And I did a lot of flying.” Though this is far and away her biggest-budget production, Kunis concedes that it wasn't terribly dissimilar to her other Hollywood outings, bar one aspect.

“In all films, whether you're doing a comedy or a drama, you figure it out, you play around, you trust the person you are playing opposite, and you hope it works out in the end. The flying though was something new. I've jumped out of planes. If I'd had a fear of heights, I'd have been screwed, wouldn't I? They put you 30ft in the air and say, 'see you later'. Sometimes the computer malfunctions and nothing bad happens but you might bounce up and down and if you have any sort of sensitivity in your stomach, forget it.”

Thankfully, Kunis doesn't have a sensitive stomach. In fact she's pondering a parachute-jump. her third, for fun. “Because I'm an idiot. It's frightening. I'm so stupid! There's no reason I should have done it a second time but I did, for my 27th birthday. You're attached to a person and they literally walk you off a plane. But it's great, the most amazing feeling in the world. It's the weirdest thing to explain to people. When they open the parachute, you feel your entire intestines going into a teeny, tiny ball then shooting back up and expanding. There is really something to be said for it. I really recommend it. I'm trying to get my mum to do it right now.”

Her “adventure club” comprises a tight-knit circle of “girl and guy friends” she has known since she was 10. “This was something we'd always talked about doing, and we finally followed through. I liked it because I don't like to feel nervous. I don't want to fear for my life all the time but I like doing things that I'm not comfortable with or that aren't expected.”

Anything else she's hoping to get around to? “I'm 29. A lot of things. I'll let you know when I do them.” She's a little flip suddenly, as if I'd asked something too personal. As befits your smarter than average, prettier than average movie star who's not yet 30, Kunis is already branching out. She has a production company with three female friends and a project in progress for The CW Network called Meridian Hills.

“I always wanted to produce but the right way. I'm not curing cancer here but I'd like to entertain and empower young girls. That's something so lacking. It takes place in the early Seventies and is about the young women who burned their bras.”

Kunis is also either more political than your average movie star under 30 or less afraid to speak her views publicly. Women's rights get her hot under the collar.

“The one thing I really don't understand is how many women could realistically have voted Republican for any reason in our election. I do think to each his own but this was incredibly sad and unfortunate. No, I don't even really think it's sad any more. It's just that women aren't educated to know that they should at the very least be earning the same as men. It's brilliant that the US is educating women in other countries.

“I don't think it's malicious intent on the part of American women, I think it's just that we are not educating women in our own country.”

'Oz the Great and Powerful' is out now

This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar magazine

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot