There also a behind the scenes video of the photoshoot that can be watched below, Mila looks super stunning!
Photoshoots & Portraits > Sessions & Outtakes > 2012 > Esquire
Mila Kunis Is the Sexiest Woman Alive…Or as she might say (and did), “If I wanted to charm the pants off you, I could.” She talks like that and she looks like that, even when she’s really not trying hard at all. A brief encounter with the most beautiful, opinionated, talkative, and funny movie star that we’ve all known since she was nine. But first, a special Mila Kunis video — and, you know, photos….
Los Angeles, 10:00 a.m.
My career was threatened over me not wanting to do the cover of a magazine.
By an executive. Oh, that’s not even true. A person higher than an executive. It was like, If you don’t do this magazine, you’ll never work in this company. I went, “Great.” It was the first time that I had someone on the phone tell me that I will never work in this industry again.
Did you laugh?
I said, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
It wasn’t Playboy, but it was a magazine I didn’t want to do. It’s very simple. I just didn’t want to do it. I said I would do that one and that one, just not this one. And this person couldn’t accept no. In my twenty-nine years, I’ve never met someone who lied as much as this person did. You know when little kids look at you with chocolate all over their face, and then you say, “Why did you eat that chocolate?” And they say, “I didn’t eat chocolate,” and you say, “But you have it on your face.” It was worse than that. There are good, honest people who work their asses off and don’t reach nearly as much success as this person does.
It seems like you just got something off your chest.
I never spoke about it, and I did as little interviews as I possibly could. Because why support a project that didn’t support me back? People in this industry lie so much, they believe their lies. That’s what I learned on that movie. I learned people are assholes and people lie. I think that was the turning point of my career. Where I said no!
Wow. “People are assholes and people lie,” says Mila Kunis on a lovely Wednesday morning in a café in the Hollywood Hills. What she’s talking about is her experience during the production and then the promotion of Max Payne, the 2008 action film she starred in with Mark Wahlberg. This all erupted suddenly, when that movie happened to come up during a conversation about some of her recent roles. She didn’t want to talk about it. Then she paused. And then she started talking about it. She squinted and slowly moved her head from side to side in a way that only means … motherfuckers! What Kunis is right now is worked up. Which is a fascinating thing to watch. Because onscreen, Mila Kunis is a master at being worked up — as Jackie on That ’70s Show, as Wahlberg’s girlfriend in Ted, as the voice of Meg Griffin on Family Guy. In real life, it’s just as captivating. Even over eggs.
She’s wearing shorts and a T-shirt and very little makeup. When she took off her sunglasses while offering her hand, she revealed eyes that are not the giant smoky eyes you are used to seeing in photographs. They are big eyes, but they are not mythically big, not the anime eyes you were expecting. She’s just come from running errands. In fact, the Sexiest Woman Alive is at this moment not even the most glamorous woman in the café. She’s in between work right now. She’s finished shooting Oz: The Great and Powerful. She’ll start shooting The Angriest Man in Brooklyn two weeks from now. She likes to talk. She answers questions directly and substantively. At times forcefully. But always affably. If she doesn’t understand what you’re getting at, she will give you the side-eye, but it comes off as genuine, not derisive. Seth MacFarlane, who cast her as the voice of Meg on Family Guy and directed her in Ted, has said she has a voice that you could hear over a jet engine, but that’s an exaggeration. At least at first. At first, her voice is almost meek. It cracks. It’s a kind voice. And possibly a little tired. Until she gets going.
So I spoke with Seth about you. And he mocked me at least once.
I used the word wonderful to describe your voice.
What I meant was textured and interesting and great for an animated show. And he started laughing. He said, “Wonderful would not be the word I would use to describe it. Overpowering maybe.”
He’s such a douchebag. I keep telling him, “Sarcasm does not translate well in print.” And he is so fucking dry. I’ve known him since I was fourteen, and I find self-deprecating humor great. I tell him, “You can mock away because I know who you are. In print, though? You’re going to come off like an asshole. So be careful.”
Do you think you’re funny?
I think I stumbled upon doing funny things, but I’m not funny. I just know how to deliver a joke. There are people who naturally exude humor and are constantly saying funny things, and there are the people who know how to deliver a joke. It’s a learned skill. Through twenty years of doing this, I practice it. I think that the second you think that you’re funny is when you stop being funny.
How do you learn to deliver a joke?
Practice. Eight years of a TV show. You learn a lot. Jokes come in threes.
That’s all you need. You have to know the rhythm of a joke. And you can learn the timing of a joke, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to become Lucille Ball.
Are your parents funny?
My dad is dry and sarcastic, and my mom just laughs at everything.
She got her start by being funny, at least in the Hollywood sense.
As a teenager she was the funniest part of a successful sitcom (That ’70s Show). Then a supporting part in a small but successful romantic comedy (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Then things took a gritty turn, a meaty role in a bigger movie alongside a huge star (The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington) and a startling performance as a crazy and manipulative diva in Black Swan, which happened to involve kissing another woman. Then another romantic comedy, a starring role with Justin Timberlake in the successful Friends with Benefits.
It’s been a busy career so far, but its trajectory is perhaps not unusual for a beautiful, talented actress in her late twenties. What is unusual is the story of her life before she was cast in her first commercial at age nine (after being discovered at a child-actor showcase by the woman who still manages her).
She was eight, in 1991, when she immigrated with her parents and her brother from Ukraine to escape anti-Semitism and the turmoil that came with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Her family moved into a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Los Angeles, at the corner of Sweetzer and Melrose, right in the heart of West Hollywood. Mom, Dad, brother, grandfather and grandmother, her other grandfather, and her. They lived there for about four years as her parents worked jobs quite different from the professional careers they’d abandoned back home. It’s not the usual tale of a young Hollywood star. Who wouldn’t want to talk about it?
I’ve talked about it for so long. If you can find something in it that I haven’t disclosed …
You seem bored by this. Do you find it not very interesting?
I find it incredibly interesting, but I want you to go walk down Fairfax. And every. Single. One. Of those people has a similar story. My immigration story is being made into something bigger than it needs to be.
Do you think it’s being fetishized a little bit?
Completely. It has nothing to do with me. I feel awful talking about it, because my parents should sit down and talk about it. They’re the ones who went through hell and back, who gave everything up. I didn’t do anything. I was eight years old, and I tagged along. And my parents made me feel safe. I didn’t make those decisions. So I can’t take responsibility for it. Every immigrant has a story. “And in 1991 during the fall of communism…” Everybody has a story. Let me just repeat: I was eight years old. I didn’t know what was happening.
But you have memories.
Well, hold on. I don’t know how much of those are my memories and how much of it is a memory I created through the stories that my parents tell. And I don’t know how to differentiate between an honest memory or my parents retelling the same story for twenty years.
Do you think that experience has an effect on how you approach your work?
I don’t know if it does consciously.
In interviews, when you talk about your career, you express certain values that a lot of people doing your job don’t frequently express: fear, loyalty, humility…
What I do and who I am are two different things. And they always will be. What happens with people is they lose sight of who they are, and they become either who they want to be or who they are perceived to be. But whatever it is, it is no longer who they are. So much of who you are in this industry is based on what that critic says, what that director says, what that actor says. People start believing all that, and they become what everybody else wants them to be. And I think that I’ve consciously separated my two lives. I love what I do. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. But when I’m done with work, I’m done with work. I think that if I bought into the hype, I would lose all sight of who I am, and so much of who I am is what my parents went through and instilled in me. And I never want to lose that. Ever. Because I would be so disappointed if I didn’t make them proud.
When she is excited, she talks loudly. Loud enough that any of the ten or so people in the immediate vicinity can hear every word she’s saying. Loud enough that you start whispering just to counteract it. She will talk about anything that doesn’t bore her — except for maybe one thing. When interviewers ask her about who she’s dating, she gives the vaguest possible answer. Her reticence to discuss this part of her life fuels an interest in the subject by celebrity magazines, which in turn compels a small army of paparazzi to follow her car every day.
Say she drove straight here from her home — instead of getting up early and going to Pilates or spinning, as she did — a single car would follow her, she says. That car would probably be a dark-blue Mustang with two people inside — that’s the car on her every day. Later, three or four more cars would join the fleet. If she were seen walking into this café, there likely would be seven cars waiting when she comes out. Recently, at her grandparents’ house, she counted thirteen cars. The last time she asked them to stop taking her photo was when she was visiting the cemetery where her grandfather was buried. That was July 7. Those photos are available online.
Do you think there will come a point when it’s impossible to feel normal?
Is it that hard to go grocery shopping? I can’t walk out of my house without being photographed, but it doesn’t mean that at ten o’clock at night, I can’t go to my twenty-four-hour Ralphs.
Will you be photographed when you leave here?
I’m fine because I left my house at 6:00 A.M. If I leave really early, before they get there, I’m okay. As long as I don’t pick them up.
It sounds unsettling, but at least they’re doing a job. You’re not talking about someone who is—
Wishing harm upon me? They totally are. They want nothing more than for you to get in a car accident so they can have a photograph.
Are we here because this place doesn’t get as much paparazzi?
That and the oatmeal. Here’s the truth: People want to get photographed in this industry a lot more than they let on. For instance, everything is sponsorship-based. When you see photos in magazines and someone’s holding a Coke or a Sprite and they’re just walking down the street, that’s a sponsorship.
Or carrying a certain purse.
It’s a setup for a sponsorship.
And there are the photos of young actresses frolicking on the beach that seem like a cooperative effort.
At least that’s controlled. But I don’t want it. I really don’t want it. The fact that I even have to talk about it … it’s common sense: Privacy is privacy. I no longer have it.
You’re probably waiting for the question about who you’re dating.
Not from Esquire.
You’re right. We don’t care. I want to follow up on an answer you recently gave to Glamour. You said you engaged in political street art. Uh, political street art?
I can’t really go into detail because I’m going to get into trouble.
Why would you get into trouble?
Because it’s illegal.
Can you be vague about it then?
It has to do with the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s my friend’s issue. I’m supporting him.
[She goes off the record.]
Yeah, you could be arrested for that.
But I’d be arrested for something I believe in… . Good luck including something about gay rights in Esquire.
Of course I could include that.
Do you consider yourself political?
I find it all to be incredibly entertaining. I went to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner with Wolf Blitzer. It’s weird: You get invited by people you don’t know — and I never wanna go again, because I had the most incredible experience. Ever. I watch CNN or MSNBC all day long, every day. So I meet with Wolf, and I was like, “Oh, my God. There’s Wolf Blitzer.” Like two drinks in, I just start talking. “So, about Ahmadinejad’s nephew …” Wolf was surprised I followed politics.
Politics can also be incredibly demoralizing.
The way that Republicans attack women is so offensive to me. And the way they talk about religion is offensive. I may not be a practicing Jew, but why we gotta talk about Jesus all the time? And it’s baffling to me how a poor person in Georgia can say, “I’m a Republican.” Why?
That’s a controversial position.
Do you remember the McCain commercial? “Finish the dang fence.” Do you remember this?
God, not many people have seen this commercial. McCain’s walking along the Arizona border fence and talking to a sheriff, and the sheriff says, “You’re one of us, sir.” And McCain turns to the sheriff and says, “Eh, finish the dang fence.” I lost my shit. “Finish the dang fence.”
Some people don’t like to hear celebrities talk about politics.
I don’t think I’m a celebrity. I’m a working actress. I think there’s a difference.
That’s a philosophical distinction.
Looking like this, not followed here, you and I can take a walk, two, three people might be like “Hey!” If Rihanna was sitting here, Rihanna would be: Rihanna!
Did you choose to meet here because it affords you some privacy?
No, it’s not private at all. It’s a very actory canyon.
Esquire, here’s the thing: Every actor between the age of eighteen and twenty-five lives in Beachwood. It’s a hipster neighborhood. There’s Birds and La Poubelle, two bars down the street that are super hippie-dippie. So they all come here. And there’s the Hollywood sign, so you see a bunch of tourists. There’s a beautiful lookout point straight ahead by the dog park. It’s beautiful. It’s the most perfect view of the Hollywood sign.
Maybe I’ll walk up there.
This is a massive, winding hill up. It’s not like a New York avenue. You would die. You can’t do it.
Have you ever lived in New York?
On and off. Right now, I like New York for two months, three months, and then I like to get out of New York. I like the idea of New York, where everybody keeps to themselves and then congregates and disperses. I like that people aren’t in your business. You get together, but everybody’s got somewhere to be. Here, everybody’s so loosey-goosey throughout the day. There’s traffic all day long. Nobody really has a job that’s nine to five. There’s something to be said for L. A., because you have a yard. And quiet. Although the place in the West Village that I always stay at when I’m in New York has a rooftop. It’s two years ago that I started renting this apartment. There’s peace and quiet. Right over the river, it is silence. And it is amazing.
Too bad we had to have this conversation here. We requested that this not happen at this place.
Would you rather do dinner in New York? A dinner in New York is easier to do than a dinner in L. A.
A dinner anywhere is great.
You pick where you want to go in New York. But be polite. Don’t send me off in the middle of, you know, Times Square.
I don’t have the power to send you off anywhere.
All I’m saying is don’t make it superpublic. Oh, I’m so excited to go back. We could have a glass of wine on my rooftop.
This is one of those things that gets forgotten immediately after the interview.
Not at all. I will give you my e-mail. You can e-mail me.
New York, 8:30 P.M.
(Two Weeks Later)
She actually answered the e-mail.
From the roof deck of her apartment in the West Village, you can see every major building in Manhattan. It feels like a stadium of lights and architecture. It’s high enough that the city is only humming.
She answers the elevator (it opens into the apartment) wearing workout clothes. No makeup again. On our way out to the roof, she gives a tour of the house. The living room, with a baby-grand piano upon which she bangs out the only song she knows. (What’s it called? “I have no idea.”) The kitchen, the dining room, the den. (“Check out these bookcases!”) Even though she arrived late last night, it looks like she’s been here for weeks.
On the best roof deck in the city, she talks about how she’s treated on the street in New York. No paparazzi following her around. “Today, I got ‘Yo! Don’t quit acting!’ I said, ‘Okay!’ ” She talks about rehearsing with Robin Williams on the first day of production for The Angriest Man in Brooklyn. She reminded him of how kind he was to her when they met for the first time when she was fifteen, and how much it still means to her. She talks about not being nervous to do a talk show (“That’s just shooting the shit with Conan for twenty minutes”) but being terrified to give a speech at a wedding. When she’s asked why she’s never hosted SNL — an odd omission in her list of credits — she looks petrified. “I cannot express to you how nervous it makes me. It’s the most frightening thing.” She shudders.
Out of nowhere she looks toward the river and says, “How amazing is this?” She claps her hands and bounces up and down like she just won a prize. At this moment, her two lives — what she does and who she is — seem as separate as they can possibly get. It’s 10:30 now and she wants to take a walk. She’s a little hungry, and it’s a beautiful night, and no one even knows she’s here.