Best known for her roles as Jackie Burkhart in That 70’s Show and as the voice of Meg on the hit animated series Family Guy, Mila Kunis has also established herself as a feature film star with an impressive resume that includes the Mike Judge comedy Extract, the action thriller Max Payne and the Judd Apatow comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Currently filming the Darren Aronofsky thriller Black Swan, in which she plays a professional ballerina, her next release is The Book of Eli, in which she plays Solara, an innocent girl wanting to discover what else life could offer her, in a world that has been ravaged by apocalyptic wars. With Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman already attached as co-stars and the Hughes Brothers already set to direct, it was an easy choice for her to take on the multi-layered role.
Mila Kunis talked at the film’s press day about her desire to play strong women who aren’t the victim. Read what she had to say after the jump:
Question: How did this script come to you and what were your thoughts when you first saw it?
Mila: It came to me as an audition. It wasn’t anything different. I read it and it had the Hughes Brothers, Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman attached. What was I going to do, say, “No, I don’t think this is a good project”? No, it just came to me and I was like, “Great!” And then, I went and auditioned for it and read with Denzel. And, I went in and auditioned for it again and read with Denzel, and that was it.
How much improv was there for you?
Mila: In the film, there was none. In the audition, there was a lot.
How was that experience?
Mila: Denzel is an intimidating man. He just is. There’s a presence about him that’s intimidating. Whether you know who Denzel Washington is or you don’t, when he walks into the room, you’re going to pay attention, because he’s just such a powerful man. But, it was great. I think it was just to test me and see how much I could take.
This character starts out as a victim, but then evolves in such an interesting way. Do you think you would have been attracted to this character, if she had remain as subservient as she was?
Mila: No. Very rarely am I attracted to characters that are “woe is me.” I’m not a big fan of women that have to be the victim and need to be saved, at all times. I don’t necessarily think that’s how it is, in real life, and I don’t think that’s how it should be in films. I think anyone, if given the right, will persevere, and she was given the opportunity to learn, become stronger and grow. I think it would be an unjust portrayal of people, if you didn’t let the character grow.
How would you describe your character arc? How does she grow and what do you think the turning point for her is?
Mila: She’s naive, due to her circumstances. For all of her life, she was brought up in a world where her stepfather was physically and mentally abusive, and she didn’t know anything outside of that world, but she always knew there was something there. So, when Denzel’s character appears, she’s inspired by him and she believes in him, for whatever reason, and follows him. In the beginning of her journey, I think she’s incredibly naive. She’s not aware of the repercussions of life or what the world has to offer. This movie is in an ugly world. So, the turning point for her would probably be after the attempted rape, up until George and Martha’s house. That’s when she becomes a different person. She’s naive, but she’s not stupid. She’s not a stupid girl. She’s incredibly smart and incredibly aware, and is hungry to learn. She’s a strong person. She just was never given the ability to be strong or the ability to show it. She knows right from wrong.
Did you do any research at all, into the religious aspects of this?
Mila: I tried to read the Bible. I attempted it. I did.
Which book did you get to?
Mila: Genesis. I didn’t finish it, I’ve got to be honest. I thought the stories were great. I just had a hard time reading it. I wasn’t raised with religion. I was raised with faith, and so I didn’t really know much about the Bible, and I was like, “Well, this will give me a really good opportunity to actually learn about the Bible.” And, there were amazing stories. I thought they were all great messages. Every story has a specific message and I think it’s great, but I couldn’t finish it.
Were you surprised that this movie was so religious and spiritual?
Mila: I don’t know if it’s religious. I read the script and I did not look at it as a religious film. I looked at it as a film of faith and a film of hope.
Did you also see it as a Western?
Mila: Yeah, a little bit. Not a Western, but it’s desolate and dusty. It’s like going forward, but going backwards.
What did you find was unique about Solara?
Mila: Her willpower, and her passion to survive, live, learn and experience the world. She grew up in a small area where she didn’t even know anything outside of it and didn’t know what the rest of the world was, but she was always hungry for it and always wanted to explore and experience what the rest of the world had to offer. That’s a great attribute for a person.
What was the process with the Hughes Brothers? How did they direct you?
Mila: They were both there together, every day. They’re going to disagree, but it’s part of the job. And, more times than not, they’re on the same page.
Mila: They’re in unison. Albert would be considered more technical and Allen would be considered more actor-y, but they do give each other notes on things.
How was it to work with Jennifer Beals?
Mila: I love her! We had a very strange mother-daughter relationship, considering she would have had to have me at a very young age, in real life. In the film, it works completely, but in real life, we’re closer in age. But, she’s great. I love Jennifer. I think she steals the movie. She’s fantastic in it. She was absolutely a joy to work with.
Solara has a very specific way of how she delivers a grenade. Are you a bowler?
Mila: I used to be.
How’s your game?
Mila: Awful! When I was 14, I kicked ass at bowling. That’s all I could do. There was nothing else I could do in L.A. I used to go bowling for fun, all the time. I kicked some major ass. It was the only way I could throw I grenade. I was like, “How do you throw grenades?,” and they were like, “Bowl,” and I was like, “Okay!” That was my version of a grenade throw.
What was the biggest challenge for you, with this film?
Mila: Smiling when shooting in 40 mph winds in the middle of the desert and being okay with it. The environment was the hardest thing for me. As much as I’ve shot on location, I’ve never, in my life, shot in the middle of nowhere, in New Mexico. Outside of the towns of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, there’s nothing in between. There’s just nothing. You’re in the middle of nothing. We had trailers, but you walked outside the trailer and there were rattlesnake holes. I grew up in L.A. I am not a person of nature. I love to think of myself as one, but I’ve never even gone camping. So, to me, this whole experience was difficult. I was like, “What is this brush? What is this? What do I do?” I was baffled by it. The hardest thing for me was actually shooting in the weather.
Was it also very hot?
Mila: It didn’t know what it wanted to be. Every day was different. I’m not kidding you. You would have a day where it would snow and then, the next day, it was 80 degrees. I was like, “Where am I? What’s happening?” Albuquerque was great, Santa Fe was great, all the towns were great, but everything in between is crazy. It was rough. That was the hardest thing about it. The movie had amazing people in it and the crew was fantastic, so it was not a hard movie. It was a great set to be on because it was a very uplifting set. But, the environment sometimes made you go loopy. I was there with Denzel and Gary Oldman. I’m not complaining. It was a nice working environment. It was great.
What do you see in Denzel and Gary, as actors, that you take with you, from working with them?
Mila: I hope that I’m as prepared and do my homework as well as those two do. The way that they come to work and come to the set is undescribable. They do their homework.
Whether or not we ever see more of her story, what do you think is in store for Solara?
Mila: She goes back home and tries to make right out of where she grew up. Wherever you come from, you ultimately want to go back there and make it better, and I think that’s all she wants.