In “Extract,” Mike Judge’s latest film about life as a worker bee, Mila Kunis plays sexy scam artist Cindy, who has her sights set on factory boss Joel (Jason Bateman). But while Cindy is often manipulative, using her god-given assets to get what she wants, Kunis’ own success in film and television wasn’t quite as calculated. Born in Kiev, she began acting at age nine after her family moved to the United States, and at 14 she landed a role in the ensemble cast of the hit “That 70’s Show.” “It happened very organically and all very accidentally,” says the 26-year-old.
Talk about happy accidents. Up next, Kunis will appear in “The Book of Eli” opposite Denzel Washington, and this fall she starts production on “Black Swan,” in which she and Natalie Portman play rival ballerinas. To prepare, Kunis has been spending four hours a day, seven days a week in dance classes. “It is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life,” she says. “My entire body hurts. My muscle, my bone, everything.”
From her hair and makeup chair in Los Angeles, just before a premiere of “Extract,” Kunis chatted with WWD.
WWD: What attracted you to this film?
Mila Kunis: I’m a huge fan of Mike Judge’s and I wanted to work with Bateman. It was a pretty easy decision.
WWD: So you’d seen [his 1999 cult hit] “Office Space” and liked it? But did you ever work in an office?
M.K.: No, my version of an office job was “That 70’s Show.” But I don’t think you have to work in an office to get office humor.
WWD: Did you always know that you wanted to be an actress?
M.K.: I didn’t. I was nine years old, and my parents needed me to have an after-school activity, so they put me in an acting class because it took up six hours on a Saturday. It could have been gymnastics. It was one of those things.
WWD: Did you love it from the start?
M.K.: Well, when you’re nine years old, you just love the fact that you don’t have to go to school every day.
WWD: When did it stick for you that this was something you could do as a career?
M.K.: At 19. I attempted to go to college, I dropped out, and I realized that I actually enjoy doing what I’m doing, and I decided to try and make a living out of it, make a career.
WWD: For one, you’ve been the voice of Meg on “The Family Guy” since it started in 1999. How did you get into voiceover work?
M.K.: Uh, I auditioned for it.
WWD: I figured. But did you have any particular interest in that side of the business?
M.K.: Again, I was 14, maybe 15 years old. It was just one of those things where I auditioned for a cartoon. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
WWD: Everything you do sounds like you do it without a lot of planning.
M.K.: I mean, there’s not very much forethought when you’re 16. You’re not playing chess with your career and your life. I think when I consciously made it my career is when I started studying it more and trying to understand where I wanted to go. There’s a lot of actresses I admire [for] keeping work separate from the private life. More so than their movie choices, I admire how they live their life.
WWD: You’re doing a lot of press for “Extract.” Do you like the red carpet stuff?
M.K.: I’m learning. It’s not something that’s in me innately. I’m not a big fashion person, and, as weird as it may sound, I don’t like being the center of attention.