Going the extra Mila
For most people, it would be hard to outshine Natalie Portman. Or out-smartass Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Or make you want to sit through an hour of Ashton Kutcher. Mila Kunis has managed all three. And she has only just begun.
"It does feel like a beginning of sorts for me," nods the 28-year-old actress. "The movies have started getting that little bit bigger, and the noise around them has been getting that little bit louder. Which is cool. Bigger is better, in that I'll get bigger and better choices. Which is what it's all about."
Indeed it is. Having first come to notice in the long-running TV retro comedy That '70s Show (opposite Kutcher) as Jackie Burkhart, Kunis has slowly but surely built up a body of work that proves she's far more than just an incredibly pretty face.
Sure, she may be part of Seth MacFarlane's crass Family Guy (providing the voice for Meg Griffin), but Kunis has also managed to make a big impact each time she has a small role in a big movie.
Think of her show-stealing turn alongside James Franco as a pair of indignant petty criminals in Date Night. Or faking love and affection for big, hugely untalented lug Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And what of her show-stopping, heart-pounding, knicker-twisting performance as the true dark horse, Lily, at the centre of Black Swan?
"Definitely been made to look good by all the really smart and talented people around me," is all the modest Kunis will say in reply to such claims. "You can only be as good as those you work with, and that includes, most importantly, the writer. If you're given a character like Lily to play, you can't help but throw yourself in there. And when you've got a great director like Darren Aronofsky behind the camera, or you're working opposite an actress like Natalie Portman -- come on, how can you not be inspired with people like that?
Kunis is up to her old tricks in her latest offering, Friends with Benefits, playing one half of, yep, two intimate, yet uncommitted buddies, opposite her good friend Justin Timberlake. Just how good a buddy Timberlake is to Kunis has been speculated in the papers with wild abandon, and, suffice to say, the lady isn't about to enlighten the world today. Instead, she'd like to talk about how damn good Timberlake is as an actor.
"There's always this line that people feel artists shouldn't really cross," she offers. "You know, if you're an actor, don't make music. And if you're a musician, hey, don't act. But there are those who can do both, wonderfully, and Justin is definitely one of those rare beasts."
The people Kunis and Timberlake are playing in Friends with Benefits are Jamie and Dylan, young professional hipsters who meet up when the former, an executive recruiter, tries to convince the latter, an art director, to consider a job with GQ magazine.
It's not all that far removed from the recent Portman and Kutcher laugher No Strings Attached, only with less foul language. And a natural chemistry. Oh, and far better reviews.
"The romantic comedy has accepted the fact that more and more people these days aren't just looking for marriage and kids when it comes to a partner, and comedies like these tap into that," she says.
"You only have to look at the rise of the R-rated romcoms -- Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, etc -- to see we're able to deal with more complicated relationships now. Not that we've all given up on love or anything -- that's still the goal. It's just that we've realised the search can be a lot of fun, too."
Next up for Kunis is Oz: The Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi's prequel of sorts to The Wizard of Oz. Already in the bag is Disney's relaunch of The Muppets, plus Seth MacFarlane's live-action big-screen debut Ted, co-starring Mark Wahlberg and, yep, MacFarlane.
If Kunis ever runs out of worthy scripts, she could always consider turning her own story into a film.
Born in the Ukraine, when she was seven Mila's parents won an American Green Card lottery, and, in keeping with Soviet law, the family had to leave with nothing.
"My parents sacrificed everything to make sure my brother and I had a good life," says Kunis. "But the biggest gift my parents gave me was appreciating every little thing. And working hard for what you want. So far, it has been working out pretty well for me."
Friends with Benefits hits screens on Friday