SHE has the Hollywood life and the high-profile romance, but Mila Kunis knows how to separate the facts from the fiction and fame.
Mila Kunis is one busy lady. She has a thousand and one things to do and not enough hours in the day to do them. Not that you'd know it. Sipping a large latte in a cosy room at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, in Bel Air, she looks relaxed in a distinctly un-starry outfit of jeans and a cream, knitted sweater. To pass time on long flights, she tells me, she used to knit and crochet. So did she make this particular garment? Her husky laugh booms around the room. "No! I wish. I haven't knitted in ages. But maybe I'll take it up again. Soon you'll be seeing me in something I made, I promise."
Her laughter is infectious and a little wild, much like her rise to fame. Since starring in Black Swan three years ago, she's gone from being known as 'the girl in that goofy sitcom' (That '70s Show) and the voice of Meg Griffin in Seth MacFarlane's animated series Family Guy to a full-blown red-carpet regular.
123Sorry Mods I left out a source so I'm resubmitting it. The pics are from a 2009 photoshoot with Andrew Southam, my apologies if I suck at bolding parts of the article.
As if that wasn't enough, she's been a 'hot couple' tabloid target ever since she started dating Ashton Kutcher last year, in the wake of his separation from Demi Moore. Barely a day goes by without a celebrity gossip site circulating new rumours about Kunis and Kutcher 'taking the next step in their relationship', usually accompanied by photos of them eating lunch or walking Mila's dogs.
The same was true when they visited Australia last year. But even though the world and his wife knows they're together, any discussion of that trip - and particularly her famous boyfriend - is conducted using some kind of cryptic code. She must be used to such a level of interest after dating Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin for eight years, but as we chat, the word "we" is often hastily replaced with "I", and the paparazzi become "that whole problem".
Media frenzy aside, the 29-year-old star reveals she fell in love with this country. "Sydney - if you can get rid of that whole problem - is spectacular to me," she says. "The feel, the people, the weird Victorian architecture within the city to what feels like the Amalfi coast outside it - it's all beautiful. We... I walked around the city for hours. I think I did 10 or 20 miles a day; I went everywhere. I loved it all. Aside from those testing problems... I'm definitely going back one day.
"I loved it until the second it was taken away from me. And then I was like, 'F**k you!' Up to that point, the fact you can walk through little neighbourhoods I call 'Baby Venice Beaches', that are like awesome hipster towns, was amazing. I loved how self-contained all these different areas are with butchers, hairdressers, bars and restaurants, and that you can have a long walk on the beach, then take an art walk into the city. It's beautiful."
Kunis and Kutcher were spotted out and about at several of the city's eateries, of which she recalls particularly enjoying Matt Moran's Chiswick restaurant and bar. "They had this vegetable garden... you couldn't find any fresher. Why don't they do this in Los Angeles? It was one of my favourite restaurants; everything was delicious and great. But I'm a huge foodie. I cook every day."
It's hard to believe the Ukraine-born actor has the time to rustle up dinner. She currently has six projects either in pre- or post-production, and is about to be seen in Oz: The Great and Powerful, which is directed by Spider-Man's Sam Raimi. Fans of The Wizard of Oz will no doubt love this fantastical 3D telling of L Frank Baum's much-loved novel, which was the prequel to the 1939 film starring Judy Garland.
Kunis plays Theodora, the youngest witch. She appears alongside her close friend James Franco, who plays the circus magician Oscar Diggs, Michelle Williams, who plays Glinda the Good Witch, and Rachel Weisz as Evanora, the wicked witch who rules The Emerald City. Zach Braff, of the TV show Scrubs, voices a CGI winged monkey called Finley.
"Theodora's the teenager of the group and very naïve; she'll throw a tantrum if she doesn't get what she wants. She's learning to deal with her emotions and, ultimately, she gets her heart broken," explains Kunis. "It's based on the original book, the one written before The Wizard of Oz, and it's so interesting because it explains where the characters came from and how they ended up in Oz."
Most people have long known and loved the movie classic, and Kunis is no different. "Everyone loves it, so no pressure!" she says with a laugh. "I have wonderful memories of the original. I remember watching it as a kid. It was so visually stunning and breathtaking. And, prior to that, it was the first full-length book I ever read in English - I came to America when I was seven-and-a-half, and it was my first big-girl book."
The busy star's work ethic might have something to do with her roots. In 1991, her parents, Mark and Elvira, decided to leave the Ukraine for the US in search of a better life for their family (Kunis has an older brother, Michael). After joining an after-school drama class to make friends and help improve her English, the young Kunis discovered a love of acting - and she hasn't stopped working since she was nine.
For years, she begged her parents to give up work, her dad as an engineer, her mum as a teacher. "They're the most driven, hardworking human beings I've met in my life, and they've only just retired, like a year ago," she explains. "That's definitely where I get my work ethic from. I think it's an Eastern European thing."
But having acted since the age of nine, doesn't she ever feel the need to take stock and maybe slow down a bit? "Yes, you're right. I'm stopping. Where are we now, 2013? I'm stopping in 2014. I'm going to take a little break." She stops to weigh up what she's said. "Don't get the wrong idea; I'm actually OK, I just need to learn time-management skills. But, you know, I don't want to turn down the good jobs. It's OK to say you don't want to work, but then a good script comes in and you think to yourself, I can't pass this up."
And she doesn't. Upcoming projects include Blood Ties with Marion Cotillard, the animation Hell & Back, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn with Robin Williams, and The Third Person with Liam Neeson. It's a dizzying whirlwind, and Kunis admits she has to work harder now at separating her personal and professional lives.
"I do take a conscious effort to step back and acknowledge where I'm at, and at least appreciate it," she explains. "I often think to myself, this is great for what it is, but now it's time to move on. You have to be present and stay in the moment or you get completely caught up, and miss so many things. I've been doing this for 20 years - I know, crazy - but it's my career, and while I love what I do, it's showbiz. It's grand and it's wonderful, but it's not real life. Even though people think it is real life."
Between looking after her dogs, Shorty and Audrey, and staying in ("I just love being at home"), Kunis works hard to retain some kind of normality. Having had her looks scrutinised on a daily basis since her role as an ambitious ballerina in Black Swan saw her drop nine kilos, she insists she does everything in moderation and hates the way women in Hollywood are put under so much pressure to stay skinny.
"You know, I stay fit, but I dieted for Black Swan. I think it's OK to do that for the part, but not just for being an actor," she explains. "Actors [in Hollywood] starve themselves to play the normal girl - which, for me, is an issue. If someone's playing a sick person then it's OK for them to diet for the part. But to diet just to play the love interest or the girl next door, that's absolutely not OK. You shouldn't starve yourself; you should be able to live your life."
Of course, it helps to stay fit when you have to turn up on set and pretend to fly - a skill she had to pick up for her role in Oz: The Great and Powerful. "You can't be out of shape," she admits, recalling her high-wire antics onset. "You have to learn to stabilise yourself on wires, or in the flying bubble or whatever, so you don't look like you're on wires. You need strength. And you shouldn't do it if you're scared of heights."
The star also had no problem acting against a green screen with a CGI monkey, thanks to coming straight off the set of Ted - in which she co-stars with Mark Wahlberg and a foul-mouthed CGI teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane.
"Zach Braff, who plays the monkey, would show up, act everything out in a blue suit and walk away, then James and I would act against nothing. But I did this movie after Ted, so I was used to doing scenes with a character who didn't exist," she says. "We were lucky because the sets for Oz were tangible, so we had those worlds."
In all, this year looks set to be another crazy one for Kunis - and only time will tell if she manages to take that year off. Not that it seems to bother her. "I stay sane," she says with a laugh. "And you know what, you can only have control over so many things. But spending more time at home? Well, that would be lovely."