Mila Kunis
Photo by Stefanie Keenan

Mila Kunis: “They build you up just to knock you down”

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Short Profile

Name: Milena Markovna Kunis
DOB: 14 August 1983
Place of Birth: Chernivtsi, Ukraine
Occupation: Actress

Ms. Kunis, would you call yourself a perfectionist?

That's the thing where I think I fail in life; I’m not looking for perfection. I don't think it’s achievable; I think it is impossible to achieve perfection. If you are six feet under you are still six feet under. You can have everything in the world that you consider as perfect but you are still going to be six feet under. So I don't think that there is such a thing as perfection.

Is that a problem in Hollywood, the pursuit of perfection? So many women at your age try exactly that: to be and to look perfect.

It is really sad, because it’s true. Everybody is starting to look the same. It is bizarre how everyone has the same facial features now. One person dyes her hair brown, everybody dyes her hair brown. I think people lose all sense of themselves. It’s unfortunate.

Is that something the entertainment and fashion world caused itself?

I don't know what caused it, I don't know what came first: the chicken or the egg, but something caused it. I don’t know if it’s the covers of the magazines where you see the most perfect, most beautiful people. The sad thing is that it is all photoshopped. There is no such thing as perfection. What I consider beautiful, most likely you don't. That doesn't mean that I am right and you are wrong, it's just a difference of opinion.

But you also lost a lot of weight when you got an important part in Black Swan.

And you said it: it was for the part. It was much easier gaining the weight back. (Laughs) I looked like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. People would hug me and panic. I hated being that skinny in real life so I wore big sweaters and baggy clothes. People who hadn't seen me for a while would come in for a hug and get all freaked out. I saw them feeling me. I got a lot of, “Are you okay?” and “Do we need to talk?” I always said, “I'm fine, it’s just temporary.” I must have looked so scary thin.

And the reality is that an actor’s physical appearance adds to the competitiveness of Hollywood.

It is competitive but it is also all based on opinion. I can go in and the first director might think I am a horrible actress and the next director might think I am great. All a matter of opinion. That is the sad thing, there is no right and wrong, there is no 2 + 2 = 4. Not at all. You can be the greatest actress and you will never get a job.

You were born in Ukraine and moved to LA in 1991. Do you consider yourself American or do you also see certain elements of your personality that are very Ukrainian?

I think I am pretty American – I am very Westernized, let me put it that way – but I do believe that the older I get the more I realize that I have a very European background to me, whatever that means. But I am very much LA. I was raised since second grade in Los Angeles, but what my parents instilled in me was very different from what my friends grew up knowing. But I think the older I get the more I realize it.

Was it difficult to adjust back then?

Yes. But luckily if you are seven or eight years old you don't really know consequences. So you don't really understand that if you do this, that will happen, because there is no concept of that. So you kind of just throw yourself in. As a kid you kind of just do it without even understanding what you are doing. I learned English by accident, by just being rather than studying. It works when you are little. Kids are great, they have no fear.

“There is no such thing as perfection. What I consider beautiful, most likely you don’t.”

Did you want to become an actress from very early on?

No. Not at all. At one point I wanted to be a teacher, at one point I wanted to be a doctor but then I realized that I don't like blood. Then I wanted to deliver babies until I realized that there is a bit more involved than just the delivery process. I thought for a while that babies just appear, you know. (Laughs) I wanted to be everything and anything – except acting.

So how did you end up with this profession?

Purely by accident. Very organically. I was nine years old and I met my manager, who is my manager to this day, and it was a hobby; it was something I did after school and something that got me out of school sometimes – which was a big plus. It was fantastic. I got to go play and pretend and then I didn't have to go to school. I was 21 or 22 when I decided that this could be my career. So when I decided to make it my career everything changed.

Was there ever a danger that you could lose yourself?

I've been doing this for so long that I've seen a lot of people who lost themselves. The theory says that you only learn from your own mistakes. It's life. But when it comes to this industry I tell you this much: I really, truly believe in learning from other people's mistakes.

So what is the greatest lesson you learned from someone else’s mistake?

One? There is a whole list. Everything and anything. In this industry you have to be constantly aware of your surroundings and be aware that they build you up just to knock you down. I really do believe that, because it creates better stories. It’s not enough talking about how great somebody is – it doesn't sell. What sells is talking about somebody’s downfall. I think the greatest lesson I learned is to keep my private life private. And I will fight for that forever and ever. That is my lesson.

It must be difficult for you because you are exactly the target group the outlets are aiming at.

Yeah, but I will never talk about things. There are certain things that I will never discuss. I don't care if that makes me not the nicest person. I will discuss any film I have done, I will discuss anybody I have worked with, I will discuss politics if you need me to – I will discuss anything and everything under the sun, but I will not discuss my personal life.