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No Strings Attached - Ashton Kutcher interview

Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ASHTON Kutcher talks about appearing in romantic comedy No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman and how he goes about preparing for some of his more intimate and revealing scenes.

He also talks about romantic gestures and why the little things count, as well as why social networking the ladies can make relationships more disposable but also gives rise to opportunity.

Q. This is probably your most revealing role – did you head off to the gym to get toned?
Ashton Kutcher: I actually stopped working out for this movie. I literally had a conversation with Ivan [Reitman, director] before I started, and I said: “This guy’s a production assistant/aspiring writer, I know a lot of these guys and none of them are particularly fit!” So, I just didn’t feel it necessary for this character. He’s in a very enviable position, as the fantasy of most guys would dictate, so I thought making sure that this character was real was really important. So, Ivan and I had a little discussion, and I said: “I think I’m going to let myself go a little bit more.” But apparently I didn’t let myself go enough, because it seems to be the only thing anyone wants to talk about – that and my derriere!

Q. When you were at school were you a player with the girls or more of a fumbler?
Ashton Kutcher: I was a bit of a fumbler. I didn’t really have a girlfriend until I was a senior in high school. I was very nervous about the whole thing and I didn’t manage very well.

Q. How do you stand on the 21st Century method of social networking the ladies now – is romance being killed by texting rather than phone calls, etc?
Ashton Kutcher: I think there are a couple of elements to it. I think it’s accelerating relationships, but it’s also making them very disposable. The notion that you can just un-friend someone with the push of a button is kind of frightening. And therefore, I think people are having less of an investment in relationships. It used to be that you meet someone, you go on four or five dates and you gradually get to know them and trust them at the same time, and you learn a little bit about them. Now, it could be one date – maybe even before that first date – you go on Facebook and you know who all their friends are, you know who all your friends are in common, you know about their family, what they do for a living, what they ate yesterday and what they did for Christmas.

So, all that information makes us feel very familiar with people that we may not know at all, and so that trust element and that level of personal one-to-one vulnerability is slowly disappearing. Now, the largest fear in the world is to speak in public, right? Why do we fear it? We fear of stumbling, or public humiliation, and so we’re fearing a face-to-face rejection. So, we’ll say things in a text or e-mail that we would never say face-to-face. So, relationships are coming together faster and breaking apart faster, and they’re a little bit more disposable. At the same time, I think that it creates great opportunity – because a hand-written letter to someone probably means more today than it’s meant in quite some time. So, there are opportunities for romance that are being created.

Q. Does that mean you’re more of an old-fashioned romantic?
Ashton Kutcher: I’m very tech-forward – I believe in it. However, I also think hitting the pause button is not a bad thing and really connecting with people one-to-one viscerally, having a connection with someone, is really important.

Q. How was working with Natalie Portman? You have to create a screen chemistry, so how did you go about creating that?
Natalie Portman: It’s easier when you like the person, and she’s very likeable. I don’t know that it’s something you can plan, or something you can manufacture. I generally find that you can have really good chemistry with someone you can argue well with, and I think Natalie and I both really appreciate being right [laughs]! I think that makes for good chemistry, but I think Natalie could have chemistry with this cup if she wanted to! She’s probably one of the best actresses of my generation. There’s a blessing and a curse in that, as an actor, because one, you know everything you get across from you is going to be real and honest and reactive and beautiful. But at the same time, when the light shines in a dark room all the dust shows. So, it was a challenge for me to play this role and be as honest as she is in every scene.

Q. I noticed your character took the trouble to peel the raw carrots he gave Natalie in lieu of flowers… What’s the most romantic odd gesture you’ve received, or given?
Ashton Kutcher: Here’s the thing – romance is personal. The carrots in this film are in place of flowers because she didn’t want them, and so it really meant something to her. Romance is just that, it’s usually not some grand gesture. It’s usually something that’s very, very simple but very, very personal, and romance is sort of an island right next to care. And when you care about someone and you listen to them and you hear them and you can feel them and you know just what’s right. And generally it’s something that will be very unimpressive to a room of strangers.

Q. How was having Kevin Kline as your screen Dad?
Ashton Kutcher: First of all, [screenwriter] Liz Meriwether did such a great job of crafting this very bizarre relationship where the parent was the child, and the child was the parent. I was a little nervous about working with Kevin. This guy just loves being an actor. He shows up and the first day I was working with him, he’s got these linen pants on and between scenes he’s taken his shirt off and he’s walking around, prancing down the streets – and I’m thinking: “This guy’s fantastic! He’s really going for it!” I thought he was going method – I think he was just being Kevin! Like I said, working with Natalie really upped the bar, and when I found out I was working with Kevin that took it another step. The relationship we get to play was fantastic.

Especially the more familiar you become with any kind of family dynamic where one person has a great level of public success, and what that does to the relationship with the kid, where they’re in some ways publicly invisible. And I loved what that afforded this character, and how that relationship motivated his character, and having Kevin play it was just an absolute treat.

Q. Do you have any tips about how a relationship with an older woman works?
Ashton Kutcher: I’m just trying to make mine work. To give tips out…. I would never… I think great relationships are great partnerships, and those come in all shapes, sizes, forms, ages. The only tip I have for anyone in a relationship or a partnership is work on it when it’s good. It’s very easy to try to try to take that break when things are going good, but that’s the time you have to keep working on it, because you can keep it good, and that’s worth a lot.

Q. Coming back to your revealing moments – when you saw the schedule and saw the “bum” scene was on, was that just an average day filming?
Ashton Kutcher: I like having it out! I don’t mind being naked! We all come into the world this way… there’s very little you can do about it, you are who you are. So, doing the scenes – it doesn’t matter, it’s infinitely awkward because you have 40 strangers standing around. I think it’s less awkward for guys than girls, because the crew tends to be slightly more masculine and mine doesn’t look that much different from yours. So, whenever I’m doing scenes like that, or sexual scenes, I actually get out of myself by trying to make sure that the other person is OK. When you’re caring about someone else, you really stop worrying about yourself and that’s kind of my mental cycle that I put myself through, so I just really try to focus on making sure the other person’s alright… and then I apologise a lot!

Read our review of No Strings Attached

Read our interview with Ivan Reitman