The Guardian - Ashton Kutcher interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
ASHTON Kutcher talks about getting into physical shape for The Guardian, as well as starring alongside Kevin Costner and how he intends to keep growing as an actor.
Q. How did you prepare for this role? It is the fittest you’ve ever been for a movie?
Ashton Kutcher: It’s the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. When you’re doing a film, the idea is that you do all the work before you get there. Everything that you’re going to do in a scene, everything that you’re going to have to do physically, you have to have the work already done before you get there, because there’s going to be enough problems once you get there that you’re going to have to solve. I started training for the movie before I knew I had the role. I started training for about eight months, which involved swimming a lot. I don’t like the water, and I didn’t like it before I was in it a lot. I don’t like taking a bath really!
Q. Was there a special diet?
Ashton Kutcher: I lived on chicken, broccoli and brown rice for three months. I went to my trainer and we went to see this school about two months before filming and met these guys who were all built in a way that I’d never even thought about being built. I said: “I don’t look like one of them yet, I need to look like one of them.” So, my trainer said: “Well, here’s what you’re going to do; you’re going to change what you’re going to eat.” So it was chicken, broccoli and brown rice. I could go without eating that again.
Q. Is it true that you got to put some of your skills you learned to the test while on a recent holiday?
Ashton Kutcher: Yeah, I was on holiday in Turkey with some English friends of ours. There was one older gentleman, we call him the Dickie Doc because he’s like an 80-year-old doctor. He was on the trip with us and he’d been drinking pretty much all day. He decided to go for a swim, and he got about ten feet away from the boat and started to go under. So I just pulled him back to the boat, which wasn’t too difficult a task.
Q. Would you ever have contemplated doing that before filming The Guardian?
Ashton Kutcher: Before doing the film I wouldn’t have been quite so quick to get in the water, for myself. I really couldn’t swim. I could probably make it from here to that post [a few feet away] and back, and I wouldn’t have looked good doing it. So I wouldn’t have done it before.
Q. Is it true that you gave up smoking and drinking while preparing for The Guardian?
Ashton Kutcher: I gave up smoking, I never gave up the drinking. But it’s hard to smoke and swim at the same time [laughs]. You’d get to the edge of the pool and all you’d be wanting is a cigarette when all you actually really want is oxygen. So I traded the smoke for the oxygen. I read a book by an author named Alan Carr, called The Easy Way To Stop Smoking.
The great thing about the book is that you get to smoke while you’re reading it. You get to page five and it says something like, “light one up now”, and you say “absolutely”! Then you get to the end of the book and the last page says: “Smoke your last cigarette.” I did and I haven’t smoked since. That’s one thing that I haven’t returned to. I took a three month break from working out when I finished the movie because I couldn’t motivate myself to go to the gym or swim. I’ve done some swimming since but not a whole lot.
Q. How much advice did you receive from Kevin Costner, given his experience of filming in water with Waterworld?
Ashton Kutcher: What’s interesting about Waterworld is that it actually made some $200 million, it was actually a financial success. But because it didn’t perform well domestically in the United States it’s assumed it didn’t do well for him. I even assumed that myself, but as far as him giving me advice, it was interesting. I always feel like you’re not growing as a person unless you’re doing something that makes you a little uncomfortable. And I want to grow as a person. So I was training and training for the movie and we were about two months away and the trainer said he hadn’t heard from Kevin. I said: “He’s not swimming yet?”
I started to think about Dustin Hoffman doing Marathon Man with Laurence Olivier. Dustin was running around the track until he passed out and Olivier was standing over him and said: “It’s called acting my boy.” So, on this whole movie I kept waiting for Kevin to come on to me and say: “It’s called acting my boy!” But it never happened. He got in decent shape for the film, and I learned a lot from him – not necessarily about being in the water but about being a man, about relating with people and being a generous person and a generous actor.
Q. How is Kevin Costner perceived by younger actors? Is he revered?
Ashton Kutcher: He’s revered by me. I don’t know if I can speak for everyone else. Dances With Wolves is one film he won an Oscar for as a director, I think it won seven Oscars in total, and if you’re a young actor and you don’t respect that, I think you’re kind of ignorant in some ways.
I think directing yourself is a monumental task. Just to self edit as an actor, you work for some directors who don’t give you a lot of feedback so you have to do that. That’s a difficult thing to do as an actor, and Kevin is always good in his movies. Occasionally, we have the opportunity to be great and he’s been great when those opportunities have come. So if they don’t respect him, all they’d have to do is look at his work and they will.
Q. Was it a help to you that he’s directed before?
Ashton Kutcher: It was helpful. Andy Davis came out of the cinematography world, and so he has a really amazing visual sense, but I remember one time we were shooting a scene in his office where I had my emotional revelation in the movie. We’d done some 20 odd takes at different angles and I felt like I’d done it authentically about 25 times, and we were moving on to take number 26 of 32, just because of the way Andy shoots. But I just wasn’t feeling what I wanted to feel.
I went to Kevin and said: “Okay, this is why I’m doing this movie with you, now you’re going to help me.” And he said: “Alright.” I then asked if my last take was completely off and he said: “Yeah it was.” I asked how I could get it back and he said that the only difference between me and him was that he was more relaxed in what he was doing; he was a little bit more confident because he’d been doing it longer. He said: “Just believe you don’t have to do anything and then you’ll do everything.” That’s all it took.
Q. Were you involved in any dangerous situations while filming?
Ashton Kutcher: To me, a dangerous situation is when you realise what could happen. We could all be in a really dangerous situation in this room if we really want to think about what could happen, so I kind of put that out of my mind while I was doing it. Now, looking back, I think about hanging 80 feet above concrete and rebarb by a thin little wire controlled by some guy with a little winch. I remember hanging from there after we did it two or three times and Kevin said: “Maybe you guys could put a little fall pad down there in case…….” But from where we were hanging it looked tiny. I wondered how we were going to hit that if we fell.
Q. What was the longest you spent underwater? There’s one training scene in particular where…
Ashton Kutcher: That’s the one thing about the movie that really ticks me off because I was under the water for about three and a half minutes, holding my breath after swimming the length of the pool, but in the movie it’s about 20 seconds, if that. I kind of look at a lot of the things that I did and I wonder what the hell did I do that for. But you live and you learn.
Q. Do you have a newfound respect for the Coast Guard?
Ashton Kutcher: First of all going into the film I didn’t know anything about them. I first read the script three years ago, so Katrina hadn’t happened. When Katrina struck it was a huge catastrophe, and these guys really became the heroes. The one thing our government was able to really lean on was that they were successful. But you have to respect anybody who is willing to sacrifice their life to save the life of a complete stranger. If you don’t, you’re a fool. That’s what these guys do on a daily basis. I also appreciate the fact that there’s a branch of the military supported by the United States government that they train to save lives and not to take them. I think that’s a really noble thing.
Q. You’ve begun to mix your roles up a little, from comedy to action and drama. Do you have a preference for any particular genre?
Ashton Kutcher: The films that have made me feel the best have been the ones that have had a story that I’ve wanted to tell. As an actor, when you’re first starting off, you don’t necessarily get to choose that much. You kind of do what you’re given. As my choices have grown, I’ve been able to tell the stories that I like to tell, about people that I respect, or a story that has a message that I believe in. Those are the kind of films I want to make, and whether that’s comedy or action, drama or horror, or even a Western, those are the kind of movies I want to make.
Did any of your co-stars worry about your Punk’d legacy?
Ashton Kutcher: I don’t guarantee immunity but when I’m working with someone, I’m not going to break that trust that you have to have. You have to be able to look across to the person that you’re working with and trust them, and trust that they’re going to give it everything they’ve got. I can’t break that trust in my work. So, I hope that they know while we’re working together, nothing will happen.