Milena "Mila" Kunis (//; born Milena Markivna Kunis (Template:Lang-uk; Russian: Милена Маркοвна Кунис) on August 14, 1983) is an American actress. Her television work includes the role of Jackie Burkhart on That '70s Show and the voice of Meg Griffin on the animated series Family Guy. She has also played roles in film, such as Rachel Jansen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Mona Sax in Max Payne and Solara in The Book of Eli. In 2010, she won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress at the 67th Venice International Film Festival for her performance as Lily in Black Swan.
Mila Kunis was born in Chernivtsi, in the Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union, to a Jewish family. Her mother, Elvira, is a physics teacher and drug store manager, and her father, Mark Kunis, is a mechanical engineer and cab company executive. She has an older brother, Michael. Her family moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1991.
Kunis said that a lottery system allowed her family to make the move: "It took about five years. If you got chosen the first time around, you went to Moscow, where there was another lottery, and you maybe got chosen again. Then you could come to the States." On her second day in Los Angeles, she was enrolled at Rosewood Elementary School not knowing a word of English. "I blocked out second grade," she says. "I don’t remember, but my mom tells me that I came home and cried every day. I wasn’t that traumatized. It was just a shock." Kunis added: "I didn't understand the culture. I didn't understand the people. I didn't understand the language. My first sentence of my essay to get into college was like, 'Imagine being blind and deaf at age seven.' And that's kind of what it felt like moving to the States."
Despite reports to the contrary, Kunis did not learn English from watching The Price Is Right. In Los Angeles, she attended Hubert Howe Bancroft Middle School. She was mostly taught by an on-set tutor for her high school years while filming That '70s Show. When not on the set, she attended Fairfax High School, where she graduated in 2001. She briefly attended UCLA and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
At age nine, Kunis took acting classes after school at the Beverly Hills Studios, where she met her first and still current manager Susan Curtis. Said Kunis: "My parents told her, 'Listen, we can’t afford head shots; we can’t afford anything. We can’t take her to auditions because we work full-time.' ... [Curtis] said, 'Don’t worry. I’ll fix everything,' and she did. I ended up getting the first thing I went out for, which was a Barbie commercial. All my parents said was, 'You can do whatever you want to do as long as you get A's and stay in school.'" Kunis began appearing in print-ads, catalogues, and TV commercials for children's products like Lisa Frank products, Mattel's Barbie, and Payless Shoes. She also modeled for a Guess girls' clothing campaign. Her first TV role was as the young Hope Williams on an episode of the popular soap opera Days of our Lives. She had a minor role on 7th Heaven as Lucy's nemesis and supporting roles in Santa with Muscles, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, and the Angelina Jolie film Gia, as Gia Carangi's younger self.
In 1998 Kunis was cast as Jackie Burkhart in the Fox sitcom That '70s Show. All who auditioned were required to be at least 18 years old; Kunis, who was 14 at the time, told the casting directors she’d be 18 but didn't say when. Though they eventually figured it out, the producers still thought Kunis was the best fit for the role. That '70s Show ran for eight seasons, becoming the second longest-running live-action sitcom on Fox (after Married with Children). Kunis expressed some frustration with working on one show for so long. "Eight years of doing the same [show] felt like being behind a desk, and I lost my drive," she says. However, she quickly "had an epiphany. I decided I wasn't going to take my career so seriously and make my job who I am. I just want to be happy with my life."
In 1999, Kunis replaced Lacey Chabert in the role of Meg Griffin on the animated television sitcom Family Guy, created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series plot centers on a family called the Griffins, a dysfunctional family. The series starred MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green and Mike Henry. Kunis won the role after auditions and a slight rewrite of the character, in part due to her performance on That '70s Show. MacFarlane called Kunis back after her first audition, instructing her to speak slower, and then told her to come back another time and enunciate more. Once she claimed that she had it under control, MacFarlane hired her. MacFarlane added: "What Mila Kunis brought to it was in a lot of ways, I thought, almost more right for the character. I say that Lacey did a phenomenal job, but there was something about Mila – something very natural about Mila. She was 15 when she started, so you were listening to a 15-year-old. Which oftentimes with animation they'll have adult actors doing the voices of teenagers and they always sound like Saturday morning voices. They sound, oftentimes, very forced. She had a very natural quality to Meg that really made what we did with that character kind of really work."
Kunis described her character as "the scapegoat." She further explained, "Meg gets picked on a lot. But it's funny. It's like the middle child. She is constantly in the state of being an awkward 14-year-old, when you're kind of going through puberty and what-not. She's just in perpetual mode of humiliation. And it's fun."
Early film work (2001–2007)
In 2001, she appeared in Get Over It opposite Kirsten Dunst. She followed that up in 2002 by starring in the straight-to-DVD horror film American Psycho 2 alongside William Shatner which was a sequel to the 2000 film American Psycho starring Christian Bale. American Psycho 2 was panned by critics; later, Kunis herself expressed embarrassment over the film.
In 2004 Kunis starred in Tony n' Tina's Wedding. Although the film was shot in 2004, it did not have a theatrical release until 2007. Most critics didn't like the film, which mustered a 25% approval from Rotten Tomatoes. DVD talk concluded that "fans would be much better off pretending the movie never happened in the first place".
That same year Kunis was in the never-released film Tom 51, a comedy about a young man who goes through 50 jobs before winding up as a driver for a call-girl service. Kunis worked with Clifton Collins, Jr. on the project, who later went on to be one of her co-stars in Extract.
In 2005 Kunis co-starred with Jon Heder in Moving McAllister, which was not released theatrically until 2007. The film received generally poor reviews and had a limited two week run in theaters.
While doing press for the film, writer and co-star Ben Gourley spoke fondly about the overall experience of working with Kunis, stating: "She’s happiest around people, talking, hanging out, experiencing life. I don’t think she spent over ten minutes a day in her trailer. She was always outside hanging out with the crew, rehearsing or talking to fans. She’s accepting of everyone she meets."
She followed up that project with After Sex playing alongside Zoe Saldana (who also appeared in Get Over It). In October 2006 she began filming Boot Camp (originally titled Straight Edge). The story centered around a group of troubled teens, sent to a rehabilitation program housed in a remote camp on the island of Fiji. What their parents believe is a state-of-the-art deluxe institution in a beautiful natural environment turns out to be a prison-like boot camp where they are abused and brainwashed. Although the film did not have a theatrical release in the United States, it was released on DVD on August 25, 2009.
Kunis was featured as Rachel Jansen in the 2008 movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, co-produced by Judd Apatow. She had originally auditioned for Apatow for the film Knocked Up. Although she did not get the part, the audition led to the role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Kunis said that the improvisation in the film was challenging, but "the best kind of challenging [...] a great exercise." The film garnered positive reviews and was a commercial success, grossing $105 million worldwide. Kunis's performance was well-received; Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal praised her "fresh beauty and focused energy", while James Berardinelli wrote that she is "adept with her performance and understands the concept of comic timing". She was nominated for a Teen Choice Award. In an interview, Kunis stated: "I give Judd Apatow so much love for hiring me and letting me do something different, letting me break free of That ‘70s Show, letting me show that I could do something outside of Jackie."
Also in 2008, she starred alongside Mark Wahlberg in the action movie Max Payne, portraying Mona Sax, a Russian assassin. The film is based on the popular video game of the same name. Kunis underwent gun training for her role. She stated about her training: "It's crazy. I had never fired a gun before and here I am playing an assassin. But let me tell you, I'm really great at shooting guns now! The physical part of this film has definitely been fun. I did some boxing and a little bit of martial arts work."
Max Payne was relatively successful at the box office, grossing $85 million worldwide but was panned by critics with several reviewers calling Kunis miscast. Director John Moore supported Kunis and had no qualms with the decision to cast her. "Mila just bowled us over," says Moore. "She wasn't an obvious choice, but she just wears Mona so well. We needed someone who would not be just a fop or foil to Max; we needed somebody who had to be that character and convey her own agenda. I think Mila's just knocked it out of the park." For Kunis, the role presented a chance to explore new territory as an actor. "I've always wanted to be in an action movie. Mona is fierce and feisty and not willing to play second fiddle to anyone. I'd say that she and Max are very evenly matched." She was nominated for another Teen Choice Award for her role in the film.
Later film work (2009-2010)
In 2009, she appeared in the comedy Extract with Ben Affleck and Jason Bateman. The film received mostly positive reviews and grossed $10.8 million at the box office. Justin Chang of Variety called Kunis "fine", and Roger Ebert, while criticizing Extract for not being believable, wrote that Kunis "brings her role to within shouting distance of credibility." Director Mike Judge commented that part of what was surprising to learn about Kunis was her ability to make references to the cult animation film Rejected. Judge said: "As beautiful as Mila is, you could believe that maybe she would cross paths with you in the real world." After seeing Kunis perform in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Judge wanted to cast her in the role of Cindy in Extract: "I just thought, 'Wow, this girl’s perfect.' And she really wanted to do it, which was fantastic." Said Kunis, "I’m a huge fan of Mike Judge's from Office Space, so I was, like, 'Okay, this is a very easy decision.' I told them I would do anything needed to be in this production – like craft service, or, say, acting."
In 2010, she starred alongside Denzel Washington in the action film The Book of Eli. Although the film received mixed reviews, it has performed well at the box office grossing over $157 million worldwide. Film critic Richard Roeper praised Kunis's performance calling it a "particularly strong piece of work". Several other reviews were equally positive of her performance, including Pete Hammond of Boxoffice magazine, who wrote that she's "ideally cast in the key female role" Even reviewers who did not necessarily like the film complimented her performance, such as James Berardinelli who stated that "the demands of the role prove to be within her range, which is perhaps surprising considering she has been thus far pigeonholed into more lightweight parts" and Colin Covert of the Star Tribune who wrote that she "generated a spark and brought a degree of determination to her character, developing an independent female character who’s not always in need of rescuing." Some critics, however, called her miscast. Kunis received another Teen Choice Award nomination for her performance. The directors of The Book of Eli, the Hughes brothers, appreciated Kunis's ability to convey vulnerability mixed with boldness and optimism. Albert Hughes stated: "Mila is a firecracker. She plays Solara in a way that lets you watch her grow."
Kunis was also cast in a minor role in the 2010 comedy Date Night starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell. She garnered several positive reviews for her performance. Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that she played her role "with enjoyable comic relish."
She and Natalie Portman play rival ballet dancers in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. The film premiered as the opening film at the 67th Venice International Film Festival on September 1, 2010. The film also had a premium screening at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2010, and then will have its initial release to the public on December 1, 2010.
Kunis took ballet training to prepare for her role in Black Swan. The training was grueling, requiring one hour of cardio followed by four hours of ballet seven days a week. She was restricted to a 1200-calorie a day diet ("because I have to have bones sticking out") so she was looking forward to the final day of production. Aronofsky had never seen Kunis on television, but based on her performance in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he found her to be "natural" and "beautiful". Later, after Portman suggested Kunis for the role, Aronofsky met with Kunis over iChat and found her "natural", "cool", "relaxed", and "excited"; so, he hired her.
Early reviews of Kunis's performance have been positive with Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter stating, "Kunis makes a perfect alternate to Portman, equally as lithe and dark but a smirk of self-assurance in place of Portman's wide-eyed fearfulness." Guy Lodge of In Contention praises Kunis saying, "it’s the cool, throaty-voiced Kunis who is the surprise package here, intelligently watching and reflecting her co-star in such a manner that we’re as uncertain as Nina of her ingenuousness." Kunis's performance won her the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress at the 67th Venice International Film Festival.
Latest work (2011 and beyond)
Kunis was cast alongside Justin Timberlake in the romantic comedy Friends with Benefits about two friends who try to take their relationship to the next level. Filming began on July 13, 2010 in New York City and wrapped in September 2010 in Los Angeles. Director Will Gluck stated that he wrote the story with Kunis and Timberlake in mind. "There were a couple of actors I wanted to work with, so I wrote it for Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. I wanted to do more of an adult movie about sex, too, and about relationships."
Kunis was ranked #54 in Stuff's "102 Sexiest Women in the World" (2002); Maxim named her #47 on its 2006 Hot 100 list. In 2008, she was ranked #81 on the Maxim Hot 100 list. She was also ranked #81 on the FHM U.S 100 Sexiest Women in the World 2008, although she is unranked in other FHM magazines from different nations. Kunis was also described as one of the "most attractive geeks" in 2008 by Wired.com due to her much-publicized affinity for World of Warcraft. The same year she was featured and on the cover of the October issue of Complex Magazine.
In 2007 Kunis participated in a video for the website Funny or Die playing alongside James Franco. The video was a parody of the MTV show The Hills and was a huge success for the website with well over one million views. Shawn Levy, director of Date Night, stated that part of what made him decide to cast Kunis with James Franco in the film was the chemistry he felt they had in the Funny or Die video.
In 2009 she was ranked #5 in "Maxim Magazine's Hot 100" list. In addition, she won the award for "Hottest Mila" at the 2009 Spike Guys' Choice Awards beating out Milla Jovovich. Also in 2009 Premiere.com ranked Mila the most beautiful woman in Hollywood. In 2010 she was featured in the "Women We Love" segment in Esquire with an accompanied video. For the 2010 "Maxim Magazine Hot 100" Kunis ranked #22, and for the 2010 FHM Hot 100 list she ranked #17. Kunis has kept this type of media attention in perspective and has remained grounded by saying: "You've got to base your career on something other than being FHM's top 100 No. 1 girl. Your looks are going to die out, and then what's going to be left?"
In 2010 Kunis served with Randy Jackson as the Master of Ceremonies for the 9th Annual Chrysalis Foundation Benefit. The Chrysalis Foundation is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization formed to help economically disadvantaged and homeless individuals to become self-sufficient through employment opportunities. For the October 2010 Elle magazine 25th anniversary special edition, Kunis was one of the women chosen to be featured for their success at a young age. The honor included a photo and video presentation on the magazine's website.
Kunis has spoken with affection about her parents and has credited them for being a positive influence and keeping her focused on what is important in life. "I had a normal upbringing and went to public school," she says. "If I ever, even for a second, started getting a big head, I was brought back to reality pretty quickly. My parents are why I'm pretty grounded." Kunis has been dating actor Macaulay Culkin since 2002. Although there have been rumors of the couple getting married, Kunis has denied this, saying:
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In an interview with BlackBook Magazine Kunis stated that marriage is "not something that’s important to me". Regarding her relationship with Culkin she said she tries her best to protect their privacy. "We don't talk about it to the press. It's already more high profile than I want it to be." When questioned if it was difficult to stay out of the tabloids and press, Kunis responded: "I keep my personal life as personal as I physically, mentally, possibly can." Asked if that is difficult she said, "I don't care. I will go to my grave trying. It is hard, but I'll end up going to a bar that's a hole in the wall. I won't go to the "it's-happening" place."
She has identified herself in interviews as a fan of the online computer game World of Warcraft and has received a certain amount of attention from the game's fan community as a result. She has not released what server she is in but says she is with her close friends in the Alliance. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she said she does not use voice chat in the game after another player recognized her voice. Although Kunis has described herself as a "computer nerd" she does not have a Myspace, Facebook or Twitter account.
In an interview with H Magazine Kunis stated that she does not devote as much time to World of Warcraft anymore, but enjoys hanging out with her friends when she can. "When we have ‘friends night’ and we all get together, we play board games like The Settlers of Catan." She also mentioned that she and her friends enjoy doing Murder Mystery tours, where they drive around the Los Angeles area exploring locations of famous murders that have taken place. Kunis also enjoys traveling, and often goes on trips with her older brother, Michael. She and Michael have explored countries such as Fiji and Korea. "I like the way he travels," she explains. "He grabs a map, says, 'Let's walk,' and makes you explore."
When asked to describe her perfect day Kunis said: "It would be going for a swim, lazing around the house, playing with my dogs, drinking a root beer float, catching up on TiVo, having some food, a glass of wine and calling it a night."
|1995||Make a Wish, Molly||Melinda|
|1995||Piranha||Susie Grogan||Television movie|
|1996||Santa with Muscles||Sarah|
|1997||Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves||Jill, Party Guest||Direct-to-video|
|1998||Gia||Gia at Age 11||Television movie|
|1998||Krippendorf's Tribe||Abbey Tournquist|
|2001||Get Over It||Basin|
|2002||American Psycho 2||Rachael||Direct-to-DVD|
|2004||Tony n' Tina's Wedding||Tina|
|2005||Tom 51||Little Boy Matson||also known as Tom Cool|
|2005||Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story||Meg Griffin (Voice)||Direct-to-DVD|
|2008||Forgetting Sarah Marshall||Rachel Jansen|
|2008||Max Payne||Mona Sax|
|2010||The Book of Eli||Solara|
|2011||Friends with Benefits||Jamie||post-production|
|1995||The John Larroquette Show||Lucy||1 episode|
|1995||Hudson Street||Devon||1 episode|
|1996||Unhappily Ever After||Chloe||1 episode|
|Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher||Anna-Maria Del Bono||5 episodes|
|7th Heaven||Ashley||4 episodes|
|1997||Walker, Texas Ranger||Pepper||Episode: "Last Hope"|
|1998||Pensacola: Wings of Gold||Jessie Kerwood||1 episode|
|That '70s Show||Jackie Burkhart||200 episodes|
|2002||Get Real||Taylor Vaughn||2 episodes|
|2004||Grounded for Life||Lana||Episodes: "Space Camp Oddity"|
"The Policy of Truth"
|Family Guy||Meg Griffin (Voice)||114 episodes|
|Robot Chicken||Various (Voice)||10 episodes|
|2009||The Cleveland Show||Meg Griffin (Voice)||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1999||In The Street||Cheap Trick|
|2000||The Itch||Vitamin C|
|2001||Rock and Roll All Nite||KISS|
|2003||The End Has No End||The Strokes|
|2008||LA Girls||Mams Taylor feat. Joel Madden|
|2006||Saints Row||Tanya Winters (Voice)|
|2006||Family Guy Video Game!||Meg Griffin (Voice)|
Awards and nominations
|1999||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a TV Series – Young Ensemble||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|1999||YoungStar Award||Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Comedy TV Series||That '70s Show||Won|
|2000||Teen Choice Award||TV – Choice Actress||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2000||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a TV Series – Young Ensemble||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2000||YoungStar Award||Best Young Actress/Performance in a Comedy TV Series||That '70s Show||Won|
|2001||Teen Choice Award||TV – Choice Actress||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2001||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a TV Comedy Series – Leading Young Actress||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2002||Teen Choice Award||TV – Choice Actress||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2002||Young Hollywood Award||One to Watch – Female||That '70s Show||Won|
|2003||Teen Choice Award||Choice TV Actress – Comedy||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2004||Teen Choice Award||Choice TV Actress – Comedy||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2005||Teen Choice Award||Choice – TV Actress: Comedy||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2006||Teen Choice Award||TV – Choice Actress: Comedy||That '70s Show||Nominated|
|2007||Annie Award||Best Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production||Family Guy||Nominated|
|2008||Teen Choice Award||Choice Movie Breakout Female||Forgetting Sarah Marshall||Nominated|
|2009||Guys Choice Awards||Hottest Mila||N/A||Won|
|2009||Teen Choice Award||Choice Movie Actress: Action Adventure||Max Payne||Nominated|
|2010||Teen Choice Award||Choice Movie Actress: Action Adventure||The Book of Eli||Nominated|
|2010||Venice Film Festival||Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actress||Black Swan||Won|
- Both Russian and Ukrainian were official languages in the Soviet Union (Source:Language Policy in the Soviet Union by L.A. Grenoble), but Russian prevailed among Jewish population in Ukrainian cities (Source:Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule by Karel C. Berkhoff)
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