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ARTICLE MICHAEL MARTIN

PHOTOGRAPHY MARIO TESTINO

STYLIST NICOLA FORMICHETTI

CREDITS ARTICLE CONTENTS

MATTHEW TERRY'S SUPER BOWL ABS

BACKSTAGE: DKNY

I'M NOT REAL

EXTRA CREDITS

hair christiaan  prosthetic makeup and robotic effects gil mosko (GM FOAM Inc.)  director of photography adam whitehead  photo assistants jemima hobson, toby whitehead, george yandell  stylist assistants Kim Howells and Marija Kovacevic  talent Nate Allsopp and Joey Ennis  Location Image Locations  Production Lucy Lee (Art Partner)  On-Site Production Erick Jussen (GE Projects)  Prop Styling Peter Klein  Digital Technician Alex Franco (R&D)  Retouching R&D

MORE TO LOVE

Odd praxis KTZ IN LA ZEBRA KATZ - Y I DO BACKSTAGE: BERLUTI

I'M NOT REAL

PHOTOGRAPHY MARIO TESTINO
FASHION NICOLA FORMICHETTI
TEXT MICHAEL MARTIN

#THROWBACK 2008:

FORGET EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT HOLLYWOOD'S MOST HANDSOME JOKER ASHTON KUTCHER. TURNS OUT, THE 30-YEAR-OLD ACTOR, PRODUCER, HUSBAND, AND STEPFATHER TAKES LIFE VERY SERIOUSLY. ON THE EVE OF THREE NEW FILMS, KUTCHER ISN'T SO MUCH SHOWING NEW PARTS OF HIMSELF, AS ONES THAT HAVE BEEN THERE ALL ALONG



For a second, I think we’ve been Punk’d. Ashton Kutcher—TV’s pretty boy prankster, Allen Funt on whippets,  an impossibly handsome Gomer Pyle without the accent—is talking earnestly about gender inequity, gay rights, and his idea for this photo shoot: that we’re all robots genetically predetermined to carry out the whims of an unseen creator. It’s a little weird, that the merry jester of Punk’d and That ’70s Show sounds so different in conversation: his voice deeper and flatter, none of the adorable-me shtick. But Kutcher’s story has always been unlikely. If it were a script, the development exec would send it back for a believability injection: model is discovered in Iowa, comes to L.A., immediately lands a hit sitcom that runs for eight seasons, produces a hit MTV show in his spare time, then marries a Hollywood icon of a previous generation, becoming a second father to her children and best friends with her ex-husband. 

But that is Ashton Kutcher’s world, and we’re just living in it. For someone with a charmed existence, he has a thorny and dark backstory: he studied biochemical engineering and grew up in a stressful family environment with feuding parents and a twin brother born with a heart condition and cerebral palsy. At 19, he was discovered in an Iowa modeling competition, made a splash in ads and on the runway, and was quickly cast on That ’70s Show as the lovable turtlenecked goon Kelso.

As a former model, he actually made a fine comic actor. Movie success proved somewhat elusive—if no one remembers The Butterfly Effect, A Lot Like Love, or The Guardian, it’s a safe bet Kutcher wouldn’t mind. But he compounded his success on TV, creating and producing the reality shows Punk’d—a genuine cultural phenomenon—and Beauty and the Geek. He didn’t do too bad extracurricularly, either. In 2003, he started dating, and later married, Demi Moore, becoming one of Hollywood’s most talked-about couples because of their fifteen-year age difference and their involvement in Kabbalah, a type of Jewish mysticism imported to public consciousness by Madonna.

But with three movies in 2008, he seems poised to provide more than tabloid conversation points: the slapstick comedy What Happens in Vegas… pairs him with his female doppelganger, Cameron Diaz (also a former model who proved to be charmingly goofy), in the story of an accidental bride and groom that has summer–crowd-pleaser written all over it. Personal Effects is an intense drama based on a Rick Moody story about a younger man and an older woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) who are drawn together by the deaths of family members and start an affair. The dark comedy Spread casts him wildly against type as a womanizing bachelor. 

Whatever happens at the box office, his golden-boy sheen looks secure: he now presides over a growing production company that’s producing a new sitcom, Miss/Guided, for ABC, along with several other projects. In a wide-ranging conversation, he talks about what is real for him and what it took to get there.

We hear this photo shoot was your idea. What was the idea, and where did it come from?
ASHTON KUTCHER I had a vision one day. I was watching one of those Gatorade commercials where they had a guy on a treadmill, and they’re testing to see what his physical abilities are. I had this idea: what did the creator—God or whatever—make you for? Maybe we’re all doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing, and we’re all actually robots. It’s a weird sort of sci-fi notion. So I called Mario Testino and I said, “What if you could get tested to see if you’re genetically designed to do what you’re doing—what would that photo shoot look like?” So we started talking about it, and Mario came up with the robotic arm and the laboratory.

Hmmm. Have you always been existential in this way? 
AK I’ve always been scientific in that way. When I was a little kid, my parents got me one of those mechanical Erector Sets where you make it run and drive, make a little engine for it, and I was always fascinated by it. I went to school for biochemical engineering. I fell out of that, but I never lost my interest for what makes something work. I look at everything and ask the question, How does that operate? How did that happen? And I look at people’s flaws and ask, How is that manifested in them?

So how about you—are you doing what you’re genetically designed to be doing?
AK I feel like I’m genetically designed to be doing a lot more than what I’ve been doing. With some things, I feel that I’ve been put on earth to do just that, and some things, not so much, because I fall on my face just like anybody else. 

Are you happy with the movies you’ve made?
AK I’m happy that I went through the experiences I went through. Some days I feel like some of the choices I’ve made weren’t necessarily the best ones, but I’m happy about where I am right now. My intention has been genuine: to entertain people. Whether I succeed or fail, my intentions are right, and I think that’s the most important thing. This year, for the first time in my career, I think I’ve had a couple of pieces of material that allow me to play characters outside of what I’ve done before, and I’m excited about that.

Is What Happens in Vegas… the kind of movie we’d expect from you and Cameron Diaz: two hours of mania?
AK I think it’s the best of what we both do. Cameron is a formidable force. I’m hard-pressed to name someone who’s made a mark in that genre as a female comedian since Meg Ryan. I was excited to go to work every day with someone who would smash that ball back to me as hard as I was hitting it at her. 

Was there any pranksterism on the set?
AK When you get us two together, it’s a party. I loved rolling into the set every day and seeing Cameron, because she’s hooting and hollering and ready to go. She’s fired up and has a real joie de vivre about the process. And I think that kind of set the tone for everyone. Each day we went to work, we went to a party and just rocked out. The scene where we’re smashed off our asses and getting married is the biggest train wreck you’ve ever seen. Romantic-comedy weddings generally are romantic—this has no hint of that. It’s just two people wasted and going at it.

Your next movie, Spread, casts you as this kind of Alfie-type swinging bachelor, right?
AK It’s about a guy who’s a dating machine—he sort of seduces women for financial gain without being officially a gigolo. It’s a pretty dirty little movie. It’s honest, and in this case that honesty is kind of brutal. 

Did you have an Alfie period?
AK I had a serial-dating period. I was pretty abusive of my attributes for a while.

What attributes?
AK My fame and my looks. I was pretty abusive to a lot of people. This movie is kind of my way to say I’m sorry to a lot of girls I may have hurt by not being respectful.

How do you feel about your looks?
AK I don’t have a feeling one way or another. I thank God for what I have. I guess I’m happy about the way I look. I think the way I look has given me some opportunities I may have not otherwise had. So I’m grateful for that.

Personal Effects is a heavyweight drama—a departure for you.
AK It’s a departure from what people have seen me do, but it’s the closest to home for me. Listen, you’re talking to me and you haven’t laughed once, right? I don’t fancy myself a really comedic person. I can be funny when someone writes a funny line. But the real core of who I am isn’t running around cracking people up all the time. The entire film was emotionally challenging. The character is a guy who’s avenging the death of his sister, and has a lot of weight to carry around. There were days that I just came home emotionally exhausted. 

What was it like working with Michelle Pfeiffer?
AK I wanted to impress her. I wanted her to have confidence in me as an acting partner. At first I was nervous about that, and when I felt that I had established her trust as an acting partner, then it was really cool. 

Did you draw on your real-life experience of romancing an older woman?
AK I don’t think I’ve ever romanced an older woman. I’ve romanced a woman. And so I drew from real-life experience in romancing a woman. In this film it’s less about me romancing her and more about her romancing me. It’s two people sort of awkwardly crashing into each other for a little bit of safety. 

How did you feel about doing the love scenes?
AK If I had stepped back as myself and said, “You’re going to work today to make love to Michelle Pfeiffer,” that would freak me the fuck out. I would have been like, “Holy shit!” I would have had a really awkward time doing that. So I just approached it from within the character’s world—just one character seeking comfort from another character, a  compartmentalized existence that wasn’t my own.

Your relationship is atypical and very public. How do you make it work? 
AK I don’t know; how do people make relationships work? I work really hard on myself to constantly become a better person, and she does the same, and by doing so we take responsibility for our actions and for one another. And we treat each other with reverence. We seek to make each other’s lives better. And by doing so we share a really unique partnership.

You said you don’t believe you’re dating an older woman. How is that possible? 
AK I don’t believe that souls have an age. I honestly never think about it. If it wasn’t shoved in my face on a daily basis by magazines or people asking questions like this, I don’t think I would even have an awareness of it. The really weird and kind of obtuse thing for me about people putting it in my face makes me really question the gender imbalance in the world. There’s no commotion when an older man is with a younger woman. There’s apparently nothing unnatural about that. I’ve thought about this artistically—I really think there is a massive gender imbalance in our society. I’m looking at Hillary Clinton running for president right now—the fact that it’s even a conversation that she’s a woman, the fact that it’s even a conversation that Barack Obama is not a Caucasian male. As inspired as I am that these are our candidates, I’m equally uninspired that there has to be some conversation about it and I really hope that we can have a woman president or an African-American
president, and maybe that conversation can end. And maybe we can see people as people. It also makes me think of my gay friends and just how difficult that has to be on a daily basis.

You’ve said Bruce Willis is one of your best friends. How can a man be best friend’s with his wife’s ex?
AK Bruce is a great father, and he’s a great friend to my wife. My barometer for people is very strongly linked with my wife. And if my wife is friends with this man, she’s friends with him for a reason, and that’s because he’s a great person. At first, sure, there’s that initial animosity you have toward someone who’s been with your significant other, that’s just your fear, your insecurities. But I have such faith in my relationship with my wife that I don’t feel that I have to have those kinds of insecurities. Then you get a real glimpse at who that person is as an individual. Bruce is one of my best friends. If I were in a pinch, he’d be there. And I’d be there for him, no matter what. I was fortunate enough that, when my parents
divorced, I had a really great stepdad, and that taught me a lot about “the other guy.” He’s a great guy, and I know my dad is a great guy. And it took my dad and stepdad a long time—maybe it took my example—to see that they could really get along. That’s an environment we want to provide for our girls. Bruce, Demi, and I want to provide an environment where they feel loved by everyone. So we became a team, we became friends.

There have been recent stories that you and Demi have left Kabbalah. True?
AK It’s not true. It’s not like a religion. It’s not something
you join, it’s not a club. So the notion of leaving or going—it doesn’t really have that. It’s a personal choice. That’s a complicated answer; the real answer is that no, I haven’t defected. [Laughs] I haven’t had the chip uninstalled.

How do you look back on Punk’d?
AK That’s a good character, right? Somebody actually said to me, “You should play that character in a movie sometime.” And I thought that was kind of cool. I was actually really happy that they recognized it as a character. I look back on it really fondly. In the end, nobody got hurt and there was no permanent damage to anyone. I think everyone understood it was all in good fun, and I had fun making it. It was a way to put all my friends to work and launch some careers. We were actually just approached to bring it back to network prime-time. I would think about producing, but I don’t know if I would be in it. I don’t know if I have the time, with all the stuff I’ve been doing.

What’s your typical day like?
AK I wake up at 7:15, say hello to my girls in the morning, tell them to have a good day at school, I then go to my office to work on the company, different productions we’re involved in, speaking with my development execs. We’re actually building a video media studio right now. In the afternoon, I’ve been working on building a character for a movie, and then either I’ll go to a soccer game or whatever the girls are doing, then go home, have dinner with my wife, watch a little A&E…

Did you ever think you’d be domesticated by the age of 30?
AK My life is so far from domesticated. That is not a good definition of me at all. Demi and I play around the world, and that is awesome. I was just on the phone with my agent and he said to me, “I don’t know many people who have it as good as you have it.” And I don’t know anyone who has it as good as I have it. I have a great spiritual foundation, an amazing career, a loving, supportive wife and family, I have a lot of friends, and I don’t have any enemies. I don’t know a lot of people who have what I have.

What do you think is your future in Hollywood?
AK My short-term goal is building Katalyst Films. I want to turn my production company into a studio. I want to become a viable buyer and creator in the marketplace, for all content. I want to turn my company into DreamWorks, basically. I’ll always have something cooking in the kitchen, but I don’t think acting is going to always be my primary focus. My long-term goal? I want to find a productive way to help other people, because I feel so blessed and content I’d like to help other people feel the same way. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I’m trying to get a game plan for that. I’ll probably do a couple of more movies. I’ll keep acting in movies as long as people want to see me in them.   

EXTRA CREDITS

hair christiaan  prosthetic makeup and robotic effects gil mosko (GM FOAM Inc.)  director of photography adam whitehead  photo assistants jemima hobson, toby whitehead, george yandell  stylist assistants Kim Howells and Marija Kovacevic  talent Nate Allsopp and Joey Ennis  Location Image Locations  Production Lucy Lee (Art Partner)  On-Site Production Erick Jussen (GE Projects)  Prop Styling Peter Klein  Digital Technician Alex Franco (R&D)  Retouching R&D

MORE TO LOVE

Odd praxis KTZ IN LA ZEBRA KATZ - Y I DO BACKSTAGE: BERLUTI
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