By Alan Zeitlin
Jewish actress Mila Kunis has charmed millions of fans around the world, but did she charm her way into America?
After a screening of her new film “Luckiest Girl Alive” at the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Sept. 29, the star, who rose to fame playing Jackie Burkhart on “That ’70s Show,” told the crowd that as a child she strolled into the office of the woman who was to decide if her family would be allowed to go to the United States. They’d been at the American embassy in Moscow for about 16 hours, and she asked if she had any candy. The woman had something better.
“Long story short, she was like, ‘Welcome to America,’” recalled Kunis, saying she was about 7 when her family received a religious refugee visa.
Interviewed by Josh Horowitz, who has covered film for MTV, she said her parents initially lied and told her that they were moving across the street, but when they needed to take a train to the Moscow embassy, she realized that wasn’t true.
Kunis had her first on-screen kiss with Ashton Kutcher, who played Michael Kelso on “That ’70s Show.” The hit Fox program ended in 2006. Kunis and Kutcher got married in 2015 and have two children.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the couple has donated funds and helped raise $35 million for Kunis’ native embattled country. In fact, she got choked up when she told the audience that her daughter, who is now 8, expressed pride in being half-Ukrainian when discussing the ongoing war. Kunis said she returned to Ukraine about five years ago for a visit.
She famously starred with Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” and said that film, as well as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” proved that she could make it in movies. People had advised her to stick to television, but she didn’t listen.
Horowitz noted that Kutcher recently said his movie with Portman, “No Strings Attached,” was basically the same movie as “Friends With Benefits,” which starred Kunis and Justin Timberlake.
“We were better, but it’s no big deal,” quipped Kunis, drawing laughs.
With a screenplay by Jessica Knoll, whose best-selling book is the basis for the film “Luckiest Girl Alive,” Kunis stars as Ani FaNelli, who’s in position to become a senior editor at The New York Times, though her husband wants to move to London. As the movie goes
on, Ani struggles to deal with a past trauma as a victim of sexual violence, and she is disturbed by rumors about whether or not she had a connection to a horrific high school attack that some did not survive. The film, which streams on Netflix, features one of Kunis’ strongest performances.
She said the film’s voice-over is particularly important as the character relives her trauma. She called Knoll’s voice “incredibly specific” and said she chose to do the film because it is in part based on the writer’s real life.
As to whether she prefers comic or intense dramatic roles, Kunis said that she has no preference.
“There’s an ego that comes with filmmaking,” she went on to explain. “If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying.”