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6 Degrees Entertainment

Mila Kunis   ('Max Payne') Mila Kunis ('Max Payne')

'Breaking the Payne Barrier'

Beautiful and funny Mila Kunis may be best known as the self-involved and outspoken Jackie Burkhart on "That '70s Show" but the luminous actress established a prosperous career in acting before even graduating from high school.

A native of Ukraine, Kunis also provided the voice for the character of Meg Griffin on the popular animated series "Family Guy" and has appeared in the films "Get Over It" (2001), "American Psycho II: All American Girl" (2002), and most recently in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008).

In her latest film, 'Max Payne,' she co-stars opposite Mark Wahlberg in this dark adaptation of the video game as assassin Mona Sax.

As this wasn't the mind of movie any of us expected you to act in - given your history - was it something that you fought to do or was it offered to you? [Kunis] "I fought to do it. I mean, I fought to do it as much as I could possibly fight, you know? I respect John so much for taking the chance and fighting for me, because there's a whole list of other actors that would have been the more obvious choice. And I read for it twice, and John went to battle for me. And I love him for it."

What was it about this, that really appealed to you? "I've respected Mark for many, many years, and I've always wanted to work with him. So that was definitely a huge attraction to doing - you know, doing a movie that could so go either direction. As long as you feel like you're surrounded with strong actors, you feel a little safer. And I respect Mark, and I respect his choices. And so I was more than sure that this wasn't gonna be one of those really bad movies. And so that being said - I've always wanted to play someone who kicks ass. I mean, who doesn't want to hold a gun."

Did it kind of remind you, in some ways, of why you wanted to be an actress? This whole idea of fantasy? "Yeah. It's why I wanted to do films when I finished '70s, is because I wanted to be able to try different things and do different things, and experience all sorts of life. And play pretend, in the best possible sense. And you can't play pretend more than this type of movie."

There's also an inherent degree of darkness about this "Yeah."

Do you find it easier to leave characters and leave this kind of thing behind at the end of the day? "Not as easy as probably leaving a comedy behind at the end of the day. But - you know, there have been harder things to leave behind. You know, it's still just a character."

What did you do to prepare for this, physically? "I did a lot of gun training. Just a lot of weapons training. And that was pretty much it."

That sounds like fun! "Yeah."

And I presume that pointing a gun at Mark Wahlberg was satisfying?! "Life could be so much worse!"

You were born in the Ukraine, yes? <>"Yeah."

How old were you, when you moved to the States? "Seven."

What brought your family over here? "Freedom!"

So it was just getting away from the Soviet Union? "Yes. My brother and I, my Mom, my Dad, my grandparents."

Do you remember what you were experiencing in the Ukraine? "No, I don't. I was lied to, and I was told we were moving down the street. We didn't move down the street. I don't remember much. I've said this before - I don't know how much I created into a memory, and how much of it - you know, my parents told stories, so now it's a memory - and how much of it truly was a memory. I remember having a perfectly fine time in Russia."

So, when you grew up in the States, was acting a kind of a release from any of that repression, or was it just simply something for you to escape into? "I think it was truly just fun. I mean, it was really nothing more than that, at the age of nine. It was just - I didn't realize what it was. My parents never put pressure on it. If it was up to them, I'd never do it in the first place. I would never have done it. They did not want me to do it. They didn't want me to have anything to do with this. They didn't get it. They just didn't understand it."

"So because I never had pressure, I never knew what it was. It was like - it was a responsibility of, "Well, if you get a job, get up on time and do your work, and you're done." But I never looked at it as a job. It was just - "Oh, this is a great way for me to get out of school, and I get to play with kids my own age. And - you know, do something different." Like, it was just so much fun to do something different. And then at 18 is when it was obviously truly a conscious decision of mine to make it a career."

When did you realize that that should be something you should do? "Eighteen."

Why? "Because I wanted to quit. At 18 - I couldn't quit, because I was in a contract with 70's Show. So my thought was, "Okay," I was gonna let the contract run out, and I was gonna go - I was planning to go to school. Finish '70s Show, and get, like, a real life. And at 18 I was like - okay. I don't think this is my life. I don't think I'm cut out for this. I don't enjoy this, I don't like anything that comes along with it. So I quit for two months."

"Which doesn't sound like a lot. But at the time, it was more than enough for me to realize - I mean, I quit pursuing other projects. I couldn't quit '70s. So I went to college, and I shot '70s. And in those two months, I quickly realized that I love what I do."

When the show ended, was there a huge sense of relief? "It was bittersweet. I don't know if "relief" is the right word, because it's something that - when '70s ended, I can't explain to you how much Laura Prepon and I cried. It was like - I'd say Laura Prepon, Debra Jo and I - and all the boys. You think you're tough, and you think you're ready for it. Because it was exhaust--it was one of the things, we're like, "We're done. We're done, we're done, we're done, we're done. It was a great experience, but we're done"."

"Weeks leading up to it, we're like, "This is no big deal." The last week of production, I cannot explain to you how hard it was to get through a scene. You just start crying. It had nothing to do with anything other than the realization that you will never have this, ever again. Something that you have every day for eight years."

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