Milena “Mila” Kunis (Russian: Милена “Mилa” Кунис; Ukrainian: Мілена “Miлa” Куніс; born August 14, 1983; is an American actress. At the age of seven, she moved from the Ukraine to Los Angeles, California with her family. After being enrolled in acting classes to help learn English she was soon discovered by an agent. She appeared in TV shows and commercials, before her first significant role, playing Jackie Burkhart on the TV series That ’70s Show. A year later, she was cast as the voice of Meg Griffin on the animated series Family Guy.
Her breakout film role came in 2008, playing Rachel Jansen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Subsequent film roles included Mona Sax in Max Payne, Solara in The Book of Eli, and Jamie in Friends with Benefits. Her performance as Lily in Black Swan gained her worldwide accolades, including receiving the Premio Marcello Mastroianni for Best Young Actor or Actress at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, and nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
She has received substantial media attention for her beauty, including often landing on the “Hot 100″ lists for publications such as Maxim or FHM and routinely appearing on the cover of national magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and GQ magazine. Her star status was further enhanced when she signed on to be the face of the Christian Dior Spring fashion campaign. At the age of 18, she began a relationship with child star Macaulay Culkin that lasted eight years.
Kunis was born in Chernivtsi in the Ukrainian SSR. She is the daughter of Elvira, a physics teacher and drug store manager, and Mark, a mechanical engineer and cab company executive. Kunis has an older brother, Michael. In 1991, when she was seven years old, her family moved to Los Angeles, California. Kunis is Jewish and has cited antisemitism in the former Soviet Union as one of several reasons for her family’s move to the U.S. She has stated that her parents “raised [her] Jewish as much as they could”, though religion was suppressed in the Soviet Union.
On her second day in Los Angeles, Kunis was enrolled at Rosewood Elementary School not knowing a word of English. “I blocked out second grade completely. I have no recollection of it. I always talk to my mom and my grandma about it. It was because I cried every day. 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.”
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’ father enrolled her in acting classes after school at the Beverly Hills Studios, where she met Susan Curtis, who would become her manager. Her first TV role was in 1994 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 and supporting roles in Santa with Muscles, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, and the Angelina Jolie film Gia, as the young Gia Carangi.
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 would be 18 but did not 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.
In 1999, Kunis replaced Lacey Chabert in the role of Meg Griffin on the animated sitcom Family Guy, created by Seth MacFarlane for Fox. 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 was nominated for an Annie Award in the category of Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production in 2007. She also voiced Meg in the Family Guy Video Game!. Kunis described her character as “the scapegoat.”
Film work, 2001–2008
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, a sequel to the 2000 film American Psycho. American Psycho 2 was panned by critics, and later, Kunis herself expressed embarrassment over the film. In 2004, Kunis starred in the film adaptation Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. Although the film was shot in 2004, it did not have a theatrical release until 2007. Most critics did not 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”.
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. She followed up with After Sex starring alongside Zoe Saldana, who had also appeared in Get Over It. In October 2006, she began filming Boot Camp (originally titled Straight Edge). Although the film did not have a theatrical release in the United States, it was released on DVD on August 25, 2009.
Kunis starred as Rachel Jansen in the 2008 comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, co-produced by Judd Apatow. The role, which she got after unsuccessfully auditioning for Knocked Up, entailed improvisation on her part. The film garnered positive reviews, and was a commercial success, grossing $105 million worldwide. Kunis’ 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 credited Apatow with helping her to expand her career from That ’70s Show.
Also in 2008, she portrayed Mona Sax, a Russian assassin, alongside Mark Wahlberg in the action movie Max Payne, based on the video game of the same name. Kunis underwent training in guns, boxing, and martial arts for her role. Max Payne was relatively successful at the box office, grossing $85 million worldwide but was panned by critics, with several reviewers calling Kunis miscast. Travis Estvold of Boise Weekly wrote that she’s “horribly miscast as some sort of undersized, warble-voiced crime boss”. Director John Moore defended his choice of Kunis saying, “Mila just bowled us over…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 just knocked it out of the park.”. She was nominated for another Teen Choice Award for her role in the film.
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. Roger Ebert, while critical of the film itself, 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 performed well at the box office, grossing over $157 million worldwide. Film critic Richard Roeper praised Kunis’ 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 is “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.” Other critics, such as Claudia Puig of USA Today felt she was miscast, stating “she looked as if she dropped in from a Ray-Ban commercial”. Kunis received another Teen Choice Award nomination for her performance. 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. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune concluded her performance with James Franco helped save the film and gave it “a shot in the arm”.
She and Natalie Portman played rival ballet dancers in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Kunis, who was cast in the film based on her performance in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and on the recommendation of costar Natalie Portman, underwent a training regimen that included cardiovascular exercise, a 1,200-calorie a day diet (she lost 20 pounds that she regained after filming ended), and ballet classes for four hours a day, seven days a week. During the demanding production, she suffered injuries including a torn ligament and a dislocated shoulder. Black Swan has received widespread acclaim from critics and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film grossed over $100 million (106.9 million) in the US and Canada while grossing over $329 million worldwide. Reviews of Kunis’ 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 also praised 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’ performance won her the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, and earned her Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. At the 37th annual Saturn Awards she was also honored with the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance.
Kunis was cast alongside Justin Timberlake in the romantic comedy Friends with Benefits. Director Will Gluck stated that he wrote the story with Kunis and Timberlake in mind. Friends with Benefits achieved success at the box office, currently grossing over $149 million worldwide, and received mostly positive reviews with critics praising the chemistry between Kunis and Timberlake. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote that “Ms. Kunis is fast proving that she’s a gift that keeps giving to mainstream romantic comedy” and “her energy is so invigorating and expansive and her presence so vibrant that she fills the screen”.
Kunis has confirmed that her next project will be Ted, co-starring Mark Wahlberg, and directed and co-written by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. She will follow up Ted with the upcoming Walt Disney Pictures’ prequel, Oz: The Great and Powerful, where she will play Theodora, the youngest of three witches, opposite James Franco.
Kunis has attracted notable media attention for her physical appearance by various media outlets. Praise has ranged from Premiere.com ranking her the most beautiful woman in Hollywood in 2009 to GQ Magazine naming her the Knockout of the Year for 2011. She was named one of the “100 Hottest Women of All-Time” by Men’s Health.
In addition, the Spike Guys’ Choice Awards have honored her twice, naming her the “Hottest Mila” at the 2009 awards ceremony and in 2011 presenting her with the Holy Grail of Hot award. AskMen.com has also lauded Kunis ranking her the second most desirable woman in 2011 and following that up with a number thirteen ranking in 2012. FHM magazine ranked her number 17 on their 2010 Hot 100 list but Kunis has kept this type of media attention in perspective, saying, “You’ve got to base your career on something other than being FHM’s top 100 number one girl. Your looks are going to die out, and then what’s going to be left?” In recent years Maxim has consistently ranked Kunis on their Hot 100 list, reaching a ranking of number 5 in both 2009 and 2011.
In 2007, Kunis participated in a video for the website Funny or Die appearing 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 December 2008, Kunis was featured in Gap’s “Shine Your Own Star” Christmas campaign.
Kunis was described as one of the “most attractive geeks” by Wired.com in 2008, due to her much-publicized affinity for World of Warcraft. That same year, she was featured and on the cover of the October issue of Complex Magazine. In December 2008, Kunis was featured in Gap’s “Shine Your Own Star” Christmas campaign.
In 2010, she was featured in the “Women We Love” segment in Esquire with an accompanied video. 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 was among several female stars photographed by Canadian singer/songwriter Bryan Adams in conjunction with the Calvin Klein Collections for a feature titled American Women 2010, with the proceeds from the photographs donated to the NYC AIDS foundation. Also in 2010, Kunis was featured and on the cover of the December issue of Nylon. During the summer of 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.
In 2011, Kunis graced the cover of the February issue of Cosmopolitan and the March issue of W magazine. For the 17th Annual Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair, Kunis was among the actors to be chosen to appear on the cover. In support of her film Friends with Benefits she landed on the cover of Elle magazine and GQ magazine.
Christian Dior signed Kunis in 2012 to be the face of its Spring fashion campaign and she made the cover of the April issue of Harper’s Bazaar.
Kunis began dating actor Macaulay Culkin in 2002. At one time there were rumors of the couple getting married, but Kunis denied them, saying:
I’ve been engaged. I think I’ve already been married. And I’m sure I have a child somewhere. I’m waiting to have something else happen. No, I’m not married. And no, I’m not engaged. And no, I do not have a child. No one seems to listen. And next week I’ll be engaged again. I think, at one point, they were like, ‘Seen shopping in Beverly Hills for engagement rings.’ We were in Japan working. What is wrong with these people? Half the time you can say they misconstrued facts. But, more often than not, they just make stuff up.
In an interview with BlackBook Magazine Kunis stated that marriage is “not something that’s important to me”. Kunis said she tried her best to protect her and Culkin’s privacy, noting that “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.” On January 3, 2011, Kunis’ publicist confirmed reports that Kunis and Culkin had ended their relationship, saying “The split was amicable, and they remain close friends”.
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 a 2008 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she stated she had not used voice chat in the game since another player recognized her voice. Although Kunis has described herself as a “computer nerd”, she does not have a Myspace, Facebook or Twitter account. Kunis discussed her desire for privacy: “Why would I want to share my life with the world when it’s being shared already, without my consent? The only problem with not having an account is that there are fake accounts, pretending to quote me. But what am I going to tweet about?”
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.” In an interview Kunis elaborated: “I love to hang out with my friends….I love to sit home in my pajamas and watch TiVo. That brings me so much happiness. That’s it. It’s quiet and calm.”
In January 2011, she revealed her struggle with an eye condition called chronic iritis that had caused blindness in one eye. However, a couple of months earlier she had surgery that corrected the problem. Kunis also has the condition heterochromia iridum, where the irises have different colors. One eye is brown, and the other is green.
In November 2011, Kunis was escorted by Sgt. Scott Moore to a United States Marine Corps Ball in Greenville, North Carolina. Kunis had accepted Moore’s invitation in June after he posted it as a YouTube video while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The event celebrated the Marine Corps’ 236th anniversary.