Justin and Mila: More Than Just Friends
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, who are certainly among the most charismatic actors working today, follow last year’s celebrated dramatic performances (in The Social Network and Black Swan, respectively) with costarring roles in the engaging sex comedy Friends With Benefits (now in theaters). Directed by Will (Easy A) Gluck, the film offers both actors an opportunity to display their ample comedic chops as two incredibly attractive single people, still reeling from recent nasty breakups, who decide to embark on a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. Stealing nearly every scene he’s in is Woody Harrelson as a randy sportswriter who at first takes more than a professional interest in Timberlake’s character. Timberlake and Kunis tell The Advocate how they feel about filming sex scenes, discuss why it’s important to shatter stereotypes, and demonstrate how passionate they are about marriage equality.
The Advocate: You two share some incredibly intimate scenes in Friends With Benefits. How well did you know each other before you started filming?
Justin Timberlake: I knew Mila for a long time, she just didn't know me [Kunis and Timberlake both laugh]. No, no we had a real conversation for the first time when we went to dinner with Will. We bonded over some potty-mouth humor, a very lowbrow sense of humor. We still share that. The three of us sat down and talked about this as a potential project, what we wanted it to be versus what it was at the time.
Mila Kunis: We both wanted the movie to be a certain way.
How did you envision the film?
Timberlake: This was being pitched to us as this big romantic comedy, but we wanted to make a generational comedy. I think we saw the opportunity to break some boundaries. Any time we can have a film that, in the most wit-filled way, can be a commentary on what's ridiculous about your generation, that's a funny movie to watch. When we first meet each other we have this idea of what we actually want each other to be based on the breakups we just went through. And I love that in this movie, you fall in love with these two people individually and the fact that they don't realize how perfect they are for each other because of their friendship.
You have really great chemistry together. Did you research other romantic comedy teams?
Kunis: Unintentionally. I've watched a lot of comedies in my 27 years, not knowing that one day they would come to good use. I enjoy romantic comedies, but I didn't want to be in one. And this was the first time I wanted to do something like this. But that being said, I do love romantic comedies. I wish I could lie. I wish I could lie and tell you they're all full of shit. They're not. I enjoy them. I do! [Laughs]
It must have been fun to turn all the conventions of the genre on their ear.
Timberlake: Exactly. I never wanted to do a romantic comedy. But I don’t look at this film as a romantic comedy. I'm not a huge fan of romantic comedies. I will say that they serve as a great escape. If they're done correctly they make you think. It's so funny that we go to movies to escape, but when we're in there watching, we find everything that's relative to our own lives.
Your film is rather graphic sexually, but the scenes are humorous, which must undercut the tension of being so exposed and vulnerable. Would either of you consider doing a more dramatic film with this much sexual content?
Timberlake: That wouldn’t be part of my decision making process. If the story spoke to me and the characters were original and there’s a good director ... I recently just rewatched Lust, Caution [Ang Lee’s 2007 erotic drama] and that was a fucking amazing movie. Have you seen that?
Timberlake: Oh, my God, you have to see that movie! It was a fucking amazing movie. It's every bit as amazing as Brokeback Mountain. I’m in awe of his movies. There's an incredible amount of graphic sexuality, but the characters are so rich and their relationship is so full of passion. And if it's done in such a way that you're invested in the characters, I think movies are about characters, and they're about people and the truth. I think it's obvious that I put my body on the line for comedy. I wouldn't mind doing it for drama, either if I felt it was true, if it was real. You know, because then it doesn't feel exploitive. But I watch it and I'm emotional. I cry. I mean, the reason I cry is because it's just a beautiful, beautiful movie. The sex scenes are pretty hot.
Your costar Woody Harrelson plays a character who is probably best described as a gay cock hound.
[Kunis and Timberlake laugh] Timberlake: Well said! That is the best description of his character I’ve heard. Woody is going to be so stoked when I tell him The Advocate called him a gay cock hound.
Do you know guys like him in real life?
Kunis: Yes. [Laughs]
Timberlake: Sure. I want to say that once we came up with the idea that Woody's character would be gay, it was really important to me that we use that as an opportunity to break anything that is a stereotype. Stereotypes are offensive to our culture. I'm a straight male who has male friends who are gay. We don't have any
problem communicating. We don't have any problem being two guy friends
regardless of our differences in sexual orientation. It just so happens that Woody's character happens to be a cock hound, like you said. When you first meet him he makes those abrasive jokes, but it's just his specific character's sense of humor. It was perfect to have Woody in this role, because we wanted to take some chances and break some stereotypes.
I think Woody’s character does indeed defy conventional stereotypes
of gay supporting characters in romantic comedies with straight
Timberlake: Good, good. I hope that it feels
empowering to the gay community and I hope that it feels empowering to
the world, in that sense. Any way that we can take what has made
someone, who feels like they have been discriminated against,
uncomfortable and the discomfort of whoever is discriminating against
them. Anytime you can use humor to bring those two avenues closer
together and say, "Hey, man, we're just different." I was just really
proud that we were able to have that in the movie and I hope that it
speaks to people in a true, honest way and to anybody who feels
discriminated against because of their sexual preference.
Mila, you’ve been an outspoken proponent for equality and previously expressed to The Advocate how upset you were by the passing of California’s Proposition 8. You must be excited about New York legalizing same-sex marriage.
Kunis: Listen, my roommate's gay. You're talking to somebody who grew up in Hollywood, so I don't know otherwise. So my stance on it is I think people are scared of what they don't know. A lot of times people don't understand something because they're not around it. The second that you show them, they become a little more accepting, and they're more open to evolving and moving forward. And I think it's great that there are people in this world who are willing to do something that should have been done, 40, 50, 60 years ago. I also think it's great that “don't ask, don't tell” is over with. I think that a lot of things are moving in the right direction. And truly believe that in my lifetime gay marriage will be legalized [everywhere in this country]. I do. Like, federally legal. I do believe in that. I don't think it's going to be tomorrow. It's unfortunate that it's not, but if things keep moving in the direction that they are now, in 10, 20 years, yeah, I do believe it will be federally legal.
Timberlake: I was stoked. I mean, I was stoked that that happened. I think it's just ... we're people and we're different, all of us. And we should be using our differences to bring ourselves closer together. You know? Not be afraid of something that we don't know. Like Mila said, and you know, I have a lot of guy friends who are gay. Two of my best friends are a couple, and my conversation with them is, like, it's unfortunate that things take a while to progress like this, but it was a great, great victory for equality. I’m proud that New York has balls to stand up for what’s right.