Mila Kunis cut her teeth on Fox’s television sitcom That 70s Show, along with a recurring gig on Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy. But she wasn’t content to rest on her sitcom laurels, and eventually found substantial roles on the big screen… including Date Night, The Book of Eli and Black Swan. Her latest role sends her to the land of Oz, playing a good witch who welcomes the wonderful wizard when he arrives. She’ talked about the role at a recent press day for the film, along with the challenges of taking on such a beloved property.
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who haven’t read Entertainment Weekly, go no further. Serious revelations about the film lie ahead.
Question: Your character has one of the most important arcs in the film, and Sam Raimi mentioned how you kind of came up with the idea of playing your character as a woman scorned. Can you talk a little bit about that process?
Mila Kunis: I got very nervous about playing such an iconic character or at least playing a character that had such an iconic end result. I didn’t want to ruin it and I didn’t want to re-create it and I didn’t want to re-interpret it. So in order for me to wrap my head around it, I had to make sense of her origin. Here’s a girl who’s incredibly naïve and very young and doesn’t believe she’s worthy of love; she’s never really truly experienced love. Then she gets her heart broken and probably doesn’t have the emotional tools of dealing with heartache. I honestly viewed her as just a normal girl who gets her heart broken who just so happens to be a witch.
Q: Was it fun playing a witch?
MK: Yeah. Very rarely are you given the opportunity to have such a fantastical character. That’s the truth. I say this because I had incredible actors that I felt safe with and I had the most incredible safety net with Sam Raimi. Knowing that could I maybe not do the best take in the world, but would have the opportunity to do another and another. I was allowed to play around, and have that little tennis match back and forth. You don’t want to play around with this role too much because then it becomes something completely crazy and unbelievable. But oh God, it’s so fun to be a part of this world. It’s fun to play somebody who has no boundaries, who has no rules. There’s no book you can read on how to play a witch so you kind of just create your own version thereof.
Q: How tough were the stunts and wire work here?
MK: I keep doing movies that require wires, so I guess I’m enjoying it. The truth is it’s not hard. It’s really not hard to be wired and to have somebody else be responsible for the wire work. Your only responsibility is to sustain 17 hours on those wires. I work out a little bit for that purpose, just to keep your energy and endurance up. But it’s the choreographers and the stunt men and the effects guys who do all that, I’m just an instrument for their great work. The movie that I’m doing after this one requires a lot more wire training than this one did. The Wachowskis’ movie. This one I know prepped me for it.
Q: You’re following in the footsteps of Margaret Hamilton, who’s sort of the last word on wicked witches. As great as she is, hers is a performance of another era, a very broad performance that couldn’t really fly today. How did you navigate that previous performance, bringing it up to date without losing the mad cackles and whatnot?
MK: It’s tough. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I’d be lying if I told you that it wasn’t incredibly frightening, because it is. Hamilton was phenomenal and created such an iconic character for going on eighty years now. It’s so associated with so many things, let alone Oz or Halloween or witches in general. I wasn’t gonna touch it; there was no way of me ever doing it justice. So I tried to approach the role more like a love letter to her than an attempt to compete with her or re-create her.