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Exclusive Interview: Ashton Kutcher, “Spread”

August 11th, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

After the premiere of Ashton Kutcher’s Spread (see the trailer here) at Sundance earlier this year, tongues started wagging across the Internet. After all, the movie centers on a freeloading hipster, Nikki (played by Kutcher), who sleeps with wealthy, successful women in order to maintain a privileged lifestyle. But Spread isn’t just about a younger guy’s penchant for “cougars” — though we see plenty of action between Kutcher and older co-star Anne Heche. Nikki also gets an important lesson on love and the sacrifices it sometimes takes to find true love.

Spread opens in theaters August 14, but you can get a sneak peek right here on Hulu with this exclusive clip from the film. We also spoke to Kutcher about the film, his role as producer, and his co-star, Margarita Levieva. Check out the interview below the clip embedded below. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Hulu: In addition to starring in Spread, you also produced it. You’re famous for so many different things, what draws you to producing?

Ashton Kutcher: I feel that producing is a just sort of a deeper engagement in the film process. When you act in a film, you go and you give your performance and then so much is done in post and pre-production that manipulates the performance. And I feel like, when you produce a film, you have an opportunity to sort of craft the big picture and details at the same time. In some ways, when you’re telling a story; the context of the character that’s within the story can be manipulated one way or another based on all that’s around that character. When you’re producing, you get a more active hand in the storytelling process. I really enjoy that, and I also appreciate facilitating other actors and performers and creators, and helping facilitate their visions. I just find the act of giving that to be a very rewarding action.

Spread has some racy moments — especially coming from the guy that starred in That ’70s Show. Can you tell us about your character, Nikki?

My character, Nikki, is a guy who came to Los Angeles with this dream of sort of being in the glitz and the glamour and the life of all that the city promises. He finds himself not necessarily having the talent or the wherewithal to get where he wants to go, and so he makes some moral compromises for himself [so he can] feel the effect of the hard work he hasn’t done through an alternative means.

Do you think Nikki is likable?
I think he’s likable enough. I think he’s likable enough to take a journey with him. But I don’t think he’s, you know, outwardly likable. He’s not Barack Obama, I’ll tell you that.

Some of the buzz around this film is that the subject matter hits kind of close to home for you. Why did you take on a role like this, where you’re playing a younger guy who hooks up with older women?

I think that there’s only one older woman in the movie. I think most of the women in the movie are actually younger than him. You know, I don’t know that there’s really a correlation between my personal life and the relationships that I have in my personal life and the relationships that this character has and pursues. So I think that the people that are assuming a correlation — based on the fact that one of the women that he dates is older — are looking at it from a very surface point of view, and maybe they’re only looking at the log line of the film, and that’s probably where they’re drawing those correlations.

The older woman in Spread being Anne Heche, of course. This film also introduces us to Margarita Levieva, who plays another interest of Nikki’s — someone who’s closer to his age. She’s a relative newcomer. Can you tell us about her?

We were looking at this list of people that the cast and directors build that they’re interested in. It usually starts with people that are well known, and different people that you feel can take on the role, that people know of. We had that list put together and we were getting ready to pursue some of those actors. At the same time, you’re always auditioning new people that most people have never heard of or seen. Margarita came into my office and auditioned and was just so incredible and captivating. She carried all of the essential properties of the character, but did it in a very fresh way that none of us had seen before. She had an innocence, but when she turned the corner, had such a manipulative side to her, that we all felt like “Why even pursue the list when we have someone that we know can perform this role in a way that nobody else can do it?” And then she came in and, even though she’s a young actor, she just came in and hit home runs every single day. She was interesting and sexy and smart. She’s a really, really intelligent girl. She’s Russian and speaks English flawlessly. There’s something about that multi-dimensional layer, you feel like she’s hiding something all the time, but you can’t really put your finger on what it is that she’s hiding. And it played really well in the character.

What do you think draws Nikki to Heather (played by Levieva) in the first place? When he meets her, she’s not living the lifestyle he’s grown accustomed to.

I think we’ve all got this preconceived notion of who we should be with in our heads. A lot of people that are single are kind of fooling around with this preconceived notion that the person they’re going to be with is gonna be like this, and they’re gonna be like that, and they’re gonna have this, and they’re gonna have that, and then, eventually somebody comes into your life that pushes back in a way that nobody else pushes back, somebody that challenges you and who you are and what you believe and what you want and, all of a sudden, all of those superficial parameters that you placed on who that person is that you’re going to be with kind of go out the window. Because what we really want deep down, or what I believe our soul wants, is somebody who is going to push us to be a better person. I think that [Heather] does it from the get-go. The scene in the coffee shop — for this guy, every other girl would fall immediately and be invested. And this girl sort of pushes back and says “You know what? I don’t want anything to do with you.” I think that just the very challenge of that makes her more enticing to this guy, because he knows she’s someone that’s not going to tell him just what he wants to hear.

You famously have a legion of fans following you on Twitter these days. How are you going to use Twitter to get fans to see this film?

Well, for me, it’s not about getting my fans to see this movie. If the fans want to see the movie, they’ll see the movie. I think the great thing that Twitter will provide is I can let them know when the movie’s coming out. And I can show people the trailer, so what’s nice about it is, there’s an instant connection with the fans and the people who are already interested in what I’m doing and the work that I’m doing. It’s a really great sort of broadcast tool, where we can talk about the movie in a deeper way and I can show the materials in the movie, and then if they want to see it, they can go see it. For me, it’s not about pushing people to see the movie, it’s making them aware that it’s out there. What the great thing is, while actually in the process of making the trailer for the movie and things like that, I’ve taken different music and posted it on Twitter, and said “Hey, do you guys like this song? Do you think it would fit the trailer for the movie?” and they were like, “Yeah, we love this song. We think it’s great.” So I put the song in the trailer for the movie and it really helped me design the campaign for the movie in an interactive way. In a part, it’s their movie, as well, which I think is very cool.

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