Natalie and Ashton Have “No Strings Attached”
Natalie Portman is on a roll. She found her man, is having a baby and just won a Golden Globe for her performance as a mentally-fragile ballerina in Black Swan. For a change of pace, the versatile actress took on comedy and paired up with rom/com staple leading man Ashton Kutcher to play a doctor who only has time for emotionless hook-ups in the very modern No Strings Attached.
The tables are switched in this relationship romp as Ashton plays a sweet guy on the rebound who is still willing to commit to a real relationship. He picks a girl who just wants to hook up! Go figure.
We’re with the duo in Beverly Hills to talk relationships in general and in the film.
WARNING: This film is rated “R” and is pretty steamy at times. The stars talk candidly about the hook-up scenes in the movie and their opinions on sex without emotional connection, etc.
TeenHollywood: Natalie, with Black Swan, if you throw in your upcoming movies Your Highness and Thor, this is a pretty eclectic several months for you. Was that by design or by accident?
Natalie: Well, you have heard the apocalypse is coming in 2012 on the Mayan calendar. Thought I’d get it all in before. It was a great opportunity to get to do a lot of different things in a year, and I feel like I’ve learned so much from doing all these different types of movies. You bring the research and the seriousness and the discipline of doing a drama into something like Thor, and you bring the humor and the improvisational attitude for something like Your Highness into Black Swan.
It was really kind of a lucky order to do Your Highness and then Black Swan and then Thor and then No Strings. It was really interesting. I feel bad for boring people with my face for a while, but as an actress it was really an exciting thing to get to work on all these things almost back to back.
TeenHollywood: Ashton, this is Natalie’s first rom/com so did you do anything to put her more at ease or just tease her mercilessly and Punk her? [Natalie giggles].
Ashton: [laughs] No. I learned more from Natalie I think in one day on the set together than I could ever possibly teach her in a billion years. She may not have done a rom/com film before, but she’s done so much work in so many different levels. I even watched Garden State or something like that, and it’s comedic in and of itself. I don’t know that there’s anything I can really teach her.
Natalie: Well, that’s very sweet, but…
TeenHollywood: Did he tease you at all?
Natalie: Tease me? [to Ashton] You always tease me. He’s like ‘Are you wearin’ flats again?’ [laughter]
Ashton: It was mostly height jokes. She would get very upset with me. She’s like my child. I asked her if she could reach the pedals in the car. That didn’t over particularly well [Natalie is doing more giggling in the background].
TeenHollywood: Ashton, what’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for someone?
Ashton: I think that romance sort of coincides with effort. You can fall flat on your face, but as long as you’re making great effort, I think it comes off as romantic. So it can be something as simple as, if you’re someone who doesn’t cook, you make a meal. For me, I’m a little bit of a workaholic, and I was like in a different country, and I had one day off, and I flew from that different country just to see someone for an hour. And then turn around and go back.
TeenHollywood: That’s majorly romantic. Natalie, you are also an executive producer on this film. How do you balance that with starring in the movie?
Natalie: It’s a really exciting process to get to be involved for the first time so early. I [signed] on a couple of years I think before the project so it was fun to be included in the sort of evolution of the script and seeing how it changed and why it changed, and to have Ivan’s [the director’s] expertise of pacing and figuring out that at the end there needs to be more movement. The original script had a contained scene at the end and he’s like ‘No we have to get them moving on the road’ and, to learn those things in the process was really exciting.
TeenHollywood: Ashton, the lead couple in the film are friends first before hooking up. Do you think that friendship can survive sex without feeling?
Ashton: I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been fortunate enough to have one of those relationships. You know, I really think that whoever you’re with ultimately needs to be your friend. In all the really successful, happy relationships that I know, the people that are together are friends anyway. I don’t know that sex always has to have feelings but I know that friendship always does. So if you’re friends, you’re going to have feelings of some sort, some layer, some level of like a deeper feeling. So I don’t know that it’s completely possible.
TeenHollywood: Natalie: How did you make a quick turnaround for this film after Black Swan and the intense training?
Natalie: You’re like how did you get fat so quickly? [laughter] It was pretty great. It was like a palate cleanser after all of that to go from a really disciplined, focused, very serious kind of set to be really playful, fun but still very professional on this kind of movie. There’s an improvisational feel all of the time, and everyone is there to play, and it was a really great atmosphere and I didn’t have to work out. She’s a doctor! They don’t have time.
TeenHollywood: Natalie, did you create any backstory for your character to establish how she got to this point [of not wanting any emotional ties in a relationship]?
Natalie: Absolutely. A lot of it was provided for me in Liz Meriwether’s script about having this incredible loss early on and not really wanting to be this pillar for her family and not wanting to get hurt. And also I think most women have known someone like this, if they’re not like this themselves. They know what happens that leads you to a point where you’re not even looking for intimacy anymore, you’re just looking for the physical side, and not the emotional side. Something breaks a little bit before you get to that point. It’s not just the way that you’re born.
TeenHollywood: Thanks for advocating safe sex in your movie. Can you comment about how sex in films is being glorified lately and how that might affect teens?
Natalie: Well, I’m not a teen. That’s the first thing I’ll say. I’m a grown up.
Ashton: Even though she’s small. . .[laughter]
Natalie: Obviously it is really prevalent in our country and I think that’s part of what the movie addresses. We have so much sex in our media that is dissociated from emotions. We have so much separation between feeling and the emotional and the physical side of sex. And they really do belong together. And yes, condoms were fake used in the fake sex scenes in the movie. Use a real condom, not a prop condom.
Ashton: One of the interesting things, especially for women, in the sex education process in schools, the one thing they teach about is how to get pregnant and how to not get pregnant, but they don’t really talk about sex as a point of pleasure for women. Women aren’t empowered around their own sexuality so to create a movie with a female lead who is empowered with her own sexuality I think is a really, really powerful thing.
TeenHollywood: How much playing around did you guys do with your dialogue?
Natalie: Well, I have to say that Liz wrote 99 per cent of what you see on screen. Like everything is really there in the script, it was really a very, very funny script always. I think that’s what always carried us through. For me, I think the most was the pumpkin night probably, when I was screaming at the girls, [calling one a pumpkin]. We had a lot of pumpkin-related jokes that were going on for a very long time.
TeenHollywood: Can you talk about shooting the first hook up scene in which there are a lot of close ups?
Natalie: The main thing was that I think we did the scene pretty deep into the shoot, so we had already had a comfortable sort of [relationship]. As comfortable as you can be in that scenario and had respect.
Ashton: I was wearing sweat pants
Natalie: I was not.
Ashton: I think you’re always wondering when the word “cut” is going to be said when you’re doing these scenes. Like you’re there and you’re doing that scene and you’re always sort of like ‘Okay, when are they going to cut that? How far are we taking this’? So I think it’s always like that and it was sort of technical too. Ivan comes back and . . . says ‘I think you need to [finish] sooner’. So your male machismo is like, ‘No, not at all. It’s gonna take me much longer than this.’ [laughter]. I’m sure every actor says that it’s always very technical, because you’re trying to show each other’s faces but stay in the moment. It’s always slightly more complicated than it is in real life.
TeenHollywood: Do you two both have to look at the dailies after doing those scenes? Do you have to talk about completely different things afterwards. How do you approach that? Is it still embarrassing watching that?
Natalie: I’m pretty immature, so I get pretty embarrassed easily. Yeah, I would check out once in a while certain shots to make sure I felt okay. I went ‘Well that’s not really bad because it was really quick’, it wasn’t like lingering on anything that I felt modest about or anything. You do sort of go the opposite direction between takes, ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ totally benign conversation in between to make it a little normal.
Ashton: I just start by apologizing. You sort of try to set some ground rules. Somebody told me and I’m not sure who the actor was, I think it was like Sir Laurence Olivier who said ‘I apologize if I get aroused and I apologize if I do not get aroused’. There’s always like that kind of awkward state of ‘Is this okay, is that okay?’ And then in between it’s like let’s just act like nothing happened. Then you see how good an actor you really are.
TeenHollywood: Natalie, how are you handling all the Oscar speculation. Are you enjoying every moment? What has been the best moment for you so far?
Natalie: It’s a big honor to have people be excited about a movie you make. It’s the one thing you want is for an audience to connect to what you make, so it’s always really exciting to have that feeling. And I think the best experience so far is that we got to do a roundtable with all the actresses. And it’s so rare to get to sit with other actresses of all generations. People who are just starting out, people who have been doing it for thirty years, and to hear everyone’s experience and hear what it’s like for people to be mothers and actresses, and I wished it wasn’t on camera but it was the coolest thing. I was like ‘If I could just get this experience, it’s like the best prize for anything just to get to hang out with these other women I admire’.
TeenHollywood: What’s coming up for you?
Natalie: I’m cooking a child so….
Ashton: I’m getting ready to reunite with Gary Marshall on a New Year’s Eve project that’s not a sequel but somewhat of a follow up to the Valentine’s Day movie we did.