The term ‘friends with benefits’ has become an accepted term in the Western world of casual relationships, but the jury is still out as to whether such ‘friendships’ are wholly moral, or fair on both people involved – and they are, of course, unacceptable in many other cultures. Naturally, a film carrying such a controversial name has already stirred much hype across Dubai’s radio stations – and snared an US$18 million (Dhs66m) opening weekend in the US. Combine the title with heartthrob stars Justin Timberlake (the pop king who is now coming into his own as a comedy actor) and Mila Kunis, she of Date Night (2010) and Max Payne (2008) fame – and you have a guaranteed Dubai cinema smash. Here we get the inside scoop from Kunis.
Justin Timberlake plays your character’s ‘friend with benefits’. How did you get along with him?
I had met him before, although I hardly knew him. But we were given the opportunity to work for three months on the script, so we soon became friends and got to know each other before the shoot.
Have you stayed friends since?
Yes – that doesn’t normally happen.
So, you helped to finish the script before the shoot.
The script ended up being worked on for a period of two or three months prior to production. Justin, [director] Will Gluck and I would get together and work on the dialogue and the characters scene by scene until we made them what we wanted them to be, and made sure they reacted in the way we believed they should react.
Was that a new experience for you?
Yes, because I’ve never done a movie in which I’ve been involved in the whole process. This time I was there when we rewrote everything for months and months. It has been really rewarding and refreshing. That’s why I initially said yes to the film. Also then, of course, I wanted to work with Justin…
How important was it for you to feel comfortable with Justin Timberlake on set?
In a movie like this, you need to feel comfortable with your partner in crime. You want to know there is a safety net underneath you in case you make a mistake – which you will – and that there is someone there to pick you up. In that sense, I couldn’t have felt more comfortable than with Justin. We were in the same boat together.
Tell us about your character, Jamie.
My character is a twentysomething who is trying to figure out her life and who she is. Her heart has been broken multiple times, so she probably has some trust issues. I think Jamie is just figuring herself out, like most women her age today.
Do you identify with her?
There is always a pretty large chunk of me in every character I play. It doesn’t mean that those events happen to me, but I find a way to relate to them through my own personal experiences.
The film questions whether men and women can just be friends. What’s your opinion?
I have many male friends whom I have no desire to become intimate with, and I’m sure they feel the same way. I strongly believe men and women can be friends without anything happening.
Do you believe in the concept of ‘friends with benefits’?
I agree with Justin when he says that it’s probably a really good idea until it becomes a really bad one. As a woman I think it could leave you in a very delicate, dangerous position.
Do you consider yourself funny?
I don’t think I’m very funny. Comedy is hard!
But you seem to be at a great position in your career.
Yes, but I still have to fight for the movies I want to do. I decided when I was 21 that this was going to be my career, and that the only way I could grow personally and professionally was to work with people better and smarter than me – people that I admire and respect. I still want to learn a lot. I consider myself to be very lucky.
Friends with Benefits is in UAE cinemas now.