While actress Mila Kunis has been involved in stunt work and action scenes before, the twenty-six year old actress told CBR News that the biggest difference by far in performing them while filming her new movie “The Book of Eli” came down to something completely out of the director’s control. “The weather didn’t know what it wanted to be. It would snow one day and then wouldn’t the next day. Then sunshine. Then rain.” Despite Mother Nature’s lack of cooperation, Kunis said that her stunt work was actually fairly light. “I didn’t have many stunts. Denzel had most of the stunts. I ran a lot. That’s all I did. Walking for me is hard enough, so running…I was like, ‘whoo, it’s going to be rough.'”
In “The Book of Eli,” Kunis plays Solara, a young woman living in a town that is in the process of rebuilding itself after an unspecified nuclear calamity. She meets Denzel Washington’s character, Eli, and the two set off to complete Eli’s great pilgrimage. Kunis says she would have a hard time surviving in the world depicted in the film. “I would fail. I would fail miserably. Would I be resourceful? No.” In fact, according to the actress, she would need the aid of “Man Vs. Wild” star Bear Grylls in such an environment. “I would need [Grylls] with me because I wouldn’t know what to eat. I would eat that snake with the yellow tail because I wouldn’t know it’s poisonous. No, I’m not like a survivalist. I would like to think I would be, but no. I would fail.”
Kunis has much more confidence in her survival abilities in the present day. “I can kick some serious ass. Especially if I’m wearing five inch heels. It’s amazing what I can do,” she laughed. “I can throw a really strong right hook. I learned that through my ‘Max Payne’ training. And I can shoot really well. That’s it. And I run. I can run really fast. So if anything happens, an altercation occurs, I run,” the actress said.
Kunis credited “Eli’s” assembled talent for her decision to take on the role of Solara. “The Hughes Brothers directing. Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman. It would’ve been pretty stupid to say no,” Kunis said, though the material also played its part in her choice. “The character is great. Don’t get me wrong, the story’s great. The film’s great. The character’s fantastic, but it was also an amazing opportunity to work with people that I respect and can learn from.”
Working with two directors simultaneously – Allen and Albert Hughes in this case – is an unusual prospect, and Kunis revealed how the pair worked with her. “It’s not like you gravitate toward one versus the other,” said the actress, “but I guess Allen is who I dealt with a lot more, earlier on when I got the job. Regarding my character and the look of the character and the feel of the character was mostly Allen, but during production it was both of them.”
When it came to Denzel Washington, Kunis had nothing but compliments to pay. “He’s fantastic; absolutely fantastic. Very generous. He’s very professional, very generous, very giving. He’s great. He’s very fatherly. He’s got so many kids. He always looked out for me, but it wasn’t one of those things where he was like, ‘Hey, child!’ I’m not that young. He was very protective, absolutely.”
Though the movie itself has a serious theme and some intense action beats, the actress credits fellow star Gary Oldman with lightening the mood on the set. “I laughed a lot. I’ll tell you, Gary Oldman is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with. Jennifer Beals and I created a song for Gary that I will not go into detail [about],” she recalled. Pressed for more information on the song, she shared, “One of the lines is, ‘Gary is not so scary,’ because everybody has this preconceived notion that Gary Oldman is going to be very [imposing], and he’s not. On screen, he’s so powerful, but in real life, [he’s] one of the funniest [people].”
Kunis also singled out actors Michael Gambon and Frances de la Tour for bringing fun to the film’s centerpiece action sequence, which takes place in a farmhouse. “Frances and Michael were so fantastic and were such a relief because they came in [late in the movie’s story],” she recalled. “We shot [‘Eli’] as chronologically as we possibly could, so they really did come in half-way through production, close to the end, and they were fun; A breath of fresh air on set, a hoot to be with.”
Shooting chronologically – with the scenes being shot in order, or as close to in order as possible – is a rarity in filmmaking. Kunis says the choice was made simply because “we were able to do it.” From an actor’s perspective, she believes it is the preferable way to work. “It was important for [Denzel’s] character to have a specific progress in the film. I think if you’re able to shoot in chronological order, it’s the best way to do it.”
While Eli and Solara do form a bond on their journey, it never becomes a romantic one. “That’d be weird,” she responded when asked about the love interest possibility. “[Eli] was sent here for a purpose. He had to achieve this one goal, and everybody has to have people to believe in them,” she explained. “I think [Solara] was just one of those people that followed him and believed in his journey and believed in his purpose and believed in what he wanted to achieve and wanted to learn from him and pass it along to future generations. I thought it was important.”
When asked about a potential “Book of Eli 2,” Kunis responded, “this would be a very weird movie to have a sequel, let’s be honest. I don’t foresee it happening. I haven’t heard anything, so I’m going to say no. I don’t think there should be a sequel; the purpose of the story ends. It’s done. To go forward would be a different [story].”
Toward the end of our interview, a fire alarm went off in the building. While waiting to learn if it was a false alarm or not, Kunis shouted over the noise, “I didn’t do it! I swear, everywhere I go, this happens.”
Warner Bros. “The Book of Eli” hits theaters on January 15.