It's not even necessary to explain the basic premise of Friends with Benefits; the title is self-explanatory. But director Will Gluck (Easy A) believes what sets this film apart is Friends with Benefits' Hepburn and Tracy vibe. And in casting the project, Gluck was looking for two actors who could deliver that sort of flirtatious, sexy banter in a way that would bring to mind those classic adult romantic comedies.
"Justin [Timberlake] and Mila [Kunis] had such good chemistry together, it's unbelievable. It was like magic. You just want to watch them do anything together. The most important part of this movie is when they're on screen together," stated Gluck. "I hit the lottery with those two together. Mila's funny, smart, charismatic, beautiful, goofy. It's so fun to watch her, especially with Justin."
And Friends with Benefits star Justin Timberlake sees the film as more than just a romantic comedy. "This is more of a generational comedy; we weren't trying to make a romantic comedy. If anything, romantic comedies are by virtue not rated R. We wanted to make a real, situational comedy where two people happen to fall in love and then see if they can work it out," explained Timberlake.
Together in LA, Timberlake and Kunis talked about working on Friends with Benefits, the sex scenes, and self-deprecating humor.
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis Interview:
The director said all the sex scenes were scheduled for the middle of the shoot and that you guys had a two and a half week sex extravaganza.
Mila Kunis: "That keeps getting longer and longer."
Can you talk about shooting those scenes?
Justin Timberlake: "Those were shot towards the end of production and I think for Will it was probably more awkward - it was probably more awkward for him than it was for both of us. He was very concerned, like, 'Do you want to shoot this at the beginning or the end?' And we're like, 'We'll shoot it at the end. Whatever. Let's get the true value of these characters and then we'll worry about the rest of it.' Because, honestly, if you don't have the true value of the characters, the sex doesn't become as funny because you're not as invested. You're not following the characters as much. So, I think they're always awkward, those types of things. You've got 30 sweaty crew members standing around."
Are the crew members always sweaty?
Mila Kunis: "Normally, because the air is usually off."
Justin Timberlake: "They turn the air off on the set because it messes up the sound. And they work harder than we do, so they're sweating. But it's less awkward when you're required to make them awkward, you know, because of the characters. They weren't meant to be sexy, they were meant to be funny. We wanted to find everything that was awkward about those situations and be able to comment on them while they were happening as the characters. We would sit and read them without any physicality to it and try to come up with every sort of funny, awkward thing we could say about what would or wouldn't be happening at that moment when we workshopped them. And so then getting on set to put the physicality to them, it literally almost became like a dance where it's very choreographed."
"There's not a lot of female nudity in this movie so really my job, my physical job in those scenes was to make sure whatever... I found out really quick what was in her contract because I was covering it up. Yeah, but I think we wanted those to be funny and we shared the camaraderie on that so it kind of took the weird aura of it. We just kind of went for it."
Was it tough to keep a straight face in your scenes with Woody Harrelson?
Mila Kunis: "For him? Yes, it was."
Justin Timberlake: "Yeah, Woody's amazing. Woody's just a fantastic actor and a great comedian. I'm actually glad you brought that up because that's a really important part of the movie for me, and Will and I had a lot of discussions about it. Woody's character is, in a lot of ways, an original on film. To be able to portray a gay male in the way that he is and coming from my experience, I have a lot of guy friends - straight and gay - and we're all just friends, regardless of sexual preference. So I wanted that to be in the movie, you know, and so we took some chances with it, but I think that they were honest. I'm really proud of that because I think it's important to show what could be different about people would bring them together and make their friendship that much stronger. So, I'm really proud of that relationship. And who better to pull off the self-effacing humor than someone as affable as Woody Harrelson?"
Justin, you mostly gravitate toward self-deprecating humor.
Justin Timberlake: "Yes. I think that my life is hilarious. I do. I should not be here and I am, and I think that's funny."
Have you ever borrowed a romantic gesture from a film and done it in real life?
Justin Timberlake: "I thought once about playing some Peter Gabriel from a boom box from outside of a room, but then I opted not to do it."
Mila Kunis: "That would be awesome. You should do it. Absolutely."
Were there films that you referenced for this movie?
Justin Timberlake: "Will kept referencing Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, but I think it was only in reference to how we wanted the banter to feel, that these two were equal counterparts and they couldn't see it. That's what makes you fall in love with the story, I think, as the movie progresses. You're like, 'You guys are perfect for each other.' These two characters are perfect for each other and they're fighting it, and they're doing it through humor."
"But I think honestly we just wanted to make a comedy about our generation. We wanted to just say what was funny about our generation."
Did you work to find the rhythm of the banter?
Justin Timberlake: "I think it was the trio of Will and Mila and myself. We had an unusual amount of time to rehearse the movie, to workshop the scenes. We definitely wanted to make that effort to make these two quick-witted because we felt that's what was charming about them together. We tried to find jokes upon jokes, and be able to recall them later in the movie. [...]We did improv a lot and a lot of that ended up in the movie."
Did you work out like crazy?
Mila Kunis: "I did not. I was on the opposite side."
Justin Timberlake: "She weighed 87 pounds from Black Swan so she was just eating cheeseburgers to gain the weight back. I trained mostly all the time. I think what I do is stop drinking beer and eating more vegetables and less pasta."
Mila, what is your favorite Justin Timberlake song?
Mila Kunis: "The way he sings Happy Birthday is my favorite."
Justin Timberlake: "I'm pretty sure you're a big fan of my original compositions conceived on set."
Mila Kunis: "We can't discuss your original compositions, but those would be my favorite - ones that he came out of being discussed on set."
You recently said you were worried about your parents seeing this film. Have they seen it?
Mila Kunis: "They've seen it. They're okay with it; I'm still here. No, my dad saw it and he liked it. He actually thought it was sincerely very funny and that he liked the movie."
Justin Timberlake: "They're both fulfilling on different levels."
Mila Kunis: "The only thing that I ever wanted to do is be proud of the work that I do and stand by it, and how it turns out is beyond me. I have no control over it, so I just go into a project based on my desire to want to do it and be a part of it, and stand by it. And they're both equally as challenging and they're both equally as satisfying, regardless of the outcome."
Justin, you have a lot of Twitter followers who talk about this movie. And Mila, I believe there's a fake Twitter account with your name...
Mila Kunis: "I do not Tweet nor do I Facebook."Justin, can you tell us what's happening with Myspace?
Justin Timberlake: "That's personal. Your space is your space. I can't tell you because that would ruin when I get to tell you about it. But suffice it to say that it's going to be what it should have been."
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Friends with Benefits hits theaters on July 22, 2011.