Rapid Round: Mila Kunis on How 'Bad Moms' "Reinvents" the Mom Role and Motherhood's Effect on Her Career
The actress also reveals her plans to take some time off after she has her second child and explains what it was like filming a scene with Martha Stewart.
In Bad Moms, Mila Kunis' Amy Mitchell is a mother of two trying to balance work and family and be what others perceive as a "perfect" mother. It's a common struggle and one that Kunis herself, then a relatively new mom, said she was dealing with when she got the opportunity to star in the STX Entertainment movie, which hits theaters today. Indeed, that's why she did the movie, she says.
In Bad Moms, Amy, already overworked and overstressed, has a day from hell that ends with her declaring at a PTA meeting that she's done trying to be a perfect mom. Her words resonate with two other moms, Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell), and together the three of them decide to be "bad moms" and not worry about others' expectations of how they should behave and raise their children.
Even though Bad Moms was written and directed by two men — The Hangover's Jon Lucas and Scott Moore — who made the film for their wives, Kunis, Hahn and co-star Annie Mumolo, known for her writing credits on Bridesmaids and Joy, all said the film rang true to them.
"I have two kids and it was extremely relatable, and I think it taps into a lot of the issues that my friends and I deal with every day," Mumolo told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of a screening at New York's Metrograph theater earlier this month. "It was really fun to see something like that and I think especially in an R-rated, unleashed format — it makes it more real."
Hahn also had some additional, personal insight, revealing that her kids go to school with Moore's kids. "I know his wife pretty well, and even in reading this I could just see it as a crazy, beautiful love letter to her. And she's so rad and so hilarious," Hahn said. "I knew it would feel very cathartic to be able to upend expectations. You feel so much judgment as a mom I think culturally and then none more so than the judgment you feel for yourself. You just feel like you're failing at every turn. This felt so good to just say, 'It's OK.'"
Bad Moms is the first movie Kunis has made since she gave birth to daughter Wyatt and perhaps her last for a while, since she plans to take some time off after giving birth to her second child with her husband Ashton Kutcher. The actress said becoming a mother has made her more selective about the types of projects she takes on.
While many actresses are often quoted as saying they don't want to play "the mom" or "the wife/girlfriend" as opposed to a powerful lead character, Kunis says this film, in which the moms are the main characters, "reinvents" what's often characterized as a lesser role.
The actress spoke to THR about motherhood, Hollywood and the pressure to measure up to Martha Stewart, who cameos in Bad Moms.
Do you feel the pressure Amy feels, with respect to trying to be perfect and balance work and family?
That's the reason I did the movie. Because I think, for me, after I decided to start a family, [I was] so tentative about going back to work and [felt] so much guilt about whether I would be choosing to go to work over my child. I have an incredible support system at home. I have an amazing husband, who said, 'You need to be fulfilled and happy in order to be a fulfilled and happy mom.' As women we just put a lot of pressure on ourselves to balance life and family, with or without kids. I think it's a constant battle. So I very much related to that as a character.
What do you hope people take away from this movie?
I hope people walk away with a feeling that there is no such thing as balance and there is no such thing as perfection, and you just need to be the perfect parent that your kid needs. You can't be that until you're a perfect person to yourself, until you're good to yourself and take care of yourself, and until you're fulfilled as a woman or a man or a husband or a wife, you're never going to be a good, fulfilled mother. I think the simple takeaway is that it's OK to sometimes be a little selfish.
How has becoming a mother affected what sort of roles you take? Has it made you more selective?
Oh, my god, yeah, I mean prior to having Wyatt, I would work on any movie that I found interesting. I would just be like, 'Oh, this sounds like a really great project.' It wouldn't matter where it was in the world and how long I would be away from home because I was like a gypsy. I mean I literally lived out of my suitcase for most of my 20s, and it was great. I would never trade that for the world. But I mean having a family at home, your priorities need to shift a bit, in a good way. I've done one movie between my kids, so yeah a lot has changed. And when I did the movie, I was very keen on it having to be close enough to home and making sure that my husband would be able to come with me, that he wouldn't be working. We never want to spend months apart, so with work we always try to organize it so that one person can be with the other.
Do you plan to take some time off from acting after you have your second child?
Yeah! I mean I kind of went back to work when it felt right. I never put pressure on myself. I have an amazing support team whether that be my husband, my agent, my manager, nobody pushed me to go back to work. It's all self-induced guilt. It's all self-induced pressure. Absolutely I think I'll take time, and I'll know when the project's right, and I'll know when the time is right.
Often actresses have talked about how they didn't want to play "the mom" or "the wife/girlfriend" as opposed to a powerful lead character. Does this movie help redeem the "mom" role?
Oh, my god, absolutely! I mean this is not your stereotypical mom who is sitting by the wayside who's playing sidekick to the funny, kooky dad. It definitely reinvents what a mom is, and it puts it under the microscope of this is the reality of what a mother is in the best case possible. It just turns it up on its head. I think sometimes in movies, moms are either the sidekick or are these perfect creatures. We are neither. We are somewhere in between and all around. I feel like this movie kind of amplifies that.
What's the best advice you've ever received about being a mom or in general?
It's a very simple piece of advice that a girlfriend of mine gave me when I was pregnant with Wyatt, and it was, 'Make sure to put your husband first, put each [other] first and then put the baby first for the both of you.' When you put your baby ahead of your relationship, then your relationship will falter and you will never be a good parent for your child. And for both of us I think it was really important that we put each other first to one another and we put Wyatt first to us. Right before I was giving birth, my girlfriend was like, 'Here's my one word of advice on top of that: Make a reservation for yourself, four weeks from this point. Make a really nice dinner reservation so you have to keep it and in four weeks you have no choice but to get away for two hours. Spend some time with your partner, connect again as partners, not just as parents.' And I think that's incredibly important and it takes work, to be connected as partners in life, not just as parents.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about Hollywood?
My least favorite thing is paparazzi and their lack of respect for children. My favorite thing is the fact that I have the most incredible life. I have the most amazing opportunities to travel the world and see places that I never would have otherwise seen other than in history books and meet people that are better and smarter than I am and that are much more fascinating, that have lived incredible lives, that are diverse. I love this industry for all of the amazing opportunities that it offers.
What's the coolest place you've been able to travel to because of your career?
Anywhere from China to all of Europe to most of America. I can say I lived in Italy and I lived in London and I lived in Chicago and Detroit, random places around the world. Forget New York, London, L.A. You just get spoiled by the ability of immersing yourself in a different culture for three months at a time, if not longer, and there's something really wonderful about that that most people can never do. I've traveled so much and experienced so much amazing life.
What advice do you have for young actors?
If I had to start today as an actress in this industry, I don't even know where I would begin. It's such a different industry. I started 20 plus years ago. There was no social media. That wasn't even a consideration. And now you have actresses getting parts in movies and shows because of their social media impact. I really have no advice because I clearly don't understand half of it. I would just say if you want to be an actress, work hard, hustle, learn your craft and just do it for the right reasons. Don't do it because you want more followers. Don't do it because you think you're going to get wealth and fame. Do it because somewhere, somehow, you want to make other people happy, do it because you get fulfilled from whatever in this industry gets you excited other than the obvious.
Martha Stewart has a cameo in Bad Moms. What was it like filming that scene with her?
At one point I touched her and I went, 'Oh, my god, I touched Martha Stewart.' That was not acting. That was a very genuine reaction. I love Martha. I always go, 'What would Martha do?' Martha would be very disappointed in the way that I made the bed. Martha would be very disappointed in my place settings. I love her; she's awesome.