The Butterfly Effect (2004) – Q&A with Ashton Kutcher

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There’s no escaping the fact that 26 year-old Ashton Kutcher is America’s current It boy but suggest that his status has anything to do with his girlfriend of more than a year, Demi Moore, and you’ll get his heckles up. With good reason.

That reason is talent, a new aspect of which is revealed in the daring dramatic thriller THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. Kutcher has to date made his name in comedy. THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT is entirely devoid of laughs, being a film in which Kutcher plays a traumatised young man who has mentally blocked out many of the seamier aspects of his adolescent life. It’s an
inspired move for the young actor who was so enthusiastic about the project that he also assigned himself the job of the film’s Executive Producer.

But then Kutcher had already made an impressive name for himself, long before he started dating Moore. He is the breakout star from US TV’s THAT 70’S SHOW series, playing dim-witted but loveable hunk Kelso. But it was another TV series, MTV’s PUNK’D, which introduced Kutcher to a much more intense media maelstrom. The programme – a sort of celebrity version of Candid Camera – busted celebs on film with a cheeky irreverence not normally seen on staid American television. PUNK’D prevented Halle Berry entering the premiere of her own film GOTHIKA (Berry fell for the prank, and didn’t pull a diva-like tantrum either); ‘stole’ Justin Timberlake’s car and in a moment of genius, enlisted Britney Spears to ‘punk’ its own unsuspecting star Kutcher. But eventally every celebrity in America knew about PUNK’D and the programme’s crucial element of surprise had evaporated into the ether.

Kutcher had already of course begun making films and had his first hit with the irresistibly-titled DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR in 2000, starring opposite Sean William Scott. In 2003, he made the romantic comedy JUST MARRIED opposite Brittany Murphy. Some time after filming wrapped, the pair became an item and travelled the world promoting the film while for the most part entwined around each other. Not long after Kutcher and Murphy parted company, he met Demi Moore in a restaurant and the rest is history.

Kutcher’s career trajectory though could have been very different. In 1997, Kutcher – who was raised in the wilds of Iowa – was studying Biochemical Engineering at University. He’d made the choice after watching his twin brother Michael battle a serious heart condition as a young teenager. While a student, Kutcher was approached by a woman in a restaurant who suggested he enter a modelling competition. He won, became the Fresh Face of Iowa, and found himself with a top agency contract and a suddenly lucrative new career. He also travelled exhaustively, mostly to France and Italy. But modelling wasn’t a satisfying career choice for a young man with brains to match his brawn and before long, he had made the decision to move to LA and try his hand at acting. He was offered the job on THAT 70’S SHOW only weeks after he arrived.


Was making THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT a deliberate choice to get away from your comedy image?

No. It was a deliberate choice to do something new. I always want to keep doing new different things and stuff I haven’t done before. It was a deliberate decision to challenge myself. Honestly, it was a movie that was a dramatic movie. I appreciated the character. I appreciated the metaphor of the story. I appreciated the message of the movie.

Can you identify with your character?

In certain respects, yes. I think in the aspect of being a person who has a great deal to overcome and a great amount of love to give. I really think love is the common denominator. In society we choose to black out the traumatic things that happen in this world whether it be child molestation or something else as horrific. There is a brothel halfway across the world in a country where they are prostituting out five year-old girls. Do we want to face that as a society? Do we want to acknowledge that that exists? No we don’t.

It is also about making changes in your past life to improve your present one. Would you change something in your past to alter the present?

I think I do on a daily basis. I think these are the obstacles that are in our way that we are to overcome as people. That’s really what we are here for, to overcome our obstacles. I have had relationships in the past in my life that have fallen apart. It is my job to mend those relationships. And that is changing the past.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?

I hope to still be alive. I hope to be a little bit wiser, a little bit closer to the creator and I hope to be a more giving, sharing person.

There are 20:1 odds on the Internet that you will marry Demi Moore this year.

I’ll put a bet in then and I’ll fix the game. [Laughs]

You seem to have bonded so well with Demi’s children. Do you look at them like they are your little sisters or your kids?

I try to help them in their lives. I try to help them with the problems that they have and they bring me a lot of joy. But to really define what I am to them would be very difficult and unnecessary. I don’t think they need to be able to have a label for me to appreciate what I do for them, and I don’t need to have a label for them to be able to appreciate what they do for me.

Are you surprised how much focus has been paid to that aspect of your life?

I am surprised we are doing an interview for THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT and we are talking about this. Yes. Why? Why do people want to see it? I don’t know. I think if people would focus more on their lives and the problems we were talking about earlier then maybe we’d be living in a better place.

What do you do to protect yourself from the press?

I don’t read it. I don’t watch the TV shows that are about that. I don’t read the magazines that make things up about people. I know what the truth is. I don’t sort of indulge in my own fodder. I don’t really care what they write about me.

Does fame frighten you?

I don’t look at it that way. I go to work. I do my job. I’m constantly working on something new whether it’s producing another TV show or another film. I have a wonderful relationship. I have a great family. I have amazing friends. I live my life like anybody else, and people choose to write about mine. And what they write I can’t control – when they write lies at least – because the laws can’t really protect you unless you can prove malicious intent. So I just choose not to read it.

And don’t get me wrong – a lot of it is fun. There are a lot of perks that come with fame and with every positive there’s a negative and then it all kind of balances out. The travelling is great. You get to see so many different places but there’s a downside; having everything splattered across every media resource that exists, being chased by photographers and have them sit at the end of your driveway every day. But it all kind of balances.

You’ve shown us you are a capable dramatic actor in THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT but that’s not what the general public cares about. How detrimental is this other media spotlight?

I don’t think it’s detrimental. My work will speak for itself I think. Before I ever met Demi I managed to figure out how to be on a sitcom for five years. I managed to figure out how to produce and make my own television show. I managed to make a couple of films that did extremely well. I was on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. I was on the cover of Rolling Stone. So I managed to have a pretty good career before I met my current significant other and I think I’ll manage to have a pretty good one after.

How has this crazy journey you’ve been on changed you?

How long do we have to talk? I guess I started to believe in myself a little bit more. If I really wanted something I could have it, that anything was possible. I grew up a lot and I’ve been realising the responsibility that I have as a person and that my actions count and I can make a difference with my actions. And that my problems are pretty petty compared to the problems of the world and that just by being aware of the chaos that exists I can actually make a difference and do something really good with all of this as opposed to making it all about me and doing it for myself.

Question and Answer Text by Lesley O’Toole Copyright Icon Film Distribution