The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 5, 2013

A question of class

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

— I have a new favorite actress: Mila Kunis.

Truth be told, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head one movie she has been in, or even if she acts in films at all, but she is No. 1 in my book.

A little Internet research reveals I have actually seen one of her films, “The Book of Eli,” in which she starred opposite Denzel Washington. She has been in other movies and various television roles, but perhaps her most famous work was in the film “Black Swan,” in which she and Natalie Portman played rival ballet dancers.

Mila Kunis is not my new favorite because of her acting ability or her screen credentials, but because she is a nice person.

We got a hint of that in 2011, when a U.S. Marine serving in Afghanistan’s Helmand province posted a YouTube video in which he asked the comely young actress to accompany him to the Marine Corps Ball.

Sgt. Scott Moore posted the video, likely never dreaming that Kunis would say yes. But she did, and was his date for the event in November 2011 in Greenville, N.C., celebrating the 236th anniversary of the Corps.

What makes that even more remarkable is the fact Kunis was born in Ukraine, but is now a naturalized American citizen.

Further evidence of Kunis’ innate niceness came this week during a press junket promoting her upcoming film, “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

During such events, stars of movies must sit for a series of 10-minute interviews during which they basically answer the same questions over and over from a succession of reporters. Granted, film stars are well paid for their efforts, but boring events like this must make them question their career choice.

But one interview session, during which Kunis sat down with a young reporter from BBC Radio I, was priceless. Chris Stark, 25, began the session by admitting that he was “petrified,” since “I’ve never done this before.”

I can relate, as can anyone who has ever been in the business of trying to get people to answer probing and sometimes uncomfortable questions for a living.

Trying to get people to tell you things they often don’t want to talk about is not an easy task. I have been ridiculed, cursed, rebuffed, lied to, rebuked, threatened and downright ignored. If I had a nickel for every phone message I’ve left that hasn’t been returned, I could retire.

I can’t count the times I’ve called for someone whose voice I can hear in the background, even as their secretary tells me they are out of the office. It’s enough to give a guy a complex.

One of my first assignments as a young reporter for the Daily O’Collegian during my college days at Oklahoma State was interviewing then-school president Robert Kamm.

I was terrified. I literally broke out in a cold sweat at the very thought of it. He was the president of the whole university, for heaven’s sake, and I was, well, me. How could I ask him questions, much less tough ones?

I was queasy as I walked to Kamm’s office. It was all I could do to keep from turning around, going back to my dorm room and crawling into bed. I was sure I was going to be chewed up and spit out. But Dr. Kamm was friendly, charming and gracious. I don’t remember what the story was about, and I’m sure he deftly avoided revealing any information he didn’t want made public, but his demeanor boosted my self-confidence.

When I get nervous, I get tongue-tied. Not Stark. The more jittery he got, the more he talked, prattling on about his favorite sports teams and alcoholic drinks, not to mention his friends. He even asked her out a time or two.

Kunis could have eviscerated this poor kid with a sneer and a harsh word, ripping out his spleen and turning it into a bow tie. She could have treated him like a fool. But she didn’t. She tried to put him at ease, to soothe his nerves, even asking him “What about this is frightening to you?”

After a time the two began to chat like longtime mates, talking about his favorite drink (a so-called “lad bomb,” which mix Jagermeister, vodka and Red Bull), his colorfully nicknamed buddies and his love for soccer.

At one point, Kunis declares, “This is the best interview I’ve had today.”

At one point, the film’s publicist steps in and gets the session back on track, and Kunis launches into a series of comments about the film — answers to questions the young man should have been posing all along.

Kunis plays a witch in the impending “Wizard of Oz” prequel, but she’s far from it. To someone who has been in the shoes of that befuddled and star-struck young BBC reporter, she’s a saint.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.