For many people, rolling around in bed sans clothes with Justin Timberlake or Mila Kunis is something they’d pay – rather than be paid – to do, but the stars of “Friends With Benefits” insist that even sex symbols get a little stage fright from their love scenes.
“I'm pretty self-conscious, I think, in general,” says Kunis. “It doesn't help that I'm a female. I'm not the most comfortable, relatively speaking.”
“As a juxtaposition to that, I'm extremely comfortable with Mila's body,” deadpans Timberlake. But the star admits that, while acting out the comedy’s tale of two friendly colleagues who agree to a sex-only relationship without the complications of romance, the more choreographed – and comic – the scenes are, the less embarrassing they become.
“It's definitely less awkward when you're required to make them awkward,” says Timberlake. “We wanted to use these scenes to break a little ground and actually put the banter in them, rather than in real life when awkward things happen when you're first getting intimate with a new counterpart. It's like ‘If I didn't say that it happened, then it didn't happen.’ But later on you talk about it, like, 'You remember the time when it was really awkward?' 'Oh, my God, thank you for saying that!' I think we wanted to use a lot of this movie to break a lot of ground. There's a lot in it that just feels more like how we see our generation, and a good way to empower that is to comment on how ridiculous some of it might be.”
Their characters are kindred spirits whose ease with each other leads them to believe that their friends-with-benefits deal will remain uncomplicated, and the filmmakers saw that same instant ease with each other when Kunis and Timberlake first met to discuss acting together after only a handful of prior encounters at celebrity-filled functions.
“We have the same sense of humor, we realized early on,” Kunis says. “I think the chemistry had a lot to do with the writing and I think that once we got comfortable with the characters it was easy to put that across onscreen. We became friends because we had two, three months of rehearsal, writing and rewriting, and you don't always get that. So you hope that somehow that translates to the screen. When you have a great time doing a film, you hope the audience has a great time watching it.”
“We actually do have a lot in common, and we actually sort of bonded over a lowbrow sense of humor that we share,” Timberlake explains. “But also we kind of grew up in the business, both of us. So we kind of share that and we're both pretty normal people when we're not working.”
Kunis says that after signing on to the project, her eyes were opened to just how often a sexy-times-only agreement ultimately leads to love in real life. “I was interviewed by a reporter when I was doing press for 'Black Swan,’ and she told me that her current husband started off as a friend with benefits,” she says. “So it wasn't until then that I actually started paying attention to that idea. It's not as taboo. I think that our generation is a little more forthcoming, and I think females are embracing their sexuality, more so now than they were 30, 40, 50 years ago.”
"Friends with Benefits" opens everywhere Friday