Work and Moore

"We're very sorry," a sheepish assistant says. "Ashton is running a bit late. He can only talk to you after he does his daily run. He must run when he can. It's his stress relief."

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Published: Sat 23 Sep 2006, 11:35 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:56 PM

Well, OK. It's understandable that Ashton Kutcher is a bit busy these days. He and Demi Moore are still newlyweds, he's taken on three children in the deal and he has a hit television series, "Punk'd," not to mention one of Hollywood's busier movie careers.

An hour later a sweaty young man in a baseball cap and gray sweats enters a lavish room at a Chicago hotel.

'I just have to fit in my run when I can,' the 28-year-old Kutcher says, smiling. 'It's just so hectic for me these days. I'm on a flight tonight to Miami. It's crazy. And I miss my wife.'

Sept. 24 will mark the first anniversary of their wedding, though they'd been a couple for several years before marrying.

'Yes, our anniversary is here,' Kutcher says with a wry smile. 'But I don't know which anniversary it is. Paper? Gold? Who knows? I don't count years.'

If that sounds a little clueless, the young actor doesn't mind.

'What do I know about love?' he says with a shrug. 'If I had it figured out, then I'd have advice for everybody. I just play my cards, I don't play anyone else's hand. I have a wonderful wife, and I can't ask for anything more. I've learned that, in any relationship, you've got to work on it. You need to put in the time and let your love really grow.'

Kutcher has also been putting in the time to make movies lately. In fact, he has two films opening on Sept. 29, the action movie 'The Guardian' and the animated 'Open Season.'

The former casts him as a young recruit at the Coast Guard Academy, a champion swimmer whose overconfidence puts him on the bad side of his tough instructor (Kevin Costner), who has some personal issues of his own.

'He's so awesome,' Kutcher says. 'This movie is the return of the old Kevin Costner from 'The Bodyguard' (1992) and 'JFK' (1991). It's the 'If you build it, they will come' Kevin Costner — I'm from Iowa, so 'Field of Dreams' (1989) was in my backyard.

'Kevin to me is a teacher and a friend,' he says. 'I learned a lot.'

For one thing, he learned how to hold his breath.

'There was a scene that required me to sit on the bottom of the pool and wait,' Kutcher recalls. 'I did it, but then I was sitting there thinking, 'OK, we better cut soon or you're going to read, 'Ashton Drowns.'' There was actually a speaker under the water, and I kept hearing, 'Ashton, just a couple more seconds. Just a little bit longer.'

'It's funny — in the movie they only used 20 seconds of this scene,' he says wryly. 'Now I'm thinking, 'Why was I under there so long?''

It wasn't simply a matter of holding his breath, either.

'I had to swim in a pool full of ice chunks to simulate hypothermia,' the actor says. 'It was only 30 degrees that day, and the pool was freezing. I almost had pneumonia from that day.'

His fans think of Kutcher more as a comedian than as an action hero, but he was delighted to get the chance to stretch.

'I want to show my range,' he says. 'It was really cool that Disney took a shot on me doing a big action film.'

It's back to comedy for 'Open Season,' which also features the voices of Billy Connolly, Jon Favreau, Martin Lawrence and Debra Messing.

'I play a one-antlered deer,' Kutcher says. 'The other one got shot off. You don't see it get shot off, but I'm a unihorn. He's a half-doe/half-buck, so he's a duck. That's what I called him.

'It opens the same day as 'The Guardian,' so pick one — flip a coin,' he says with a laugh. 'It's my weekend either way. I got a weekend!'

In years to come, Kutcher says, he'd like to move away from the freewheeling comedy that made him a star in 'That '70s Show' (1998-2005) and such films as 'Just Married' (2003), 'My Boss's Daughter' (2003), 'Guess Who?' (2005) and 'A Lot Like Love' (2005), not to mention the immortal 'Dude, Where's My Car?' (2000). He hopes that the industry will learn to see him as a serious dramatic actor.

'It's interesting that, in your head, you're already there with this work,' Kutcher says. 'I know in my head that I'm capable of becoming a good actor. It's just a matter of time before everyone figures it out and the audience trusts I can do it.

'I want them to think they're going to see a cool movie if they come out to see an Ashton Kutcher film.'

The problem is that at the moment there aren't any Ashton Kutcher films in the works.

'I'm an unemployed actor just looking for a job,' he says with a fake sob. 'I think I'll get by.'

These days it seems as if more people know Kutcher from his marriage to the 43-year-old Moore, who's 15 years his senior and has three daughters with her ex-husband, Bruce Willis, than from his work. Their relationship was initially dismissed by many as a publicity ploy to boost their careers, but the doubters were shocked when the two married last year.

He takes his role as a stepfather seriously, Kutcher says, and in fact he's often the one running the household when Moore and Willis happen to be away on location at the same time.

'I like being what the girls call 'M.O.D.' — 'My Other Dad,'' he says. 'What I've learned in the last year is that every kid is different. But as long as you love them and never forget that love, then you have the key. I think it's all about just being there and loving them. Kids feel that every single day.

'Am I strict?' Kutcher says. 'Nah. They're really responsible kids. They do a really good job.

'I don't really think our parenting situation is much more unique than anyone else's,' he concludes. 'I'm learning as I grow and doing the best that I can. I've definitely taught the girls how to give really good hugs.'

He and Moore are thinking about adding more children to the mix, he adds.

'I don't know what will happen,' Kutcher says. 'I'm not really in charge of all that -- it's bigger powers that take care of those things. So we'll see what happens.'

'That '70s Show' show ended its seven-year run last season, but Kutcher's raucous MTV celebrity prank show may turn up again at any moment.

'People ask me if 'Punk'd' is over,' he says. 'My answer is that 'Punk'd' will never be over. I just think it will live forever. We're still shooting. I can't tell you about any current things. Everyone should just know that we're coming — just batten down the hatches.'

He doesn't feel much remorse about tormenting stars such as Justin Timberlake, who actually cried on the show during a faked IRS raid.

'I don't feel too bad,' Kutcher says cheerfully. 'I think everything turned out fine for Justin. I think most of the people who have been punked haven't watched their careers suffer because of it — in fact, it helps show that they're human.

'I've already told Kevin Costner to get ready.'

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