Veteran director Ivan Reitman returns to the big screen this weekend with his latest film, No Strings Attached . It’s a non-romantic comedy about two friends, who decide to use each other for sex and nothing more. The film stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher as the unconventional couple, who act out some strange scenarios as their characters. We sat down and spoke with the duo about their latest feature, which centers heavily on casual sex. Despite all the debauchery they assure you that safe sex is the best sex, and at the end of the day, this movie is more about female empowerment than anything else.

Check out the interview…

Thanks for having safe sex in the movie. Can you guys comment on the prevalence of sex in films, how that affects teens, and how it’s been glorified in the media recently? Natalie, as a pregnant person can you comment on that?

Natalie Portman: Well, I’m not a teen. That’s the first thing I’ll say. I’m a grownup. Obviously, it is really prevalent in our country and I think that’s part of what the movie addresses. We have so much sex in our media that’s disassociated from emotions. We have so much separation between feeling, the emotional and the physical side of sex. They really do belong together. Yes, condoms were fake used, in the fake sex scenes in this movie.

Ashton Kutcher: I think there’s so much that’s not said about sex in our country. One of the things that I find really interesting in looking at this, and I don’t want to veer off on a weird human trafficking thing, but one of the interesting things, especially for women, in the sex education process in schools. The one thing that they teach about is how to get pregnant and how to not get pregnant. But they don’t really talk about sex as a point of pleasure for women. So from a purely entertainment point of view, to create a movie with a female lead that is empowered with her own sexuality I think is a really powerful thing. I think if we can give teenage people something to think about from a sex perspective I would say that it would be to start opening up a conversation where women are empowered with their own sexual experiences from an educational level as well as an entertainment level.

With so much of this being movie being about sex, do the two of you have perimeters about it? How you do approach those scenes and get through them? Is it still embarrassing?

Portman: I’m pretty immature. So I think I get pretty embarrassed easily. I would check out once in a while certain shots to make sure that I felt okay because sometimes once you see it, like, there was one of the panties coming off that we did and after I watched I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not bad,’ because it was really quick and it wasn’t lingering on anything that I felt modest about. So I checked a little. You do sort of go the opposite direction between takes, like, ‘So, what are you doing this weekend?,’ like totally benign conversations to make it a little normal.

Kutcher: I just start by apologizing. You sort of try to set some ground rules and apologize for them. Someone told me, and I’m not sure who the actor was – I think it was Sir Lawrence Olivier that said…I always use Sir Lawrence Olivier. When in doubt use Sir Lawrence Olivier. I think he said something to the affect of, like, ‘I apologize if I get aroused and I apologize if I do not get aroused,’ and you have to say it with the accent. But there’s sort of always that kind of awkward state of, like, ‘Is this okay? Is that okay?’ Then in between its like, ‘Let’s act like nothing happened,’ and then you see how good of an actor you are.

Do you guys think that friendship can survive sex?

Kutcher: I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been fortunate enough to try one of those relationships out. I really think that whoever you’re with ultimately needs to be your friend. So all the really successful, happy relationships that I know of, the people that are together are friends anyway. And I don’t know that sex always has to have feelings, but I think that friendship always does. So if you’re friends you’re going to have feelings of some sort, some layer, some level of a deeper feeling. I don’t know that it’s completely possible.

This is Natalie’s first rom-com. So, Ashton, did you try to make it easy for her or did you tease her mercilessly?

Kutcher: I learned more from Natalie in one day of being on set together than I can ever possibly teach her in a billion years. She may not have done a rom-com before, but she’s done so much work on so many different levels. I even watch Garden State or something like that’s comedic in and of itself, but also has true and specific organic performances. I don’t know that there’s anything I can really teach her.

Natalie, did you create a back story for this character, something for how she got to this point?

Portman: Absolutely, but a lot of it was provided to me in Liz’s script which was really wonderful about sort of having this incredible loss early on and not really wanting to be the sort of pillar for her family and not wanting to get hurt. Also, I think that most women know someone like this if they’re not like this themselves. They know what happens, that thing that leads you to a point where you’re not even looking for intimacy anymore. You’re just looking for the physical side of it and not the emotional side of it. Something breaks a little bit before you get to that point. It’s not just a way that you’re born.

Natalie, you were also an executive producer on this film. How did you balance that with being in the movie?

Portman: Well, it was a really exciting process to get to be involved for the first time so early, working with Liz [Meriwether] and Ivan [Reitman]. I came on a couple of years I think before the project. So to get, to sort of watch their process and to get to talk to them about the script, they were definitely controlling that process, but it was fun to be included in the evolution of the script and seeing how it changed and why it changed, to have Ivan’s expertise in pacing and figuring out, like, ‘At the end there needs to be more movement,’ because in the original script that was written it was sort of a contained scene at the end. He said, ‘No. We have to get them moving, on the road.’ To learn those things through the process was really exciting.

No Strings Attached opens in theaters on Friday, January 21.

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