With `Guardian,' he's no punk

SPOTLIGHT ON

Ashton Kutcher

September 29, 2006|By Rachel Abramowitz | Rachel Abramowitz,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Walking up the dusty Hollywood canyon in 100-degree heat, inhaling great gulps of smog, I begin to wonder if I'm being punk'd.

It's not that I'm famous or anything, it's just that my hiking partner is Ashton Kutcher, who created the MTV show where people are subjected to elaborate, ego-puncturing practical jokes -- they're punk'd. He's also well known for starring as the dumb brunet on That '70s Show, headlining such cinematic milestones as Dude, Where's My Car?, and marrying Demi Moore, who happens to be 15 years his senior.

Kutcher assures me that this jaunt into heat exhaustion is not some elaborate goof. "I'm not that deviant," he says.

The 28-year-old former Iowa boy is freakily good-looking, with a long, lean figure, sculpted cheekbones and brown eyes bigger than your average doe's.

He appears to be in good shape -- in part because he's just back from his summer house in Idaho, and, oh, yes, he recently spent eight months doing six-hour-a-day workouts to get ready for his latest role, as a Coast Guard rescue swimmer in the adventure flick The Guardian, which opens today.

Ashton Kutcher, action hero?

It's a change of pace for a guy whose resume includes the airy comedies Cheaper by the Dozen and Just Married and the animated Open Season, which also opens today, and who's better known for the list of starlets he's dated than his cred as a macho man and thrasher of enemies.

He admits that he didn't start out buffed. The first day, the trainer asked him to do as many pull-ups as he could in a minute. Then he was supposed to rest for a minute, then do more.

"I jump up on the bar. One pull-up. That was it. ... He's going, `C'mon, man, keep going.' I'm trying. Nothing's happening. He's like, `Ooooooh.'" In the film, at least half the rescue-swimmer cadets fail, unable to bear tasks such as treading water in an icy tank. But Kutcher, the actor, ultimately persevered in his training. He says he'd make it through the real deal, too.

"I believe that there are people who are bound and determined to be successful no matter what they're doing." As he strides, he's clearly talking about himself.

"I'll find success no matter what. I believe it. It's truly contingent upon your will. I'm by no means the best actor. I'm by no means even the best actor in my age group. But people know that I'm going to work hard for them. I think consistency pays. You can't will yourself to be successful in the business, but at the same time, I'm kind of living proof that you can."

I get the courage to ask whether his relationship with Moore has somehow damaged his stock as an actor. He doesn't like this question. A scrim falls over his features.

"Nah, my career is exactly where it's supposed to be. And my career isn't bad."

We're finally heading down the mountain. I ask Kutcher who his heroes are. He mentions Steve McQueen, whose films he watched repeatedly as he prepared for The Guardian. "He was one of the first action-y guys, but he still had that strut. He was pretty quiet most of the time but held his space."

At the end of the hike, he climbs back onto his motorcycle. "Be good!" he bellows, and he zooms off into his day.

Rachel Abramowitz writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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