Actor and producer Mila Kunis points to one event in her life that gave her the perspective — and the confidence — to advocate for herself and other women in the entertainment business.
Speaking at Variety‘s inaugural Path to Parity women’s summit in West Hollywood, Kunis shared with a roomful of industry leaders, showrunners, producers, talent, and others, that becoming a mother led her to re-examine what mattered.
“When I became a mom, so many things that I used to be insecure about and concerned myself with, no longer mattered,” she said on Wednesday. “The ability to say no, had a purpose.”
The “Bad Moms” and “Black Swan” star said the industry hadn’t changed much for women in the nearly 20 years that she’s been in the business. To amend that, Kunis said she’s worked to empower other women, in part by taking risks with films that Hollywood tastemakers have long said would flop.
Kunis, who starred in 2016’s “Bad Moms,” an R-rated comedy featuring an all-female cast, struggled to convince some women to join the movie. Several of them dropped out. “I was pregnant and had a baby so I wasn’t thinking about doing it,” she recalls. “I was trying to get other people to do it.”
When enough time went by, she decided to take the plunge and attach herself to the movie. “This movie simply needs to be made,” she remembered thinking, despite others doubting whether she should. “Are you sure?” Kunis said she would be asked.
The doubt was misplaced as “Bad Moms” went on to gross $113 million domestically and more than $180 million worldwide, eventually spawning a sequel. Its success, however, was not a surprise to Kunis, who said, “It’s a good movie and it’s funny.”
She offered advice on how to better advocate for and empower oneself. Early in her career, she shied away from negotiating things like her salary, something she had previously left to her representatives.
It was her husband, Ashton Kutcher, who forced her to reconsider her position and urged her to do more. “I educated myself, asked questions,” she said. “The more involved, the more time you take for yourself, the more empowerment you give yourself at the end of the day.”
She started by listening in on negotiations and writing down unfamiliar terms. She’d later look up their definitions and ask questions to her lawyer, Patti Felker, who was among the panelists featured on Wednesday at Path to Parity.
Kunis also praised the benefits of working with female directors, recalling the first time she worked with a female director was on “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” an upcoming comedy featuring Kunis and Kate McKinnon. The film, bowing on Aug. 3, is directed by Susanna Fogel.
“There’s a noticeable difference,” she said. “No one is yelling at each other. … Nobody got mad … no screaming matches. At 7 o’clock, bye, go home. I got to see my kids for dinner. It was lovely.”
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 20: Actor Mila Kunis attends the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 20: Actor Mila Kunis attends the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 20: Recording artist Taylor Swift (L) accepts the Top Selling Album award for 'Reputation' from actor Mila Kunis onstage during the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 03: Actors Zoe Saldana and Mila Kunis attend the ceremony honoring Zoe Saldana with star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on May 3, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 26: Mila Kunis attends the 2018 CinemaCon - Lionsgate Presentation For 2018 Summer And Beyond held at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 26, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 11: Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis attend the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics at Dodger Stadium on April 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - DECEMBER 03: Actors Ashton Kutcher (L) and Mila Kunis attend the 2018 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center on December 3, 2017 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 30: Actress Mila Kunis attends the premiere of STX Entertainment's 'A Bad Moms Christmas' at Regency Village Theatre on October 30, 2017 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage for Fashion Media )
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Global brand partner Mila Kunis attends the official launch party for Jim Beamï¿½ Vanilla, the newest flavored product from Jim Beamï¿½ Bourbon, on Monday, September 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Jim Beam)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 28: Actress Mila Kunis at CinemaCon 2017 The State of the Industry: Past, Present and Future and STX Films Presentation at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on March 28, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis talk with Los Angeles Dodgers Outfield Andre Ethier (16) during game four of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 19, 2016, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 28: (L-R) Denise Albert, actresses Kathryn Hahn and Mila Kunis, and Melissa Musen Gerstein attend the Mamarazzi Screening Of 'Bad Moms' at AMC Empire on July 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 28: Cast member of the film 'Bad Moms,' Mila Kunis rings the closing bell at NASDAQ on July 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 26: Actress Mila Kunis arrives at the premiere of STX Entertainment's 'Bad Moms' at Mann Village Theatre on July 26, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0504 -- Pictured: Actress Mila Kunis on July 20, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 20: Mila Kunis attends AOl Build to discuss her new movie 'Bad Mom' at AOL HQ on July 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: Pregnant Mila Kunis arrives at the 'Bad Mom' premiere After Party at The Blond in Soho on July 18, 2016 in New York, NY. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: (L-R) Annie Mumolo, President of STX Entertainment Sophie Watts, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn attend the after party for the 'Bad Moms' premiere at Metrograph on July 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 5: Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis attend Game Two of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers on June 5, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: (L-R) Actresses Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn and Mila Kunis arrive at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Actress Mila Kunis attends the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for dcp)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 14: Actress Mila Kunis, one of the recipients of the Female Stars of the Year Award, attends the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards brought to you by the Coca-Cola Company at Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on April 14, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 12: Mila Kunis arrives at CinemaCon 2016 - STX Entertainment 'The State Of The Industry: Past, Present And Future held at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 12, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 28: Mila Kunis is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on March 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)