Ashton Kutcher Is Smarter Than You

By Anne Becker

In the last few years, opportunity has been knocking on Ashton Kutcher's door. He runs his own production company, Katalyst; he's a spokesperson for Nikon; and he's lent his name to a trendy Los Angeles restaurant. But sometimes, it's more than opportunity knocking on Ashton's door. Yesterday, it was Mickey Rooney. "It was the weirdest experience of the past five years," says Kutcher in his squeaky-pitched, excited-Ashton voice. "I'm at home reading a script and fiddling around, answering e-mails, and all of a sudden this person who works on my house is like, 'Uh, Mickey Rooney is here.' I'm like, 'Who??' He's like, 'Aren't you supposed to be meeting with him?' I look downstairs and Mickey Rooney is walking into my house with some guy and he's all miked up and I'm like, 'What's going on?' " As Kutcher tells it, Rooney and a producer had been going door to door at celebrities' homes, shooting a documentary, and Ashton's was next on their list. Right after Jack Nicholson.

You can't blame Rooney for wanting a piece of Ashton—especially if you've seen his clothes (hot) and his body (hotter) in the new movie Spread, which opens today. Ashton's film career has been under the radar for the last several years, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been busy. For starters, he's the most-followed man on Twitter—3.2 million people read his tweets (@mrskutcher, a.k.a "wifey," Demi Moore is also a frequent contributor on his page). His studio, Katalyst, churns out reality-TV programming like Beauty and the Geek and other teen-friendly fare like the CW's upcoming The Beautiful Life, a scripted drama about cohabiting models (it stars Mischa Barton). He's worked as a consultant on a voice-over-Internet-protocol company, and he's now pushing Katalyst's interactive arm through such projects as the animated Web characters "The Blah Girls."

How did Ashton get to be so smart? Four years ago, his acting career was essentially stalled. Critics slammed his dramatic debut in the 2004 sci-fi thriller The Butterfly Effect (it was bad). And he mysteriously dropped out of the Cameron Crowe movie Elizabethtown (though that turned out to be a blessing, in retrospect). Kutcher's claim to fame was his surfer-guy performance as Kelso in That '70s Show and he uttered some of the dumbest words in modern-day cinema: Dude, Where's My Car? "I never had a moment where I thought I just wanted to focus on acting," Kutcher says. "I always felt like I wasn't great at anything, so I should just be good at a lot." Kutcher is so good now at what he does, he's a guy's answer to celeb brands like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, but without the train-wreck baggage. "My whole goal in life was that maybe I'd make a million someday," Kutcher says. "Once I hit that mark and called home and was like, 'I made a million dollars,' I sort of stopped counting after that."

Part of Ashton's appeal is that he reads as so low-key─like your slightly goofy, but über-cool dude friend. Although we might not know it—and Kutcher didn't help matters with his earlier acting gigs—he's always been driven. He grew up in Iowa, and before the age of 19 had worked as a hay-baler, butcher, roofer, dishwasher, forklift operator, and supermarket-deli potato-salad-maker (he also served a mean coleslaw). He entered the University of Iowa with the goal of majoring in biochemical engineering. His twin brother was diagnosed at 13 with cardiomyopathy, a serious disease in which a virus breaks down the muscle tissue in the heart and forms holes in its walls. Even now, Kutcher has a surprising amount of knowledge about genetics and DNA. "I thought there had to be some way to stop [my brother's] virus," he says. "I thought if I could take a strand of DNA out of a particular virus and introduce a mutated version of the same virus, it would replicate and create a mutated version and ultimately make itself extinct. I wanted to see if I could prove myself right and stop the virus from happening to other people."

"Do you know what I mean?" Kutcher asks. Actually, not really. "You know how flu viruses mutate. Think about if you get bitten by a snake. The cure is in the poison. In anything you approach for itself, the solution exists before the problem ever did." Kutcher talks more about gene therapy, and by now I'm completely lost. But I'm also surprised. Is this the same Ashton Kutcher who Tweeted eight times yesterday afternoon about his "Rooney Ambush"? The one who modeled for Abercrombie, who Punk'd Zac Efron in a cheesy L.A. clothing store? In Spread, Kutcher plays a boy toy who freeloads off a loaded, older-but-still-hot lawyer (Anne Heche). Although there was a costume designer on set, Kutcher said that he helped create his character's "punk mod" look with trademark suspenders, bright-colored cardigans, and rolled dark jeans. It seems appropriate. Ashton Kutcher likes to wear many hats, but at the end the day, Ashton Kutcher is also best at making Ashton Kutcher look good.

"I would love 2 hear what u think of Spread," he Tweeted Friday afternoon. "It would be amazing if U C it 2nite and send me a video review"

So dumb, it's genius.