Since founding Katalyst in 2002, Kutcher, along with Goldberg, has put about a dozen feature films and television shows into production, notably the movies Guess Who and The Butterfly Effect, plus MTV’s Punk’d, Miss Guided, a new sitcom on ABC, E!’s Pop Fiction, in which the paparazzi get punked, and Game Show in My Head, a reality series coming soon to CBS. As an actor, Kutcher has pretty much specialized in variations on one cinematic genre: according to him, “silly comedy” (Dude, Where’s My Car?), “social-commentary comedy” (Guess Who), and “romantic comedy” (Just Married). He began to feel trapped in the role of the “dumb handsome guy.” “I started to get this attitude about being funny,” he says, “like, are you laughing at me or with me?” That’s part of the reason he’s done dramatic films like The Butterfly Effect, but it’s also why he has embarked with such diligence on a career as a producer.
Kutcher was never as dumb as the stoner kid he played on That ’70s Show. School “came really easy” for the former biochemical- engineering major (he dropped out of the University of Iowa when he was 19), and he seems to find the entertainment business as easy as he found his best subject, math. “He has this gift for looking at popular culture and creating something that guys totally want to see,” says Cameron Diaz, his costar in the upcoming non-Katalyst comedy What Happens in Vegas....about a couple who get married after a night of debauchery and end up trying to scheme each other out of a huge slot-machine payout. “That’s because he’s one of them, a regular guy, and he still sees himself that way.”
When Diaz walked into Katalyst’s reception area earlier today, taking long, loping steps, her spindly legs wrapped in knee-high tan boots, Kutcher was at her heels.
“I’m doing SNL,” he said to her, sounding hyper. “You have to come out.”
“Totally, that could be great,” said Diaz, who looked a little too tan, kind of orange in the office’s white light.
“During the monologue, like, you could come on, where you’re thinking you’re hosting and I think I’m hosting,” Kutcher said.
“Oh my god. That could be so funny.”
Kutcher kept going. “Like, ‘Hi, I’m Cameron Diaz.’ And then I’m like, ‘Cameron, what are you doing?’”
“I’m hosting Saturday Night Live,” she said, picking up the riff. “What are you doing?”
“I’m hosting SNL.”
“I’m hosting SNL.”
Diaz threw her arms around Kutcher. “Oh my god, totallywe have to do it.” They kissed each other on the cheek.
Kutcher brainstorms on his feet. The windows in his corner office, where a Walter Payton jersey and a Jill Greenberg photo of a grizzly bear flank the sofa (he’s a Bears fan), serve as a memo pad on which he sketches out ideas in wipe-away markerwords like viral and integrate and guerilla are scribbled in blue and red ink, with arrows and spirals extending outward. “I think out loud. I go crazy with the marker while I talk,” Kutcher explains. It looks like show-business algebra.