Ashton Kutcher: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Brian Hiatt
February 10, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Is ”Punk’d” truly defunct? Probably. But though Ashton Kutcher’s box office-topping ”The Butterfly Effect,” established him as a serious leading man (with fans, if not skeptical critics), he’s not done with the goofy world of reality TV. The Demi-dating star of ”That ’70s Show” shared with his plans for new MTV reality shows and his next film — and in the process, sent us scrambling for the dictionary. Well, okay, an online slang dictionary. But still.

I understand why you quit ”Punk’d,” but why yank it in mid-season like you did?
It was time. You just kind of feel these things. That audience has a very fickle eye, and they want the new, hot, happening thing. And we’d done it. I felt like we couldn’t do something different or make it new. There’s a lot of legal constraints with a hidden-camera show, a lot of things that you can’t do. We tried to be conscious of that and do the best we could with it.

And could it return?
Look, if someone comes to me with the right creative [idea] that could make it new and different, then I would [bring it back]. I don’t want to just change the graphics package, and then be like, ”Now it’s a new show.” I have way too much respect for my audience to do that. Kids are too smart.

When we saw you between pranks on ”Punk’d,” that’s not really what you’re like, is it?
It’s a character. Like the guy I play on ”That ’70s Show” is a character. Like the guy I played in ”Dude, Where’s My Car?” is a character. The guy on ”Punk’d” is a character. I mean, it is me, because it’s part of who I am. It’s the prankster side of me. It’s almost like a schizophrenia: you bring it to the forefront. And boom, you’re there, and you’re like, ”YEAH!” And you go with it.

Don’t you find people who expect you to always be like that?
Yeah, I think when I meet with directors who haven’t met me before, a lot of times they don’t know what to expect. They underestimate who I’m going to be when I step in the room. But I think most people get it — I’ve done enough, like, talk shows. But even when I’m on a talk show, I play an energized version of myself. But that’s because I don’t want people to know who I am. You know what I mean? I don’t want it to be that personal. I’ll play a role that gets that personal someday — and that’ll be a scary movie. That’s the source — you can’t expose the source.

Gotcha. One of the shows you’re working on for MTV is ”My New Best Friend” [in which contestants have to convince those around them that an actor is their new pal.] Isn’t that a little close to Fox’s ”My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé”?
It’ll be totally different from that. We actually got it from an English show that just won the British comedy awards. We basically teamed up with those guys and decided to change the format a little bit. It’s funny because we went into Fox and pitched basically the same concept as ”My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé,” not knowing they were already planning the show. They kept it a secret — with reality programming, because you can get a show up so fast, it’s a very secretive world.

And the other MTV show?
”Snafu.” Do you know what ”Snafu” stands for?

Uh, no.
Look it up. That’ll give you a clue. [We looked it up: The word, which dates back to World War II, stands for ”Situation Normal: All F—ed Up.”]

Meanwhile, are you still working on ”The Dinner Party” with Bernie Mac?
Yeah, It’s an adaptation of [1967’s] ”Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” with me playing the Sidney Poitier role.

Of course.
It’s an obvious choice, right? [laughs]. I say it’s an adaptation, because we won’t use the title unless we feel it pays due respect to the original film. We have a lot of reverence for it because it was a socially dynamic film that changed the way people look at things. We think the racial gap has gone from a mile to maybe a city block right now, and we want to do our part to close it further.

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