Spread: The Colorful Characters

Ashton Kutcher stars in “Spread,” which Overture will release in a platform mode August 14, 2009.  See Interview with Ashton Kutcher.


Film’s Characters: Kutcher’s Peers


Samantha (Anne Heche)


Samantha, played by Anne Heche, is Nikki’s latest and penultimate conquest. Heche describes Samantha as being a lonely woman who falls easy victim to Nikki’s charms. And she falls harder than she probably means to. “Samantha doesn’t mind taking care of people, but I think she falls a little hard for Nikki,” Heche says. “She’d like it to turn into something else, but that’s not the way things go.


“These kind of relationships are a bit tricky,” she continues. “They start off being something that’s tantalizing and dramatic and fun and over the top and sexy. Then it gets more complicated. It’s easy to stay in something like that a little bit too long, and that’s what happened for her. She should’ve seen the signs a bit earlier, but didn’t.”


Heche admired Spread’s realistic take on Nikki and Samantha’s relationship. “This is a very adult relationship,” she says. “We get to watch two people who aren’t really making loving choices in their life, and I think that’s a very real situation for a lot of people. Two people meet, it’s hot. They want to get something going and like it. There’s no reason to say no. Then the reasons they should say no become secondary to the passion they feel when they’re with that person. I think Samantha gets really involved in the fun and attention and sex of it, and not having anything else, the temptation takes her.”


“It’s really attractive to me to show something that true, and how dark it can get,” she continues. “I think there are a lot of people like Samantha. I think everybody wants to feel and have attention and feel loved whatever way they can. I think we get caught up in complicated things that we’re not quite sure of, but our hearts want to feel something. Then we realize our hearts aren’t engaged but our minds and bodies are; we get connected to things.”


Heche found that playing Samantha gave her a feeling of responsibility to women like her. “I’m playing an older woman who’s confronting her age in the story, and I wanted to explore that in a way that was free and aware of what a woman goes through when she’s with a younger man,” she says. “The seriousness that happens when you’re trying and wanting to desperately be what a guy wants. That’s a desperate thing for a woman. It’s not easy to want somebody who doesn’t want you back in the same way.”


Kutcher shared many of his most intense scenes in the film with Heche, and he found it inspiring to work opposite her. Kutcher says, “Working with Anne means just trying to keep up with Anne. She’s so razor sharp, decisive, inquisitive, and aggressive, with absolute confidence and certainty in her character and the scene. The great thing about working with someone like that is that you know everything you see across from you is totally real. It becomesreacting instead of acting.”


Heche was glad to have Kutcher by her side onscreen as well, and very much enjoyed having him as co-star. “I was really wowed by Ashton’s ability to just go anywhere,” she says, “to really try and test and explore the dark places where two people can go; to find the chemistry and the drama and the heat. You have to be pretty daring to go to those places, and he certainly is.”


Heather (Margarita Levieva)


Nikki’s affair with Samantha is hot and passionate, but after the initial flame flickers, Nikki meets someone different – Heather. For the first time, Nikki finds himself contemplating a relationship outside of the rules of the grifting game that he’s created for himself.


“When Nikki meets Heather,” Kutcher says, “he finds somebody who accepts who he is and who he isn’t, and she’s willing to care for him in spite of his flaws. He does everything he can to care back and be there for her, and he finds something true for the first time for himself.”


His new kind of attraction for Heather doesn’t mean everything ends well. Because of the way Nikki has been living his life, his newfound respect for the possibilities of love is tangled up in his past actions and the hurt he’s caused. “Just because you sort your stuff out doesn’t mean all the bad things you’ve done are immediately corrected,” he says. “If you put a lot of negative, selfish energy out into the world, and then all of a sudden you start putting out positive energy, it doesn’t negate what happened before. It takes a long time to correct the negative things you’ve done; to clean out the closet. That’s where the heart of this story is.”


Margarita Levieva plays Heather, and when discussing her, Kutcher says, “I’d never seen anything Margarita had done before. We had a couple people we could’ve gone with, but when she auditioned, we just knew we had to have her. And the great thing about working with someone who you haven’t seen much of is that every trick they have in their portfolio is brand new to you. Being in scenes with her, I’m seeing everything for the first time.”  Unlike Samantha, Heather is a woman who gets what she wants because she plays the same games that Nikki does. Heather uses men the way Nikki uses women, and when audiences first meet her she’s gotten herself into a difficult place.


“Heather is someone who’s got a lot to lose,” says Levieva. “She’s in a place in her life where she needs to make some decisions. She’s very lonely—I see her as a lone wolf.” Levieva loved the grifter aspects of her character and enjoyed exploring that side of the role, especially because, as an actress herself, Levieva could understand what it takes for Heather to “perform.” “Heather gets what she wants when she wants it,” she says. “She doesn’t take no for an answer.  She’s very in tune with her environment and knows how to work any situation. She knows how to play the game. Heather can live anywhere. She’s a chameleon and wears masks–any place she’s in she knows what mask to wear, any situation she’s in she knows what character to play.”


“She’s got a lot of colors,” Levieva continues. “There’s a side of her that’s really broken and pained and comes from out of darkness. But her palette is full. She uses all the colors that are there: fiery, sexy, witty, smart, adventurous and scared. She’s very interesting, and for me that was extremely attractive.” When describing why Heather and Nikki share such an immediate bond, Levieva says it’s because, “They’re like two little kids lost in the world who create themselves in order to feel whole, to feel like they belong. I think what happens when they meet each other is that when they’re together, they get to be themselves.”


“Nikki is a mirror for Heather,” she continues, “and in many ways it’s very scary to see yourself in another person. To see their flaws and see the side of yourself you don’t want to see. Heather doesn’t want to see someone playing the exact game she plays; when she sees that in another person it brings on a very mixed emotion. She’s extremely scared of Nikki for those reasons, because she knows what he’s capable of–he’s capable of what she’s capable of.”


Levieva found it interesting that the characters try to keep their guard up, even though they’re so immediately attracted to one another. “When they’re playing their games,” she says, “they have to be very careful about what parts of them they reveal. But there comes a moment in the film when Nikki and Heather don’t care anymore about hiding themselves.” She found that moment in their story to be incredibly freeing to play.


Harry (Sebastian Stan)


Rounding out the main cast is Sebastian Stan as Nikki’s best friend, Harry. Harry is the yin to Nikki’s morally questionable yang, and after years of steadfast best friendship Harry is starting to wonder whether he can put up with Nikki’s lifestyle any longer. Harry has to decide if he’s willing to help Nikki yet again when Samantha kicks Nikki out and everything in his life falls apart.


Though they’re so close, Harry hasn’t learned how to execute Nikki’s tricks. Harry has more trouble when it comes to women. “He could be good with the ladies if he just relaxed,” laughs Stan. “He over-thinks everything.” Plus, he’s got “the world’s most accomplished womanizer” as a best friend, and that tends to make him a bit more vulnerable in comparison.


“Nikki and Harry have been friends for a long time,” says Stan. “I think Harry looks up to Nikki a whole lot.” But it isn’t just one-way admiration. “Nikki also gets things from Harry,” he continues. “And ultimately, Harry helps Nikki discover himself. Through the process, though, Harry gets hurt because Nikki exposes all the things in Harry that he is insecure about. There’s a lesson for both of them in that.”


Like the rest of the cast, Stan had immense praise for his time working with Kutcher, and was impressed at his level of involvement, his humor, and his willingness to try new things. He loved his experience as an actor on Spread. “I’ve only had one other experience on a film where I was able to have the freedom to improvise and explore things like this,” he says. “I had a really great time, particularly with Ashton. My favorite part of working on the film was discovering all these things in our scenes that were not originally written. It was a great way to work–very liberating.” Stan thinks people will be drawn to the characters in Spread, and to the film’s exploration of a particular lifestyle – he feels it gives audience a glimpse into the more realistic side of the club culture that’s promoted in popular media these days. “People will relate to it, particularly our generation now,” Stan says. “I’ve been out at these clubs and tried to pick up girls at these places. You definitely find ‘Nikkis’ there. You find them everywhere. Everyone is an actor, right? When you’re at these clubs, out with your friends, and trying to pick up a girl, you’re really acting.


“But ‘Nikkis’ wouldn’t exist if there weren’t ‘Harrys’,” he laughs. “’Nikkis’ have to have an audience. They have to have somebody who blows smoke up their ass or listens to them crying. Then the ‘Harrys’ snap them into reality.”