Not that he cares, but Ashton Kutcher is smarter than you give him credit for (Photo: Thomas Whiteside/Elle)With nearly 14 million followers on Twitter, Ashton Kutcher, aka @aplusk, has some nerd cred. But it turns out the dude who became famous for playing the half-witted Kelso on "That '70s Show" has a lot more in common with Steve Jobs than you might know.
Kutcher, who plays the late iconic Apple co-founder in the upcoming biopic, "Jobs," actually has become quite a player in Silicon Valley. The 35-year-old actor and entrepreneur has placed bets and won big with such startups as Spotify and the couch-surfing site Airbnb.
"People fill in the blanks really fast. They go, 'Oh my God, he's on a show and [plays] stupid, so he must be stupid,'" Kutcher says in the latest issue of Elle magazine. "I can't control that, nor do I try to, nor do I want to."
Beyond his successful track record in identifying technology on the rise, Kutcher has even more in common with his titular character in "Jobs." Both Kutcher and Steve Jobs dropped out of college (Kutcher planned to study biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa); both had blue-collar dads (Kutcher's dad was a carpenter, Jobs' was a mechanic), and both have been famous for pulling pranks (Kutcher's "Punk'd" was a TV fixture for years, while Jobs and fellow Apple co-founder/partner-in-crime Steve Wozniak notoriously phoned up the Vatican posing as Henry Kissinger among many other hijinks).
Being mistaken for obtuse has its advantages. "They assume you don't know what you're talking about, then all of a sudden, you do. And the next thing you know, you have information you wouldn't normally have," says Kutcher.
Perhaps that's what gives Kutcher his edge when it comes to his business savvy. Through his investment firm A-Grade -- which he runs along with Madonna's manager, Guy Oseary, and supermarket business great Ron Burkle -- Kutcher has made bank. He was an early investor in Skype, which was sold for $8.5 billion to Microsoft in 2011. Kutcher also co-founded television and film development firm Katalyst in 2000, the company behind "Beauty and the Geek" and "Punk'd."
"There was a point in time where I was doing movies to be able to afford to live in a certain way" he tells Elle. "You know, I didn't really go the starving-artist route. I kind of went and did massive, commercial things."
Indeed, from "Dude, Where's My Car " to "No Strings Attached" to "Cheaper by the Dozen," Kutcher's box-office tally stands at nearly $1.8 billion worldwide.
Add in his tech riches and you can see how he affords a lavish lifestyle. In April he bought a $10 million-plus Lake Hollywood, steel-and-glass home and he is set to be Richard Branson's 500th customer, plunking down a $20,000 deposit to fly on his Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo into space.
And then there's "Jobs." A relatively smaller budget film (estimated to have cost $8.5 million to make), the project is a departure from Kutcher's comic fare. The actor meticulously researched the role -- filming at the actual famed garage where Apple was founded and was even briefly hospitalized after losing 20 pounds when he took on Jobs' fruitarian diet.
Despite "Jobs" opening to tepid reviews at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and backing off its planned April 19 release date (the studio recently cited a need to further market the film and also changed its title from "jOBS" to simply "Jobs"), we have a feeling that you shouldn't underestimate Ashton Kutcher.
Because, just like Steve Jobs, Kutcher is used to getting the last laugh.
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