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— by Ben Cosgrove with additional reporting by Shaheem Reid

With his second romantic comedy in a month opening nationwide on Friday (the first was March's "Guess Who"), Ashton Kutcher has a lot on his mind. Like shaving cream. And toilet paper. And reasons why he might have met his match in Amanda Peet.

"She's my alter ego," he says, gesturing at his "A Lot Like Love" co-star in the "TRL" studio's green room prior to a recent episode. "That's it."

See the complete Ashton and Amanda interview in Overdrive

As if his assertion demands immediate confirmation, the two actors begin making silly faces at one another. Goofing around seems to have evolved, over the months spent shooting the film, into a private language that they now share — even when they're out in public.

When told that her character in the film, Emily, seems just as silly as Oliver, the often clueless and passive young man played by Kutcher, Peet brightens.

"I'm excited that you think I'm as silly as Ashton Kutcher," she says. "That is a huge compliment."

When it comes to the question of who acted silliest on the set, however, the two offer decidedly different opinions.

"Well, Amanda shaving-creamed my car," Kutcher claims.

"Because you toilet-papered my front yard," Peet shoots back.

 Photos: Kutcher, Peet and more at the "A Lot Like Love" New York premiere

 MTV Exclusive Photos: "A Lot Like Love"

"But that had to be done. That was like a mini-punk, because I couldn't punk you while I was working with you."

"I did it twice," Peet suddenly admits, referring back to the shaving cream incident. "The first time, I wrote 'Punk'd' on the windshield, and then I [put shaving cream all over] the little Cadillac thingerdinger on the hood."

"Well, that wasn't even me, anyway, who toilet-papered your front yard," Kutcher says, suddenly taking an entirely different tack. "That was Demi's kids, because they need to learn how to toilet-paper a house. That's just passing on the craft. I mean, that's what you're supposed to do when you have kids around. You've got to pass on your knowledge."

And so on, back and forth. Charges made; countercharges offered up in rebuttal. And one gets the sense, watching it all, that the two actors are either still, at least in part, playing their "A Lot Like Love" characters, or they really do just enjoy goading one another. Or perhaps both. Either way, it's easy to close one's eyes and hear not Ashton and Amanda, but Emily and Oliver as they poke at and prod and bicker with one another.

"She's my alter ego." — Ashton on Amanda

In the movie, the two play friends and emotionally polar opposites who, over the course of seven years, attract and repel and then attract one another again. Inviting inevitable comparisons to "When Harry Met Sally," the movie is as much a series of set pieces for the two actors to show off their comedic chops as it is a coherent, traditional love-story narrative.

But there are also moments in the film when the comedy falls away, and Kutcher and Peet are required step it up dramatically — calling on more than just their laugh-evoking skills in the service of the story.

"It kind of depends on the character and it depends on the director," Kutcher says of the challenges and rewards of moving between comedic and dramatic roles and scenes. "You know, 'Butterfly Effect' was a lot of fun. I had a blast making that. [Both genres] have their intriguing elements. And there's also something about doing live stuff, too, like theater and TV shows, because there's an energy that comes with that. [But] I think you gotta keep changing it up, keep it new and keep trying different things."

He also found that listening to certain types of music helped him get a handle on the character of Oliver in a way that other research for the role might not have.

 MTV Exclusive Trailer: "A Lot Like Love"

 Clip: The bet in the bar

 More "A Lot Like Love" video ...

"You know, the movie takes place over seven years," he says. "I started in the beginning and was playing music from seven years ago. I was listening to Blues Traveler, Rusted Root and other stuff I thought the character would listen to. So throughout the movie, as the times changed, I would listen to music from the different periods [that the characters lived through]."

When Peet suggests that the process was a success — "Well, it worked, 'cause you brought it" — Kutcher shrugs off the praise.

"I don't know. It was just a trick."

But the self-reflective, mutual-admiration-society feeling that has taken over the proceedings doesn't last long. Soon, the two alter egos are warring again, sparring, joking and jabbing, as if too much humility (or pretension) on either of their parts will somehow bring Emily's and Oliver's world crumbling down around them.

"We were so used to [being] with each other, because we were hanging out on the set and off the set," Kutcher says after the two of them regain their composure (again), addressing the camaraderie that built up over the course of shooting. "So, by the middle of the movie, there would be moments [where] we would just kind of invent, and then go with it. Like the Chinese food scene, where we're at the table [spitting water, switching seats, but not speaking a word] — they rolled the camera for 15 minutes and we just clowned around."

By the looks of things, that clowning still has a way to go before it loses steam.


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