Published March 26, 2005
LOS ANGELES – The new comedy "Guess Who" is only loosely inspired by the 1967 Sidney Poitier classic "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"
But star Ashton Kutcher (search) said the cores of the classic and the update are the same.
"We share the heart, we share the soul and we share the message and the premise," he said. "But the story's different, the characters are different. And there's a lot more laughs in ours."
As with the 1967 Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy (search) original, the new film tackles the issue of interracial relationships.
This time, the father (portrayed by Bernie Mac (search)) is black, distressed that his potential new son-in-law (Kutcher) is white. Hilarity ensues and a surprisingly new relationship emerges.
Among the "Meet the Parents"-esque movie's silly moments, Mac's character insists on sleeping with Kutcher to ensure his daughter's chastity.
As soon as you can say "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," the two are snuggling in their golden slumbers.
"I was the driller," Mac joked.
Another sequence has Kutcher kidding around with girlfriend Theresa (Zoe Saldana), trying on her lingerie, then unable to remove it before Mac's daddy gets a glimpse.
Saldana was impressed with Kutcher, in more ways than you may think: "Trust me! Ashton looking bad in anything? Obviously, he's not perfect, but he looked good in female lingerie."
Kutcher and Mac play with racial tensions in "Guess Who," and one of the film's edgiest moments comes when Mac's character essentially dares Kutcher to tell racist jokes at the dinner table.
"We said, 'Look we have to be able to go where nobody wants to go,'" Kutcher told the New York Post. "If we make people feel a little bit uncomfortable, they can grow a little from it."
During rehearsals, the actors, writers and director threw out dozens of off-color jokes and then settled on four that worked for the plot.
Kutcher's initial jokes get polite laughs from the family, but the last one goes too far.
The scene was filmed in two parts, with the camera on Kutcher at first and then turned around to Mac and the family.
During the second part, Kutcher threw out some unscripted — and truly offensive — one-liners to get heightened reactions from the other actors.
"When they're getting up from the table, they're really getting up from the table," Kutcher told the Post. "But it was funny. It worked."
Two principals from the 1967 original were at the film's March 13 premiere: director Stanley Kramer's widow, Karen Sharpe, as well as actress Katharine Houghton (search), Hepburn's real-life niece, who played the daughter opposite Poitier.
Mac and Sharpe met for the first time on the arrivals line.
"How far we have come since 1967, when interracial marriage was taboo. Stanley and my lives were threatened by that film," Sharpe said to Mac, who replied: "Nobody's thinking about that bull now."
"Now look where we are," Sharpe said. "God bless you."
The Associated Press and the New York Post's Russell Scott Smith and Fred Topel contributed to this report.