WALKING up the dusty Hollywood canyon in 100-degree heat, inhaling great gulps of smog, I begin to wonder if I'm being punk'd. It's not that I'm famous or anything, it's just that my hiking partner is Ashton Kutcher, who created the MTV show where people are subjected to elaborate, ego-puncturing practical jokes — they're punk'd. He's also well known for starring as the dumb brunet on "That '70s Show," headlining such cinematic milestones as "Dude, Where's My Car?," and marrying Demi Moore, who happens to be 15 years his senior, a May-December romance that has kept the tabloids titillated for years.
Kutcher assures me that this jaunt into heat exhaustion is not some elaborate goof. "I'm not that deviant," he says. "I always find it funny that people think they're getting punk'd when I'm around. That's the worst way to punk somebody, right?" He also insists that turning a reporter into a hyperventilating, dizzy, red-faced mass is not an extreme case of passive-aggressiveness either.
Venturing up the hill in the midday sun, he offers some advice. "Hydrate! Hydrate!" It's delivered in his best drill sergeant voice. The 28-year-old former Iowa boy is freakily good-looking in a slightly antiseptic, eternally boyish, Calvin Klein kind of way, with a long, lean figure, sculpted cheekbones and brown eyes bigger than your average doe's.
He arrived on a motorcycle, casually dropped his jeans to reveal gray shorts, strapped on a backpack and bandanna, then began to clip-clop blithely up the hill like a horse out for a casual saunter. He appears to be in good shape — in part because he's just back from his summer house in Idaho, the hills of the oxygen-deprived, and, oh, yes, he recently spent eight months doing six-hour-a-day workouts to get physically ready for his latest role, as a Coast Guard rescue swimmer in the upcoming adventure flick "The Guardian."
Ashton Kutcher, action hero?