Starting a new relationship can be scary. A million questions can cycle through your mind, like, is this going to last? Are we rushing into things? Can they really make me happy? One question that can be a big deal breaker in many relationships, though, is does their family like me?
For Mila Kunis, who married into the Kutcher family back in 2015, the family question wasn’t of any concern. Ashton’s twin brother, Michael, thought the two were perfect for each other.
“Those two reunited after 14 years, and I think they were meant to be,” he told US Weekly back in 2014 when the That 70s Show couple was expecting their first child. “It’d be like Ross and Rachel getting married [from Friends], like David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston getting married!
“They make such a great couple,” he added. “I’m so happy for them, I really am. Ashton is in a really great place right now.”
This endearing approval of his brother’s relationship could be from such a close bond he shares with Ashton, being his twin and having had each other’s back from a young age.
Michael was born with a form of cerebral palsy, and was actually an unexpected baby for their parents, or at least one of them was.
“Our mother [Diane], she didn’t know she was carrying twins,” Ashton told Dr. David Agus on his Paramount+ series, The Checkup with Dr. David Agus. “As they were leaving to go to the hospital, our older sister [Tausha] said, ‘Bring me one home too.’ Sure enough, she was pregnant with twins and didn’t realize it because in the original scan that they took they only saw one.”
From birth, the two exhibited very evident differences, Ashton having been nearly 10 pounds at birth and Michael only being 4. The differences became more and more apparent as they grew older.
“At the age of three, [Diane] could just tell. She was seeing [Ashton] develop at a much greater, advanced pace than myself,” Michael told Agus. “Just some slowness, some motor skill functionality was missing, slurring some of my speech. She could really just see that there were differences. I was lagging behind.”
The CDC defines cerebral palsy as “a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture,” and is caused by “abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.”
But that didn’t stop Ashton from trying to “challenge” his brother growing up and make him feel like he belonged and was capable of anything he wanted to do.
“You kind of only know what’s in front of you,” Ashton said. “Nobody in our family, nobody in our world was ever pointing out a difference. It just kind of felt like, there’s things that he’s good at and there’s things that I’m good at.”
It wasn’t until the brothers entered middle school when they discovered that other kids didn’t share their experiences with growing up with someone who had as severe of a condition as Michael did.
“When we went to middle school, suddenly there were kids from other schools that hadn’t grown up with us that had a different perspective,” Ashton said, referring to himself as Michael’s “protector”. “That’s when there was an awareness of what was going on.”
In a 2021 interview on Today, Michael detailed how Ashton would make it a point to have him involved in all the things he was doing, from soccer games at school to attending sleepovers, and refusing to attend either unless his brother was allowed to join.
“Most of the time they’d say yes, but sometimes they’d say no and [Ashton] would go, ‘Well, then I’m not coming,’” Michael said. “[Ashton] would tell me, ‘I wish I could take all of this off of you – and take it myself.’
“My brother picked a fight with them. He stood up for me,” Michael said. “He wanted them to treat me with respect. And that meant a lot.”
Although Ashton took care of his five-minutes-younger brother who suffered a serious condition, they still acted like normal brothers who’d wrestle and fight.
“We shared clothes. We would beat each other up and wrestle,” Ashton told Dr. Agus. “We’d jump off of the porch railing and pile drive each other. We fought like crazy. I almost broke [his] neck that one time.”
But fear struck the family when the brothers were 13 when Michael started to experience flu-like symptoms before their mother took him to the hospital. There, the doctors discovered he had an enlarged heart and needed a heart transplant, giving him three to four weeks to live.
That diagnosis quickly shrunk as after a few days, Michael’s condition got worse and doctors predicted he only had two days to live.
Distraught, Ashton sat by his hospital bed constantly, running through the ways he could serve as his brother’s “protector” in a circumstance where there was virtually nothing he could do.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘If anyone’s a match, I’m a match,’” Ashton said emotionally. “Now you start running that cycle through your head. You’re like, ‘This balcony looks far enough to take things.’”
“Ashton went to his parents and said, ‘Take my heart,’” Dr. Agus, who is also Ashton and Mila’s primary physician, told ET. “He said it truthfully. He really wanted to give it to his brother. The person he loved most in the world, his brother, [was] going through this and he wasn’t able to…just push [Michael] along. He had helped his brother with cerebral palsy and some social issues at school, but now here’s an issue that he can’t fix.”
Having lived through that experience and now reflecting back on what he learned, Michael told Dr. Agus, “You just realize that the fighting that we do as siblings, the arguing with the parents, and 13-year-old behavior, it just isn’t what it’s about…You don’t see a lot of 13-year-olds tell their siblings they love them, but to me it was the most important thing I could do, that I could say to them. It just brings the value of life a little bit closer.”
By some miracle, Michael was able to find a matching heart and successfully had the surgery in the matter of 48 hours.
Nowadays, the brothers are closer than ever, despite suffering a slight setback in their relationship once Ashton became a celebrity and Michael questioned his own identity having been labeled as “Ashton’s brother” instead of being his own person. But the two worked it out through conversations with each other and grew stronger from that experience.
Since it was revealed to the public by Ashton in 2003 that Michael suffered from cerebral palsy, he’s made it his purpose to spread awareness about the condition, taking advantage of his brother’s celebrity presence by elevating his own voice in the matter.
“[Ashton] did me the biggest favor he’s ever done because he allowed me to be myself,” Michael told Today. “I was finally ready to tell my story and I knew because of my twin, I’d have a big reach.”
Nowadays, Michael and Ashton spend holidays together with their giant extended family and their three kids (Ashton with two and Michael with one). Their bond seems to grow stronger by the day as they both continue to push for their value of how family will always come first.