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From Small Town Iowa to Multi-Talented Star: The Remarkable Ashton Kutcher Story

Whether you know him as the lovable but dimwitted Michael Kelso or successful tech investor and entrepreneur, Ashton Kutcher has worn many hats over his wide-ranging career. After rising to fame as a sitcom star, Kutcher has reinvented himself as a savvy businessman with an eye for investing in the next big thing. Let‘s take a comprehensive look at Kutcher‘s journey from humble beginnings to building a $200 million fortune.

A Working Class Midwestern Upbringing

Ashton Kutcher was born on February 7, 1978 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to factory worker parents. He and his fraternal twin brother Michael had a mostly happy childhood, though colored by family health issues. At just 13 years old, Michael required an emergency heart transplant that saved his life.

As a self-described troublemaker during his youth, Kutcher had several run-ins with the law that helped him re-evaluate his path. "I played way too hard. I am amazed I am not dead," he told TIME in 2001. His most serious offense was a burglary conviction in high school for breaking into his school at night.

After high school, Kutcher studied biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa. But a fateful modeling competition would soon redirect the course of his life.

Modeling Opens the Door to Acting

In 1997, Kutcher entered and won a modeling event called “Fresh Faces of Iowa” during college. This opened doors to modeling gigs around the country and internationally. Soon he was walking runways in New York, Milan and Paris for the likes of Calvin Klein.

But the experience made Kutcher realize his true passion was acting. So he made the bold move to Los Angeles in 1998 to pursue professional acting opportunities.

Year Key Acting Milestones
1998 Cast as Michael Kelso in That ‘70s Show
2000 Film debut in Dude, Where‘s My Car?
2003 First romantic comedy lead in Just Married
2003 Supporting role in Cheaper by the Dozen
2004 First drama in The Butterfly Effect
2006 End of That ‘70s Show after 8 seasons
2011 Replaced Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men

His career immediately took off when he landed the career-defining role of Michael Kelso on That ‘70s Show at just 20 years old. He portrayed the dumb but lovable character for eight seasons until 2006, earning popularity and a series of Teen Choice Awards.

According to co-star Kurtwood Smith, "The role of Kelso fit him like a glove. He took direction well but also creatively found little comic bits that made the character jump off the screen."

Finding Big Screen Success

While starring on That ‘70s Show, Kutcher leveraged his heightened profile to land film roles, especially in romantic comedies geared toward younger crowds.

Some of his most commercially successful rom-coms included:

  • Dude, Where‘s My Car? (2000) – $46 million box office on $13 million budget
  • Just Married (2003) – $101 million worldwide box office on $18 million budget
  • Guess Who? (2005) – $68 million box office on $85 million budget
  • What Happens in Vegas (2008) – $219 million box office on $35 million budget
  • Valentine‘s Day (2010) – $216 million box office on $52 million budget
  • New Year‘s Eve (2011) – $142 million box office on $56 million budget
  • No Strings Attached (2011) – $147 million box office on $25 million budget

For these popular big screen roles, Kutcher earned between $750,000 to $5 million upfront, plus a cut of the back-end box office profits. For example, he scored $2.5 million upfront and 5% of profit for 2003‘s Just Married, which ended up totaling over $7 million.

Year Biggest Film Payday
2000 Dude, Where‘s My Car? – $750,000
2003 Just Married – $7+ million
2008 What Happens in Vegas? – $5 million
2010 Valentine‘s Day – $3 million

Beyond romantic comedies, Kutcher expanded into dramas like The Butterfly Effect (2004) and action movies such as Killers (2010). He also voiced lead character Sam in the animated hit Open Season (2006).

Replacing Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men

After leaving That ‘70s Show in 2006, Kutcher experienced his biggest acting breakthrough yet in 2011 when he replaced Charlie Sheen as the star of CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men.

As Walden Schmidt, an eccentric billionaire, Kutcher‘s salary reached a massive $750,000 per episode. That amounted to over $20 million for each of his four seasons on the smash hit through 2015. During this period, he was consistently the highest paid actor on television.

But according to co-creator Chuck Lorre, Kutcher decided to leave Two and a Half Men in 2015 to pursue other ventures. His return as Kelso in Netflix’s That ‘90s Show in 2023 brought his acting career full circle.

Building a Tech Fortune Through Savvy Investments

Even while at the height of his fame as an actor, Kutcher harbored ambitions in the tech sphere. He first dipped his toe as an angel investor when he co-founded A-Grade Investments in 2010 with billionaire Ron Burkle. The fund made early and highly lucrative investments in disruptive startups like Spotify, Airbnb, Uber, Houzz.

In 2015, Kutcher pivoted A-Grade into Sound Ventures, a VC firm focused on later stage investments and now armed with over $250 million under management. Sound Ventures has backed leading startups such as Neighborly, MasterClass, Calm, and ResearchGate.

Year Key Tech Investment Milestones
2010 Founded A-Grade Investments VC fund
2011 Early individual investments in Uber, Airbnb
2015 Launched Sound Ventures, raising $100M
2019 Sound Ventures raises new $150M fund

Beyond his VC funds, Kutcher has personally invested in over 100 emerging companies like Casper, Skype, Foursquare, and Fab.com. His portfolio spans consumer tech, enterprise software, healthtech, fintech, and more.

Forbes estimated that between Sound Ventures and his side investments, Kutcher‘s tech holdings were worth around $200 million as of 2017. That figure has likely risen significantly as the market has boomed.

"Ashton brought more than just capital. He provided invaluable guidance around marketing and product design," said Neighborly CEO Jase Wilson about Kutcher‘s investment.

Love Life Filled with High-Profile Romances

Ever since rising to fame in his early 20s, Ashton Kutcher‘s love life has captivated the media. After dating January Jones and Brittany Murphy, he married actress Demi Moore in 2005 despite their 15 year age gap. Their marriage lasted six years before divorcing in 2011.

Soon after, Kutcher began a relationship with former That ‘70s Show co-star Mila Kunis. After welcoming daughter Wyatt in 2014 and son Dimitri in 2016, the couple married in 2015.

“If you would have told me when I was 26 that at 43 I would have two children and be married to the girl I dated on That ‘70s Show, I would have laughed you out of the room,” Kutcher told Esquire about finding love with Kunis years after acting together.

Current Net Worth Estimated at $200 Million

Thanks to both entertainment earnings and prescient tech investments, Ashton Kutcher has amassed immense wealth. His current net worth is estimated at approximately $200 million and rising.

While no longer acting consistently, Kutcher remains in the spotlight as a judge on ABC‘s Shark Tank. He also makes occasional returns to TV, like reprising his iconic role as Kelso for Netflix’s That ‘90s Show in 2023.

From small town Iowa roots to sitcom stardom to Silicon Valley success, Ashton Kutcher‘s remarkable career provides an inspirational model for following one‘s varied passions. His diverse achievements and $200 million fortune show that taking risks can really pay off.

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