Kate Hudson may well be Goldie Hawn’s daughter, but she is rapidly emerging as a hot Hollywood commodity in her own right. Her star turn as a rock groupie in Cameron Crow’s autobiographical gem, Almost Famous, is her latest achievement, and will next be seen opposite Joshua Jackson in the teen thriller Gossip. Paul Fischer spoke to the actress in San Diego.
One look at 20-year old Kate Hudson and you would be convinced that you were staring at a young Goldie Hawn. But there the similarities end. In her upcoming film, as the alluring and obsessive groupie Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, Hudson performance masks any physical resemblance between mother and daughter. For the young actress, here is the role of a lifetime. “I was completely psyched to play this character”, the actress explains in a San Diego hotel room. “I just wanted to be in Cameron’s movie, as anything, even an extra. I knew I could do it. Then I had the opportunity to read the script, and I cried at least 5 times. I knew, having read Penny Lane, that I could give this to Cameron and make it special for him.” Hudson recalls having an immediate reaction, a gut feeling to this character. “I loved her fire and strength. I loved the fact that she was vulnerable yet so masked and a little lost.” Hudson also saw that rare opportunity in a Hollywood movie, “that desire to really ACT, to be really able to soak myself into a role that I’d never had the opportunity before then, certainly not at that level.”
Based on writer/director Crowe’s own adolescence, the film, set in the seventies, tells the story of William (Patrick Fugit) who gets a job working for Rolling Stone magazine. He is assigned to cover the tour, of fictitious rock band Stillwater and travels along with it, making new friends, receiving advice from Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and just being on the road. William falls for the beautiful perennial groupie Penny Lane (Hudson) who in turn is in love with the group’s insular lead guitarist (Billy Crudup). The challenge for Hudson and her director, was not to turn Penny Lane into some stereotypical groupie, but add a fresh voice to the mix. “It depends on how you approach it. We did a lot of research on groupies and sort of ran with the world for a while, so as NOT to fall into that trap.” Almost Famous is also a movie about the seventies and the music culture that permeated that period. Hudson admits to having had an affinity with the period. “You could say I’d been somewhat hippiesque. I loved the clothes; for me, the seventies were the greatest period for both music and fashion.”
Hudson was born at the tail end of the seventies, in Los Angeles on April 19, 1979, and would make her screen debut in 1998. She first earned notice for her work in 200 Cigarettes (1999), an ensemble film that cast her as a virgin out on a date with a caddish young man whose interest in her is limited solely to her virginity. Although the film proved to be a substantial critical and commercial disappointment, Hudson’s performance was singled out for some of the scant praise the film did receive. The following year, she could be seen starring opposite fellow up-and-comer Joshua Jackson in Gossip, a drama cantered on the disastrous side effects of rumour-mongering on a college campus. She was brought up in a very male dominated household. Her father was Hawn’s husband Bill Hudson, but was brought up by her mother and the latter’s live-in lover Kurt Russell.
Despite a somewhat tangled family tree—and being regularly carted off to movie sets as a kid—Hudson insists her childhood was normal. “My mother is very much a homebody. She knits and gardens. She likes being at home with the kids. We were never away from her for more than two weeks.” And family is key for Hudson; she gains her spirit from them. “my grandmother was a ball-buster,” she says. “she just reeked strength.” Hudson has the same tenacity. “I’m very driven; I’m an Aries. When I do something, I’m going to do the best I can possibly do. And if I want something, I’m going to get it.” And what she wanted, from an early age, was to be an actress. She would cut up sweatshirts to mimic Jennifer Beals in Flashdance or parade around in a red afro Annie wig singing “Tomorrow.” “It’s all I did: Annie, Annie, Annie. And mum was just like, ‘Oh no.'”
Her mother didn’t initially encourage young Kate to follow in her footsteps. Quite the opposite in fact: Hawn threw up roadblocks to PREVENT her daughter from following in her footsteps too early. Kate says, ” I begged them. I wanted to act. And they kept telling me ‘No, no.'” At age 7, on the set of Hawn’s 1986 movie Wildcats, there was a girl Kate’s age playing her mum’s daughter, and Kate had to settle for being the girl’s stand-in during lighting and camera preparation. Yet, “I just loved it. ‘Can you turn to the right?’ Sure!” Finally, when Kate was 11, Hawn relented and got her daughter an audition for a lead role in a never-produced television show with Howie Mandel.
Hudson won the part—but Hawn didn’t tell her, turned it down, and kept the secret until she told Kate a year later. “She just wanted to see if I could do it,” Kate says.
Amazingly, Hudson says she bears no grudge. In fact Hudson herself later turned down what could have been her big break, a role in Escape From L.A., because it starred Kurt Russell and “I didn’t want to be professionally associated with my dad. I just wanted to see if I could do the audition.” After graduating from Crossroads, a performing-arts school in Santa Monica, she quickly landed the Party of Five gig, then a couple of roles in films, including Desert Blue, about a TV actress on a wacky road trip with her dad (John Heard). Despite her slightly edgy roles, “I’m not the cool, hard, independent-movie-chick—the grungy outfit, reading Dostoyevsky,” she admits. “I like to look nice and dress nice.”
Despite her protesting otherwise, Hudson does seem to share some of Hawn’s trademark happy streak. When she got the part in Almost Famous she recalls having “had a nice dance around the kitchen with my mother and family We call it the Happy Dance. It’s a little embarrassing, but that’s okay. Life’s all about embarrassing moments.” What is not embarrassing is Hudson’s career. The advertising campaign of Almost Famous features a gigantic close up of Hudson’s face, with sunglasses, adorning large billboards and every made mode of public transport. She finds it all surreal. “It’s weird to see your face plastered everywhere, and all my friends give me a hard time”, she concedes laughingly. Next up for the versatile actress is Robert Altman’s Dr Tb and his Women, which co-stars Richard Gere and Helen Hunt. Like the characters in the Crowe film, the rumour is that Kate Hudson is also, almost famous.