The Reluctant Fundamentalist opens in Australia on May 23
Kate Hudson loves to wear white. She says the colour protects her aura and she’s probably not wrong. Dressed today in a toga-style dress, the label of which she will not disclose – she waves her hand dismissively when asked – her demeanour recalls the Queen of Sheba. Even if the svelte 34-year-old doesn’t have her own kingdom to rule, she hails from a famous dynasty, which is ever growing.
Her mother, 67-year-old Goldie Hawn, hasn’t made a movie since 2002 and now devotes herself to her Hawn Foundation, promoting mindfulness. When I once saw them together at a Hollywood party a decade ago, mother and daughter seemed like a pair of teenagers – fit, immaculately preserved and beaming those mega-watt smiles.
“I am a really active person, I am not lazy,” says Hudson, reclining on a sofa, her tanned legs clad in an impressive pair of Louboutin heels. “I work out a lot. I grew up dancing; I can’t not sweat. I have to. If I go four days of not doing something then I feel it. It really is a chemical thing.”
When it came to continuing the dynasty, she’d always wanted babies. Her son Ryder, with ex-husband Chris Robinson, of the Black Crowes, is now nine. And she gave birth to Bingham, her son with Muse singer and fiancé Matthew Bellamy, 22 months ago. Family means the world to Hudson, so it was something of a surprise that she returned to work two months after Bingham’s birth, especially considering the way her career had taken a backseat in recent years.
But the role which drew Hudson back was quite unlike the sunny romantic comedies that made her name in Hollywood, parts suited to her effervescent personality and comic flair. Instead, Indian director Mira Nair did some creative casting and offered her a dramatic role in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the story of a young Pakistani man on Wall Street in the aftermath of September 11.
Sporting dark hair and looking less trim than usual, Hudson plays Erica, the heartbroken, jilted lover of the lead character, played by British actor Riz Ahmed. The film, which opened the 69th Venice Film Festival last August and opens in Australia on May 23, received a standing ovation and Hudson has garnered some excellent reviews.
“It was crazy, because Bing was only eight weeks old and I was still healing,” Hudson recalls. “I was still emotionally, hormonally and physically in the throes of that, but I really wanted to work with Mira. It’s a very vulnerable time for a woman and I knew I’d be very emotional. For some takes I was like putty – I’d go and breastfeed and I’d just cry. You are dealing with the purest life force that you possibly can, and then the idea of mortality and loss of life and all those things are in your brain.”
She gained the admiration of the film crew, including co-star Ahmed. “She is an amazing woman,” he says. “She had a two-month-old baby, she is breastfeeding her kid, listening to notes from Mira … She passes the baby on, action, bursts into tears, cut, takes the baby back, stops it crying, yeah!”
Hudson says her pregnancies have been a complete contrast, like the boys she gave birth to. “Bing was reacting to everything. He was so wild in my stomach to the point where, by the end, the insides of my abdomen were just bruised! Ryder, on the other hand, was cool and calm. Bing was having a party!”
Does the difference reflect their fathers? “Ah, interesting. No, I think it’s just them. But I definitely see his father when Ryder does certain things, and it’s same with Bing. Bing looks a lot like his dad.”
While it’s not unusual for actresses to marry musicians (Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban are an example) Hudson – who is musically gifted herself, as we witnessed in her show-stopping turns in the movie Nine and on television’s Glee – seems drawn to them. Is it easier than being with an actor?
“Oh I don’t know,” she ponders, tucking her legs beneath her on the sofa. “It’s like anything else. You meet somebody, you connect and see what happens.”
Hawn had struck out in her own marriage to Kate’s musician father, Bill Hudson, yet her relationship with actor Kurt Russell, who Kate considers her actual father and calls Pa, is one of Hollywood’s happiest unions, despite the absence of a marriage certificate. Hudson points out that Hawn and Russell have made it work despite being, as she puts it, “completely politically opposed” (Russell is a Republican while Hawn has donated to the Democrats).
“I was raised by two amazing people, who surprisingly have been able to remain in love with each other and passionate about each other and interested and stimulated by each other for 30 years – and none of it has to do with them being actors. Well, maybe just a little, because that’s how they met.”
Hawn and Russell became an item in 1983 on the set of Swing Shift, though they had known each other beforehand. Hudson grew up between Los Angeles and the family’s Colorado ranch along with her elder brother Oliver Hudson, Russell’s son Boston, and her younger brother Wyatt. She spent a lot of time on film sets as a child. But despite growing up amid the trappings of Tinseltown, she says her parents refused to indulge her.
“My parents used to put us to work, so we couldn’t hang around for too long unless we were actually doing something,” she recalls. “We’d be working with the camera department or working in wardrobe or working with make-up artists. It was a great experience for us to be able to see our parents’ work and their focus.”
She left home young. “My mom let us all go when we were about 16, in that she trusted who we were as people,” she explains. “When I left it was more like we became best of friends. We have a lot of similarities.”
As well as natural exuberance, a carefree attitude and an age-defying beauty, mother and daughter also share a passion for shopping. During Hudson’s time in Paris filming 2003′s Le Divorce, the pair let loose, and bonded over a love for the City of Light.
“When I was three years old, my mom went to Paris and she tells this story about how she wanted to find something special, so she went to Baby Dior and brought back this little pink dress. I can remember it so specifically. It was chiffon and had little polka dots, and when I twirled you could see my undies, which I loved. I wore it till it was falling off of me. Over the years I’ve loved clothes so much that my mom saysI should have been a fashion designer. But like anything else, it’s an art.”
Possibly even more extroverted than her mother, Hudson danced and sang at every opportunity as a child. And while Hawn initially had some reservations about her daughter entering the film business, Hudson was determined. She turned down a role opposite Russell in 1996′s Escape from LA because “I didn’t want to be professionally associated with my dad”. Instead she appeared in a string of low-key movies – Desert Blue, 200 Cigarettes and Gossip.
Her big break came when Sarah Polley, not wanting to do nudity, dropped out of the groupie role in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film Almost Famous. Hudson had been turning down roles in the hope she would be the replacement and her tenacity prevailed – she got an Oscar nomination for her performance and rocketed to fame. As for the nudity, it wasn’t a problem as she’d already filmed the sex comedy About Adam – but only after calling her mother for advice.
“I’d hate for my parents to watch a film and see a boob and be disappointed with me for flashing my breasts,” Hudson told me shortly after filming Almost Famous. “So I called her and asked what she thought. We talked it through and she said ‘They’re small, all they’re going to see is the nipple.’ She didn’t mind, so that was that.”
Perhaps ironically, Almost Famous made Hudson very famous, though it was something that wasn’t going to faze her. “I never thought it was important. I love what I do and I’ve lived on sets and had dinner with famous people all my life.”
Incredibly, rather than strike while the iron was sizzling, she again took her mother’s advice and spent a year away from the cameras to consolidate her marriage and tour extensively with her husband’s band. She famously rejected the Mary-Jane role in 2002′s Spider-Man and instead opted for romantic comedies: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Alex and Emma and Raising Helen. “One thing I know from my mother is that it takes a lot of intelligence to be that funny,” Hudson notes, adding, “and you have to be able to laugh at yourself.”
Her relationship with Robinson, 12 years her senior, ended in undramatic fashion and Hudson says they remain on good terms. After their split, she enjoyed high-profile flings with the likes of Owen Wilson (they got together on 2006′s You, Me and Dupree, and Wilson tried to kill himself when they split up), disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and baseball superstar Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez.
In the relatively unassuming Bellamy, though, Hudson believes she has found her soul mate, saying she felt attracted to the British musician before really knowing much about him. “In 2007 I was doing a film in Australia, Fool’s Gold, and I went to see my friends, [the band] Jet, and they were like, ‘Come on, you’ve got to see this band.’ I didn’t know who Muse were, but I was impressed. Then I continued to not really know who they were.”
She got reacquainted with the band three years later, at the Coachella music festival in California, though Muse had already played by the time she arrived. “I’d lost my friends and there he was, Matt. He was like, ‘I’ll take care of you’, and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that, mister British rock band man!’ But sure enough, he did! He took my number and then he courted me, which was nice.”
By the time she saw him singing on stage again it was like watching a different person. And two months into the relationship, Hudson fell pregnant. Their unborn baby became part of his father’s music.
“Bing’s heartbeat is in one of the songs,” Hudson explains proudly, referring to the track Follow Me on Muse’s latest album, The 2nd Law. Bellamy also revealed to Rolling Stone magazine that the single Madness was inspired by a fight with Hudson. “He’s an artist, we’re all moody, we all have our moments,” Hudson shrugs. “Underneath it all he’s just a farm boy from Devon. A complicated farm boy!”
Now dividing their time between London and New York, they visit Bellamy’s parents on their Devon farm whenever they can. “The kids love it. The two lifestyles are wonderful and we feel really lucky that we can do that.”
Hudson and her brood also tour with the band. “We figure it out. We’re both very busy, but our priority is family. It’s just what it is. We’re a travelling family.”
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