Kate Hudson: “I was a real ‘pull up your bootstraps’ kind of girl. Sometimes, maybe I just needed a hug.”

For most actors, press junkets fall somewhere between a grudging contractual obligation and an outright irritation. Kate Hudson is not one of those actors.

“It just feels so good to be back talking to people,” beams the 43-year-old, apparently sincerely, when Weekend meets her at a London hotel. “I’ve been doing this for two decades,” she explains, “and after a while you can start to take it for granted. Things like this – sitting down and talking to journalists about this thing we do, this art form that we love. And then it goes away [during the Covid pandemic] and you’re like: okay. Reset. So now I’m loving being back out with people, talking about movies. It’s exciting.”

Kate’s in town to talk up her latest film, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which arrives on Netflix at Christmas, following a short cinema run. She’s left Rani, the youngest of her three children, with “mom and pa”, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. “She doesn’t care that I’m gone,” she says, mock offended. “She’s being spoiled. They’re giving her everything she wants.” In truth, she’s enjoying a little me-time on the trip – but is also fully across things on the domestic front. “This is my baking season, and I’m over here doing press. My mom said, ‘honey, what about the pies for Thanksgiving?’ And I was like, ‘I’ve got it covered – I’ll do my crusts before I leave, and then I’ll do my fillings when I get back, and just whip it all together’.” No sweat.

And the film? The sequel to 2019’s terrific Knives Out, Glass Onion is, if anything, even more irresistible than the original. A comic murder mystery set on a tech billionaire’s private Greek island, it sees Daniel Craig’s world-famous detective, Benoit Blanc, joined by a new ensemble cast of Cluedo-style suspects/potential victims. All of who are great value, but none more so than Kate’s scene-stealing turn – already generating an Oscars buzz – as Birdie Jay, a vapid former supermodel turned fashion entrepreneur whose “hashtag no filter, say it like I see it” approach to life (and social media) means she’s permanently having to claw her way back from cancellation.

“As soon as I read the script, I thought, ‘I really want this part’. I just wanted to get into that bikini,” laughs Kate, of Birdie’s itsy-bitsy orange swimwear. “My whole approach to her is: she understands every third word. She’s not really tracking anything.”

It is, you feel, one of those performances – like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction – with the potential to change the entire trajectory of a career, away from her default casting in a string of romcoms like Bride Wars, My Best Friend’s Girl and You, Me and Dupree. “It makes me so happy for you to say something like that,” she smiles. “I’m someone who wants the coach to put them in the game. And in this industry, the second you do one thing that people love, that’s the thing they want you in. They just don’t really want to see you get inside different characters. So it becomes very challenging. And it has been challenging for me in that way. I started out very differently,” she says of her Oscar-nominated breakthrough role as a rock groupie in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 comedy-drama Almost Famous. “Then ever since [2003 romcom] How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, I’ve been like, ‘hey guys, you can throw me a different ball!’”

As well as being riotous good fun, Glass Onion serves as a wickedly barbed satire on the madness of the age, with writer-director Rian Johnson skewering everything from tech bros and alt.right influencers to cancel culture and toxic masculinity. Edward Norton, as the egomaniacal, woo-woo-spouting tech “disruptor” Miles Bron, offers a particularly merciless takedown of certain Silicon Valley billionaires we could mention. Basically, Elon Musk is going to hate it, isn’t he? “You might be surprised,” says Kate, diplomatically. “I mean, anyone would love this movie.”

While Kate is clearly no Birdie Jay, they do share some DNA: both for example, have diversified into leisurewear (Kate is the co-founder of the Fabletics ‘active lifestyle brand’). Birdie, meanwhile, feels the pain of being a former ‘it girl’ whose Vanity Fair cover days are now behind her. Kate, of course, can still command magazine covers around the world – but in an industry obsessed with youth, can she relate to those anxieties?

“I think, for women, that concept is across the board,” she nods. “It’s in our business, it’s in every business. There’s something about the way the patriarchy sees women – as youth being the prime, as opposed to wisdom, and having lived, being the prime. And women are just fed up with it. I do think that’s changing – the dialogue is there. But clearly we have a long way to go.”

Birdie is also a social media liability. As someone with eight million Instagram followers herself…

“Sixteen million,” she corrects me, gently. “You’re doing me down there. Come on!”

I’m so sorry. As someone with 16 million Instagram followers, does she ever worry about having the power to detonate her entire career with a stray thought?

“You know, I think there’s so much fear, and that’s unfortunate,” she considers. “I don’t like thought police. I like knowing who people are. I wanna know how bad you are! Don’t hide it, put it out front, so I can choose whether I want to be around it. That makes me feel better than having people be afraid to be who they are. But I’m not afraid for myself. I’m not that kind of person. I don’t want to be provocative. I want to be connective. I lead with my heart.”

Her Instagram feed bears this out, with its many cute pictures of Kate with her kids: Rani, her daughter with musician fiancé Danny Fujikawa, Bingham, her 11-year-old son with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy, and 18-year-old Ryder, from her seven-year marriage to Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson. (She is on good terms with both her exes, with the blended Hudson-Bellamy family taking regular holidays together.)

“Coming from a girl who didn’t have a dad… I never wanted to rely on men”

Kare Hudson

Being only 24 when her first son was born, Kate says she’s been a mother her “whole whole adult life”. Presumably she’s pretty good at it by now? “I hope so,” she says. “I definitely don’t want to fail my children. I want to make sure they’re good, and feel happy. I think the digital era – Instagram, social media, all these things – has been really challenging for kids growing up, because somehow they seem to think they need to do something significant. But for me, significant is just to lead a happy life. That’s all I want for them. That’s it.”

There’s an irony, of course, in one of the world’s biggest film stars, herself the daughter of Hollywood royalty, telling her children, whose fathers are all successful rock musicians, that they don’t need to make their mark on the world to be happy. But then Kate’s own youthful drive and ambition didn’t always make her happy, either.

She was born in Los Angeles to Goldie Hawn and actor/musician Bill Hudson, but it’s her mother’s longtime partner Kurt Russell – who raised her and her brother Oliver from infancy – that she considers her dad. (Her estranged biological father, she once said, “doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall”.)

“My father wasn’t around and… everyone knows all of that,” she says. “And as a little girl, I always felt like I had to be: go go go, do do do. Just keep going. I had this real love for performance, and I went off and did talent shows. And I realised I wasn’t liked for doing that – my peer group didn’t like that I had that kind of confidence. My dad [Russell] was like, ‘you know, honey – just keep dancing, don’t ever let anybody stop you’. So I was a real ‘pull up your bootstraps’ kind of girl. And sometimes, maybe I just needed a big hug and a big cry. But I really made up for it in my late 20s,” she smiles, “when I started having therapy. So the crying has happened. The hugs have happened.”

How much of that performance itch does she think came from her parents, and growing up on movie sets? “It’s a bit of a mishmash,” she reflects. “One thing I’ve really taken with me through life is to be self-reliant. And that’s my mom. She works so hard. That independence is something that I grew up with, and I love being able to rely on myself – to make my own way, so I don’t have to rely on anybody. So let’s unpack that, right? Coming from a girl who didn’t have a dad, but has a stepdad, and never wanted to rely on men, and who had too many brothers [as well as Oliver, she has a half-brother and two step-brothers]… I’m gonna do it myself!

“I do think storytelling is something in your genetics,” she adds. “It’s literally in your genetic code. And it has to do with how our brains are wired – the right-brain thing. I’m seeing that now in some of my kids – the challenges of being artistic children, who think outside of the box, and are fuelled a lot by emotion. My middle child is all emotion! I think artists, and writers… we carry that heavy.

“But if you love performing, there’s nothing’s really gonna tear you away from it. I have friends in the industry who don’t have the same connection; they’re like ‘I’d rather not work any more’. I don’t know if that will ever be me. I just love it. And I’m loving this right now. I’m loving this period of my life. I’m not the kind of person who overthinks any of it. I just sort of exist as I am today, because god knows what happens tomorrow. So right now, this movie, this time… This feels good.”

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is on Netflix from December 23

FOOD BITES

What’s your go-to cuisine? My father [Bill Hudson] is very Italian. When I was younger, I didn’t realise how Italian, but I ‘ve always loved making my own pastas and raviolis. So it’s obviously in the DNA.

Any other signature dishes? I make a really good Sunday roast. I have a British son, and we often do a beautiful leg of lamb, with crispy roast potatoes. Jamie Oliver, who’s a buddy of mine, has a really good leg of lamb recipe.

If you don’t have the recipe to hand, can you just call Jamie up? That’s right. I’ll get him on the phone. I love that man. I did his Friday Night Feast TV show, and we kept in touch. I have a lot of chef friends. I just love food.

This article was originally published in Waitrose Weekend on 15 December, 2022 (c) Waitrose Weekend

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