It’s a beautiful day here,” Kate Hudson chimes with a smiling voice over the phone from her home in L.A. “I’m so excited.” Her enthusiasm for the California forecast is a fitting introduction to the actor—all golden tresses and gleaming smile—who has made a career out of setting sunshine to celluloid. In 2003’s $200-million-grossing How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Hudson’s quirkier-than-thou character, draped in a yellow evening gown (that looked as though it had been stitched from sunbeams), comes close to the real Kate.
Beyond wearing—and looking good in—that canary number, Hudson has achieved more: she’s mastered the art of the romantic-comedy heroine and has managed to do so effortlessly, combining feistiness and vulnerability in roles that rely on, above anything else, personality. And although her brand of blond pluck has blessed a series of unforgettable box-office bests, her major standout performance remains her turn as the fragile, free-spirited role of Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous—a role that won her a Golden Globe as well as an Oscar nomination for Actress in a Supporting Role.
Her destiny makes sense in Hollywood, as Hudson comes by her flaxen-maned radiance genetically: her mother is Goldie Hawn. (Hudson’s biological father is musician Bill Hudson, but Hawn’s longtime partner, actor Kurt Russell, raised her from the time she was a child.) She was born and raised in L.A., until the family moved to a ranch in Aspen, Colo., when she was four. Even when tiny, Hudson was the family’s resident ham-bone: “According to my parents, I was a firecracker as a kid,” she says. “The footage my dad has on video, which is really embarrassing, [shows that] if there was anything resembling a curtain or a platform or a mike, I was there!”
Hudson always knew she wanted to be an actor. She watched Annie on repeat (until her VCR spat out the tape) and traipsed around the house in full orphan costume, complete with red ’fro and painted freckles. Later on, she channeled that surfeit of energy into dance and soccer (she played competitively till she was in her mid-teens) and took fearlessly to the footlights (she was in all the school plays). “My mom always said I was the little girl who jumped into the deep end without knowing how to swim,” Hudson says, laughing. “She meant it as a metaphor, but it was literally true. I did walk right into the deep end.”
Her boisterousness also came in as a useful defence while growing up with three brothers. “[It was] me and my mom and a houseful of boys. I think it made me strong, or at least callous and able to take a beating—I think it’s why I can be in comedies. I’ve always been made fun of my whole life. All the boys ever did was make fun of me, so it’s easy for me to make fun of myself—I don’t hold myself too preciously. And I still have that relationship with guys—I’m an easy target. Because I can take it.”
In her new comedy, You, Me and Dupree, which opened July 14, she tests the theory, gamely holding her own alongside another group of boys (the film costars Matt Dillon, Owen Wilson and Michael Douglas). But although she can “do” comedies, she doesn’t revel in watching herself in them. “The first time I see the movie, I’m a mess, I’m nervous. It could be a million degrees in the movie theatre, but I’m freezing. It’s weird. [But not being a mess] would be like looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, ‘God, I’m amazing!’ You’d have real serious problems. If that’s how you look at yourself in the mirror, go see a shrink, go have some kind of deeply profound personal experience, because that is just—no.”
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