The perennially upbeat Kate Hudson, 35, is one of Hollywood’s most genuinely likeable and unaffected celebrities. Since her first significant role in 2000 as a wide-eyed rock ’n’ roll groupie in Almost Famous (the role garnered her an Oscar nomination), she has been a constant figure on the Hollywood circuit. With a current tally of more than 20 films, she’s lived a well-travelled life, and not just in terms of movie locations.
Today, as enthusiastic as ever, she’s promoting Wish I Was Here, in which she stars as a mother of two and wife of a struggling actor (Zach Braff). Some of her more memorable milestones, though, are music- rather than movie-related.
In 2000 Hudson married The Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, with whom she has a son, Ryder, 10. The couple divorced in 2007. In 2010 she embarked on a relationship with another musician, Matt Bellamy of British band Muse; they got engaged in 2011 and have a son, Bingham (Bing), aged three. Despite reports the pair separated last year, they have been very much together of late, spotted frequently in both London and Los Angeles (they maintain a home in each city).
Throughout her ups and downs, Hudson has never let any hint of her own heartache pervade her professional life. I ask how she has managed to maintain her ebullient demeanour while dealing with the storms she has so publicly weathered.
Hudson ponders my question for a while then uncrosses her long legs from underneath her, stretching her arms out above her. A smile splashes across her face.
“Well, I’ve never suffered from depression,” she considers. “I mean, in terms of stress levels, everybody has their moments in life, but you look at the things going on in the world, millions of kids are displaced from their homes in war-torn countries, and you look at your own life and go, ‘Hey, what are we really talking about here?’”
Hudson’s memories of her formative years in both Los Angeles and on a ranch in Colorado are joyful, though her biological father, musician/actor Bill Hudson, split from her mother, Goldie Hawn, when Kate was 18 months old. Ever since she can remember, Kurt Russell has been the man she refers to as her father – and no wonder, as he raised both Kate and her brother Oliver, 37, also Bill Hudson’s child. Her half-siblings include Emily and Zachary Hudson from her biological father’s marriage to actor Cindy Williams, and 28-year-old Wyatt, Hawn and Russell’s son.
Hudson doesn’t take her good fortune for granted and shows no signs of a sense of entitlement. So it’s completely believable when other movie stars tell you that Hudson knows each crew member when she’s on set and doesn’t isolate herself from others.
“I don’t want to be yelling demands from my trailer. I’d rather be sitting on the back of the truck with the crew having a laugh,” she confirms. Perhaps this child of Hollywood royalty’s attitude is due to witnessing both the highs and lows of celebrity from an early age.
She seems nonplussed about the trappings of fame, and well aware that the pendulum of success can swing equally quickly in the other direction. This perspective has set her in good stead in dealing with some of her professional choices.
Hudson’s career began with indie movies such as 200 Cigarettes, and she gradually moved into starring roles in romantic comedies including Dr. T and the Women and How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
But not all her efforts have been successful at the box office – think low-grossing movies such as Alex & Emma and Le Divorce. There were huge industry expectations for The Four Feathers, directed by Elizabeth’s Shekhar Kapur and also starring Heath Ledger, but the film proved a critical and commercial disappointment. More recently, thriller The Skeleton Key also failed to ignite the box office.
“I liked that movie,” Hudson says protectively. “You always feel better if it’s a smashing success but I think you’d be a crazy person if that’s how you think it has to be all the time. It doesn’t work that way.” Hudson’s other outings include Bride Wars with Anne Hathaway in 2009 and 2011’s Something Borrowed.
One of Hudson’s most successful on-screen romantic pairings has been with Matthew McConaughey, in blockbusting rom-coms How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) and Fool’s Gold (2008). Given that McConaughey was, in the past, more famous for topless paparazzi snaps (and naked bongo-playing) than his acting abilities, a sharp contrast to his recent, acclaimed role in Dallas Buyers Club, would she say he dropped his movie-star image to be seen as a better actor?
“I take great offence to that,” she says. A frown appears on her apparently un-Botoxed forehead. “He didn’t drop his image as a movie star to become a great actor … he has always been a great actor.”
Though associated with those shiny, happy rom-coms, Hudson has proved her mettle in other areas over the years, demonstrating considerable singing and dancing chops in the hit musical Nine (2009) and, more recently, in a recurring role on TV series Glee. When I mention her talent in this area, her face lights up even more than usual. “Broadway is definitely on my bucket list,” she says. “Actually, it’s more than that; it’s a must. When you’ve got it in your blood, you can’t help but want to get up there and do it.”
Getting into showbusiness was not a decision motivated or encouraged by Hudson’s parents. “I grew up with a family that was not judgmental. My parents didn’t have an expectation for what I was going to be – for them it was very much about who we were becoming. They were focused on things like: Are we kind to people? Are we polite? How is our work ethic? So I never felt any pressure from my family to be a certain thing. The only pressure I would feel is if they felt I was being inauthentic.”
She smiles. “And if I was being inauthentic, my parents would be the first ones to say, ‘Stop it! This is not the daughter I want to raise. I want to raise you to be authentic no matter what you want to do, who you want to be.’
“That’s definitely what I want to pass on to my kids. I want them to feel that and I want them to appreciate their individuality. I want them to have the strength to be able to go out and do things and take the criticism.” She leans forward. “What’s that great quote that goes something like, ‘If you don’t want to be criticised, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing’?”
I consult my smartphone and tell her the jury is still out as to whether that nugget of wisdom really was spoken by Aristotle. “Okay,” she says, distractedly, and continues without missing a beat.
“I want my kids to have strength and confidence in themselves … That’s what I got from my family and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“But raising kids is no easy thing. I have strong-minded children, which is a beautiful thing but it’s working out how to manage it. We’re living in a very fast-moving world with a lot of pressure. I grew up on a ranch and I’m watching my kids growing up in different places. It’s just a very different time,” she shrugs. “So you do the best you can.”
Hudson evidently does her best with a healthy dose of humour. She and Bellamy own two cats named Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and not apparently in any fond tribute to their namesakes.
How are her fiancé’s parenting skills as stepdad to Ryder and father of Bing? “Oh, he’s very kind and very nurturing,” she smiles.
Her latest movie, Wish I Was Here, covers many themes, one of them religion. Hudson embodies an interesting combination of charm and hippie-inspired optimism.
“For me, seeing the complications religion has created in terms of unrest and war, I think if anything, the beauties of religion should be celebrated,” she says. “I’m not religious but I try to carry on the traditions, though I let my children make up their own minds about how they feel about who their God is.”
Although her jet-setting lifestyle takes her all over the globe, Hudson has remained very close to her parents.
“Ryder is 10 years old and because I was a young mum, my parents were young grandparents. It was an exciting time for everybody. Pa was a strong, strict, loving, present but tough
dad, which we loved. But with his grandchildren, he’s the opposite,” she laughs. “I think he absolutely loves that he’s not raising these kids and so he’s just spoiling them. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. It’s a really beautiful thing. He lets them eat whatever they want and they get to stay up late.
“And my parents live very close to me when I’m in LA, so they come over and take the kids for breakfast down the street, which is nice, so I can have my moment alone. I think the kids know how cool their grandparents are.”
Healthy inside and out
A natural athlete, Hudson’s body is a key part of her professional arsenal. “Well, fitness is a passion of mine actually and it’s not just about fitness, it’s about mental health,” she says. “I think physical health and mental health are a very beautiful marriage and one needs the other. Studies show that working on your body affects your brain and is so vital to your mental clarity. And sometimes it’s difficult to be motivated with all the stress and challenges.
“But getting back to the topic of depression,” she adds. “Even if you have low levels of it, one of the first things that any doctor will say is to move. I’ve been close to people who have suffered from depression and when you hear the words, ‘I have to move,’ when you’re in that frame of mind, it feels impossible. But it’s
that serotonin and dopamine that wakes up part of your brain
to open your eyes and see a little clearer. So for me, fitness is not about vanity as much as it is about feeling strong.” Hudson is the
co-founder of Fabletics, a stylish brand of active wear.
On the lighter side, it’s her well-toned physique that has enabled Hudson to make some brave choices on the red carpet.
“Oh, I love fashion. Even as a little girl, I loved it. My mother said that I would put outfits together and she would go, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing’, but she encouraged individuality and I definitely expressed myself, although I got tamer as I got older. But it’s important to know that no outfit in the world will make you feel confident – that is definitely an inside out job.” She smiles. “Though there is always that outfit that can put a little spring in your step.”
For all appearances, it would seem Hudson is a living, breathing cliché of someone who “has it all”. Taken aback a little, she quips, “Oh, nobody has it all. That’s not possible. Otherwise life would be boring, wouldn’t it?”