A Saturday night in the Rockies: Goldie Hawn’s 11-year-old son, Oliver Hudson, and two sleep-over friends have just left for a fast ski run down a nearby slope; 8-year-old daughter Kate Hudson and one sleep-over friend are jack-knifed over a pillow, watching a videocassette of “Saturday Night Fever"; 17-month-old son Wyatt Russell is chasing Snowball, the all-white cat, and Hawn, perky as ever at 42, with hardly a line or wrinkle, is gobbling a quiche-without-crust dinner of broccoli and cheese, balancing the plate on her lap.
The broccoli comes from her vegetable garden. To hear her, life--like her “just huge” garden--is flourishing, with barely a blemish. Except, of course, she’s desperately missing Kurt Russell, 36, who’s off making a movie in the mountains of North Carolina.
They have lived together four years, since starring in “Swing Shift.” Now they are back on-screen in “Overboard,” a sugarplum of a romantic family comedy. Her children call him Pa, and, for want of a better word, when names are not enough, she refers to him as husband, “because there is no other name than that. I refer to him as my ‘husband’ and he refers to me as his ‘wife.’ ”
But there are no impending plans of marriage.
“I said to Kurt when the baby was inside my stomach, that he was going to be the happiest baby, and he is . . . . Kate was tough and resilient. I was going to name her Rebecca, but feeling her kick, I knew I had to call her Kate. A strong name. And Oliver, he used to roll, so I knew he would be sensitive and poetic. . . .”
On her desk are two matching sets of silver frames--one for Ollie and Kate, the second awaiting photographs of Wyatt and Russell’s 7-year-old son, Boston, from his first marriage.
“I designed this house so you can see all the views from all the windows,” Hawn says, gazing through chintz-draped wraparound windows that are two stories high. “And when it snows,it’s like you’re inside one of those snowy glass bubbles.”
Outside are seven horses, five dogs, a second cat and 70 acres--35 belonging to her and 35 to Russell. (For several months a year, they also live in her home in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades.)
Her land contains the four-bedroom, forest-green-and-white guest house where they live and across the road stands the outline of a 5,000-square-foot log cabin Russell is building for them, which should be ready next summer. Hawn says she has always wanted to live in a log cabin. A country road separates the two properties.
Does she ever see herself and Russell divided?
“The thing is, we are separate entities,” Hawn says easily. “No question, we live together, we think together, we have a family together, and we do everything. But what could be better than keeping your own, and having bigger and better?”
In late afternoon, the actress-producer is sitting in the chintz-covered window seat of their bedroom. A king-sized bed made of aspen wood dominates the room. Hawn is propped against a floral pillow, talking about life and work, while her live-in helper, Ali, keeps an eye on the children. A violet incense candle burns on the sill.
“I just love good smells,” Hawn says.
She is wearing skin-tight jeans, a knit-camisole T-shirt and her only jewelry this day--a four-carat round solitaire diamond ring. “Kurt gave it to me for my 40th birthday. Isn’t it pretty? " she offers, putting her hand forward. Then taking her hand back, she stares hard at the diamond, and for a fleeting moment there are shades of her signature role as “Pvt. (Judy) Benjamin"--or indeed of Joanna Slayton, her character in “Overboard.”
“It’s a little dirty,” Hawn says, almost to herself.
Playing Slayton, who falls off the family yacht one night, hits a garbage scow and suffers amnesia, Hawn goes though four character stages--from overpampered heiress who is the ultimate in rich bitchery; to confused, downtrodden “Annie,” who thinks she’s the wife of a hunk of a widower carpenter (Russell) and mother of their four helter-skelter sons; to a woman falling in love, and finally to a rich woman in love, who has all her marbles.
“Obviously, I enjoyed (the first part of) Joanna the most,” Hawn said, “and that was the part I was most nervous about. It’s as far away from my persona, certainly from what’s inside of me. I have to go in and (ask), ‘Who is my prototype? What is it about me I don’t like?’
“All actresses have to go through this kind of delving into analysis of character,” says Hawn, who herself spent seven years in psychotherapy. “We don’t like to think we’re that nasty or demanding or that insensitive, and a lot of times it’s scary to play that part.
“I know this is comedy,” she adds, “but I never really relate to my work as ‘I’m making a joke here.’ I try to get my character pretty strong, so I can have fun with it.”
And she does. “Overboard’s” very first line is a gas, more for the way Hawn’s Slayton says it than it is in cold type. “I cannot, I repeat, cannot sit in the middle of this cesspool by the sea without anything to do.”
“Kurt and I both were given the script simultaneously,” notes Hawn, whose partner Anthea Sylbert in Hawn/Sylbert Movie Co. carries a producing credit in the movie. “We really weren’t looking for anything to do together--not that we didn’t want to work together, but it was not of prime concern. We read it separately and thought, ‘Gee, this is fun.’ There were some questions we had and so on"--she declines to elaborate--"and then again it usually isn’t perfect when you get done with it, either, but at least you put your efforts into trying to make it better.
“I love the idea of playing a nasty woman, and Kurt was really attracted to (his) role because it’s a lot what he is. He’s not irresponsible, and he’s not one of the kids, but meaning that he really is a family guy and very down to earth and extremely basic, and I really wouldn’t be surprised at all if I met him sometime in another life,” adds Hawn, who talks about reincarnation but is not at all sure she believes in it.
Whether it’s good for movie promotion, or simply that she delights in talking about him, Russell is a featured player in any conversation with Hawn these days. “He really is a man’s man. I think we’re good for each other. He’s all male, and he needs a little feminine in his life, and I’m all female and I need a little male in my life, so we balance each other out.”
This from the woman who in 1979 took the gutsy path and started her own production company?
“Maybe I am a little bit of a paradox, but I really do feel very girlie,” she replies. “I never sort of felt like wanting to be a man in a man’s world or even wanting to compete, and show that I’m just as good or that I’m even better than. I always sort of took my road as it presented itself.”
Her producing road became clear to ever-practical Hawn--who, after all, had started her own dancing school in Washington at age 17--with “Pvt. Benjamin.” “It was the next step,” she said in the tones of those who explain why they climb mountains. “It was just there. ‘Pvt. Benjamin’ was brought to me by Nancy (Meyers) and Charles (Shyer). I loved the idea. I said, ‘Look, write it, we’ll produce it. Why do we need producers? I can take the script; we can go and produce it ourselves; we don’t need to call yet another person in. I’ve been in the business long enough to know. This we can do. . . .’ ”
Had there been a concern that roles for women simply weren’t good enough? After all, for years she had been mistakenly equated with her roles as a ditzy blond.
“That was never a motivation,” answers Hawn, who went from TV’s ‘60s comedy hit “Laugh-In” to a best-supporting-actress Oscar playing Walter Matthau’s mistress in “Cactus Flower” (1969).
“The media, or the people that interview you or even that perceive you, that pick up on you for whatever illusion you create-- they have to create a reason why you’re doing this. For me, it was me doing something that I thought would be fun and exciting, and the question I had to ask was also very much a business question: ‘Why do I need a producer I have to pay $300,000 to?’ ”
With that, she erupts into that familiar throaty Hawn giggle.
In 1984 she teamed with Anthea Sylbert on “Protocol.” Sylbert had been a costume designer on Warren Beatty’s “Shampoo,” which Hawn co-starred in, and at the time of “Pvt. Benjamin” Sylbert was a vice president at Warner Bros. She and Hawn also produced “Wildcats.” Hawn says she got a production partner simply because she wanted to spend more time at her acting craft.
Meanwhile, Hawn’s next role--and production--appears to be a major career departure. She’ll play the daughter in “Last Wish,” based on Betty Rollins’ book that deals with helping her terminally ill mother die.
Not surprisingly, Hawn still feels closest to her Pvt. Judy Benjamin character. “Very much so. I loved that character. I had a great time doing her, and I had a great time doing Lou Jean Poplin in ‘Sugarland Express.’ . . .
“You know you talk about women’s lib, all this semi-passe stuff,” Hawn continues. “At least where we sit in the middle of our country, we’re a little behind. And I don’t want to be insensitive to the problems of women at all, but I was so busy earning money and trying to get my next gig when I was dancing in New York, and I came to L.A. to dance, and trying to get a commercial or something, going to Vegas, just making money, coming back, all the things I did. . . . Finally I got ‘Laugh-In’ and I was no different than I had been at any time ever. I was already liberated.
“I mean liberation starts as a state of mind,” she emphasizes. “Certainly you can go outside your door thinking, ‘I am liberated,’ and then you hit a man about 8 feet tall and made of cement, and you shrivel into nothing. . . .”
“Making ‘Overboard’ was the happiest experience of my working life,” notes Hawn, “because I never had to say goodby to Kurt in the morning, and we talked about the movie together. And the kids could come with us, and so our kids could become friends with the four kids in the movie, and we had our trailers in sort of an L.
“Kurt and I both work out so we had all our workout equipment on this sort of AstroTurf and we cooked and I made soup and stuff. I made chicken soup. . . . And for six weeks we lived in Mendocino in a Victorian storybook house in the middle of the woods with a pond, and ducks and deer would come up on the lawn in the morning. We just really fell in love all over again,” she smiles.
Does she ever see herself getting married to Kurt? On a deep exhale of breath, Hawn, who has been married twice, answers: “I don’t know, maybe. . . .
“We’re happily the same. We’re having such a great time now. . . . Why not be scared? Neither marriage I had worked out, and the one marriage he had is a big nightmare. I mean, marriage is business. And the thing is, when two people get together, and they have equal status, equal money, they’re absolutely self-sufficient. . . . The truth is, Kurt called me the other night and said, ‘Marry me and take me away from all this.’ ”
But the truth also is that she knew, and he knew, his proposal was not serious. “We tease each other a lot,” she says.
Meanwhile, she can’t wait for Christmas. “We’ll have a great homecoming in L.A. My mother will be there, and my sister and the family and his family. He’ll be home . . . definitely on the 24th. ‘Forget about my presents being wrapped,’ Kurt said.”
Goldie Hawn says she’ll take her presents however they come.