Kate Hudson Talks 'Famous'

ByChris E. Johnson

March 5, 2001 -- If Kate Hudson comes home with a trophy on Oscar night, she'll have an extra spot in the history books.

Hudson's nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her role as a rock 'n' roll groupie in Almost Famous and if she wins, she and her mom Goldie Hawn would be the first mother-daughter team to share in Academy Award glory. A young Hawn won for 1969's Cactus Flower.

Hudson's first major role is clearly a critical success. She made her way to the podium with her win at the Golden Globes.

Given her ease on screen, one might think she had been groomed for the trade. Hudson told GMA.MOVIES.com that was hardly the case.

“It wasn’t like, ‘You must act, Kate,’” Hudson says. “No matter what any of us did, she — and our father — were completely supportive and wanted us to do what we wanted to do, as long as we were dedicated to it, and we had a strong work ethic. That’s really important to our family.”

For the Oscar, she's nominated alongside her Famous co-star Frances McDormand, Pollock's Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Elliot's dance teacher Julie Walters and veteran Judi Dench in Chocolat.

Nominated For her Dream Job

Set in 1973, Cameron Crowe's film Almost Famous chronicles the coming-of-age of 15-year-old music lover William Miller (Patrick Fugit), who lands a Rolling Stone magazine assignment to cover the up-and-coming band Stillwater, fronted by Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup).

Hudson, who lived less than a year of her life in the 1970s, delved deep into the smiley-face decade for her role as Penny Lane, who goes on the road following the rising new band. While it's hard to imagine another actress in the role, it's actually not what Hudson was originally up for.

“I didn’t know what I was reading for,” she says. “I just went in knowing that Cameron Crowe was doing a film. I said, ‘Cameron, I will be your slave, please let me be in your movie.’ I would have done anything. I would have been an extra — I would have taken just one line. I’m just such a huge fan.”

After being cast, she had the chance to work closely with Crowe on developing the role of the free-spirited Penny Lane, who charms all around her.

“It was a challenge to create the character, for Cameron, who did it on paper, and for him to give me what I didn’t quite understand about the character,” Hudson says. “There’s a long process, but we worked so intimately and beautifully together, and we created somebody we both fell in love with. I enjoyed being that dedicated to a character.”

The story, in part, mirrors director-writer-producer Crowe’s real life. Crowe was a budding rock journalist prior to embarking on his film career. In Almost Famous, the young William heads off on tour with Stillwater on what proves to be an eye-opening journey. Hudson’s character is the leader of the rock ’n’ roll group’s “band aids,” a group of women who label themselves as more than just fans.

“I was always fascinated by the '70s,” Hudson says, “because politically it was such an incredible time. So much was going on, and everybody had the need to express themselves so freely, and because of that, the most amazing artistic product was flourishing, in music, writing, film and fashion — it was just this incredible time.”

Education by Crowe

Hudson entered the project with a strong knowledge of Crowe's credits, especially Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which became required viewing for surviving the '80s.

“Spicoli was my childhood friend,” Hudson jokes. “Fast Times was one of my favorite movies — the classic Phoebe Cates scene, the masturbation scene. All that stuff makes you grow up so fast.”

She found a different sort of education on the set of Almost Famous, which at its root is all about the music. Crowe played '70s tunes on the set before scenes, to get the actors in the mood.

“I was always a big fan of '70s rock,” Hudson says. “But Cameron introduced me to a lot of music I had never listened to.”

During filming, Hudson was exposed to the finer points of music listening. “I started becoming a music fanatic, instead of a music fan,” she says. “I learned how to listen to music differently. You know, that tapping sound that you might think, oh, that’s a cowbell. But it’s really Keith Richards tapping a pencil on a glass. It was important for Penny Lane to listen to music that way.”

She admits her work ethic may have come from another musically themed classic, watching Jennifer Beals try to dance her way into a performance company in Flashdance. She admits to being a fan of the movie. “I loved Flashdance,” she says. “Who didn’t? It’s a guilty pleasure movie. You root for her.” After seeing Almost Famous, there should be plenty of people out there rooting for the likable Hudson as well on Oscar night.

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