Kate Hudson, object of affection in romcoms, daughter of Goldie Hawn, and rock-star wife; personas that don't suggest an appearance in the movie adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's post 9/11 novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
The 34-year-old landed the role at a dinner with director Mira Nair, who won the Venice Golden Lion for her 2001 nuptial drama Monsoon Wedding. Nair cooked while Hudson convinced her that she'd be perfect for the part of Erica, a grief-stricken visual artist and sometime girlfriend of terrorist suspect Changez, played by Four Lions star Riz Ahmed. It's the only role in the mystery thriller where knowing How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and being a part of Bride Wars is of value, albeit limited.
There is a bit of form for Hudson playing dramatic roles. In 2010 she and Jessica Alba were the surprise casting in Michael Winterbottom's violent adaptation of Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, with Hudson playing the suspicious girlfriend of a violent sheriff. She also rather surprisingly received a best supporting actress Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe award for her turn as groupie Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous in 2001.
“I think I've been going against stereotype throughout my career,” Hudson points out. “I don't want anyone to feel that I'm going against anything – I mean I love my comedies and the fans of those comedies – and I feel when I'm making funny films, I feel incredibly alive and that they are just as challenging as a lot of the dramatic work that I've done. I find comedies more exhausting sometimes than crying all day.”
If something has changed her attitude to life and work it's being the mother of two boys, Ryder, from her first marriage to The Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson and Bingham, with Muse frontman Mathew Bellamy, her fiancé: “I think my focus right now – because I'm a mum of two– is concentrating more on directors and the experience of working with directors creatively. Taking the time away from the children and making a film is very hard on the family. And so, it doesn't mean that I put it completely aside, but it does make the decision- making process much, much more sensitive, and deliberate, in terms of what I really like to be doing.”
There was almost a hiccup in the run-up to The Reluctant Fundamentalist when Kate got pregnant just before the film went into production forcing her to abandon the project. However, a last-minute shooting delay enabled the genial star to take on the role again. On set she juggled her responsibilities to director and baby.
“I did the film because I really wanted to work with Mira,” she explains. “It's such a vulnerable time after you have had a baby, you are in this vulnerable hormonal place, but with Mira I felt protected. I was breastfeeding on set every two and a half hours. I would say, 'I have to go now, I have to breastfeed.' 'OK, everybody stop, Kate has got to breastfeed.'”
Motherhood has been more manageable the second time around. “It's definitely easier. And then balancing the two, I mean Ryder is nine and he just wants to be active and doing things all the time, sleepovers and this and that. Then Bing, who is still in nurturing attachment mode, it's definitely a little crazy around the house.”
While choosing her roles more carefully in recent years, she states that she couldn't resist the lure of playing the vindictive, alcoholic dance teacher Cassandra July in Glee: “I started doing Glee because to sing and dance is like a dream.”
Growing up in Los Angeles, she was surrounded by actors living in the public eye. Her dad is actor Bill Hudson and Escape from New York star Kurt Russell has been together with her mother Goldie Hawn since 1983. “I think the trick is not to take your work home and the older you get the more I think you struggle with that,” she says. “I was lucky, because I was raised by creative parents and artists, actors who really focused on that balance, saying 'we leave our work at work, and when we're home we are concentrated on the family'. So that it never seeped into our home life. Because it can be real heavy and complicated and self involved.”
Talking about love and family comes easy to Hudson. It's the major focus of most of her characters. The typical Hudson plot is how to recognise the right guy and make the romance work. Luckily, it's a topic she's fascinated by: “I think relationships are the only place that we enter our own real world. The more intimate we become, the more we reflect on each other, the more we realise our own shortcomings and how we affect other people. But I believe that because I've been in a lot of therapy and I'm really, really fascinated with the psychology of relationships.
She cites the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman as hot on her reading list, “It's a little heady, but I'm really fascinated with how the brain functions, it's what my mum's foundation is based on. I mean, it's the most powerful muscle that we have and it's the one that needs to evolve, to really evolve on a cellular level. The more we discover about it, the more we realize that it's everything that has to do with how we relate to one another. And that we actually do have control of that, and that's all we have control of. I love it. It excites me.”
Yet for all her ability to wax lyrical about brains, red carpets (“I see that as a celebration of the film”) and having to dye her hair black (“It made me look like my grandmother, on my mum's side”) she is far less comfortable when chatting about the topic that's at the heart of The Reluctant Fundamentalist – was the American response to 9/11 proportionate and reasonable? “How do I feel about America's reaction?” she repeats. “That's a complex question. America's reaction is… I don't even know what that means. I mean everybody, I think globally, it was shocking, devastating.”
The jumbled response comes from a hesitancy to answer. She quickly adds, “I'm not a super- political person. Like I said, I'm more interested in the brain and how we connect, I can't speak generally on anything like that, I can only speak from my experience and those around me.”
And now she's making films that ask the audience to use their brain too.
'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' is out on 10 May
*This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar Magazine