Ever since her luminous (and Oscar-nominated) turn as groovy groupie Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe's 2000 rock and roll memoir, Almost Famous, actress Kate Hudson's star power has been searing the eucalyptus bushes of the Hollywood Hills. And while in time the blaze of that early triumph will die down, the actress's dramatic DNA -- mom is '70s screen sweetheart Goldie Hawn (step-dad is actor Kurt Russell) -- newsworthy nuptials (with Black Crowes front man Chris Robinson) and California Girl gorgeousness are sure to keep her in the spotlight.
To be fair, in spite of her notable connections, Hudson doesn't exude a drop of movie star mojo. Rather, like patchouli oil at a Crowes concert, confidence subtly surrounds the 22-year-old bohemian beauty, who always appears eminently comfortable in her perfect peaches-and-cream skin.
In the following months she will appear in no less than three films: opposite Heath Ledger in The Four Feathers, Elizabeth helmer Shekhar Kapur's sweeping drama about British imperialism in 1930s Sudan; Le Divorce, a modern-day farce from Merchant-Ivory with an eclectic international cast; and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, a romantic comedy that costars Matthew McConaughey. Plus, she's already started production on Rob Reiner's Alex and Emma, with Luke Wilson.
Hudson, who was born and raised in Hollywood, currently lives in New York with Robinson and recently sat down to talk about The Four Feathers. In the film she plays Ethne, the fiancée of esteemed British soldier Harry Feversham (Ledger) who, on the eve of war, resigns his commission and is disowned by friends and family as a coward but who ultimately redeems himself through a courageous quest to save fallen comrades in the Sudanese desert.
While many a Hollywood starlet has taken the road from Oscar buzz to period film in search of a substantial role in which to shine, Hudson says she honed in on Feathers because she wanted to work with Kapur.
"I think he's an amazing director, and with a story as powerful as this, I definitely wanted to be a part of it," says the actress. "He believes in chaos, and out of chaos comes beauty. He allows people to struggle with themselves, and their characters to come back around. And it's a very interesting process. I learned a lot from him -- a lot."
As Ethne, who adores Harry but who is easily swayed by others' opinions, the actress exhibits an upper-crust British accent and a snobbish sensibility that couldn't be further from her orientation in the real world. "I struggled with why she makes some of the decisions that she makes," says Hudson of the role. "Not necessarily being able to relate to it now in real life, but having to believe it and portray it honestly is difficult." The only woman in a cast that includes Ledger and Wes Bentley (American Beauty) as Feversham's childhood friend, military mate and rival in a love triangle with Ethne, she felt utterly at home. "I like boys," she says, smiling. "I have three brothers. I feel comfortable with guys. Being in Almost Famous, I felt real comfortable with the guys. And with the Black Crowes, you're around a lot of guys."
While audiences will hold the actress's future forays up to the radiant light of Penny Lane, it is unlikely Hudson will ever be relegated to the shadows. Indeed, with the support of her musical mate, the actress may one day trade her scripts for riffs and ignite her own musical career.
"[Chris] definitely thinks that I should. I'm not going to lie about that," she confides. "But I don't know what I think. I mean, I love writing music. I play the guitar. But I think of it more as a hobby. And when I do -- and if I do decide to do something with music -- I'd have to be very committed to it."
With her devoted husband at her side, the actress does not fear her critics. "One reason why Chris and I fell so in love ... we believe in one thing, which is I'm not willing to compromise what I love to do with making decisions about what people think I'm supposed to be doing. "And so I'm just going to remember what I'm doing here and make good movies hopefully and enjoy them, enjoy the process and not do what people expect you to do. You can get so carried away with what other people perceive you as, and it's just not true. So I can get carried away with what other people think that I am, and that might be great, and then I'm just lying to myself."