Kate Hudson wasn’t even born when her mother, Goldie Hawn, won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the dippy mistress in 1969’s Cactus Flower. Nor was she around to witness the ’70s rock scene, the backdrop for her film Almost Famous. Nevertheless, her beguiling turn as Penny Lane, a groupie — excuse us, ”band-aid” — searching for a heart of gold manages to embody the era’s freewheeling yet bittersweet spirit. And now the 21-year-old actress finds herself up for the same award her mom won 31 years ago.
Hudson almost didn’t get the part. Sarah Polley (Go) was originally courted to play Penny, with Hudson taking the smaller role of budding rock journalist William Miller’s sister. When Polley bowed out, Hudson begged to replace her. ”Kate was very loyal — she turned down leads just to play the sister in our movie,” recalls director Cameron Crowe. ”Part of Penny’s character is about loyalty, so when we lost Sarah, we were like, ‘There’s this really loyal person right underneath our noses.”’
As Penny leads William on a chaotic road tour with the band Stillwater, she becomes the story’s soul. (It’s no accident that Hudson’s face, framed by angelic curls and hidden behind groovy sunglasses, graced the film’s poster.) Her performance peaks when, after getting dumped by the group’s lead guitarist, Penny breaks down. It’s a shattering scene that the young actress says came very naturally. ”A lot of people have to go into themselves to cry — think of their dog dying,” she says. ”But I was so into the character that sometimes it was like I was stepping out and watching as I was shooting it.”
Long after the movie’s over, Penny Lane is still in our ears and in our eyes. And now that she’s a Golden Globe winner and an Oscar nominee, Hudson is much more than Almost Famous.
— Bruce Fretts, with reporting by Daniel Fierman