A few days before I interviewed Goldie Hawn, I asked my Facebook friends to name their favorite film in which she had a major role. It wasn’t easy, because she has done so much memorable work. Fittingly, reflecting Hawn’s tremendous range, my friends voted for about 10 different titles.
When I asked the Oscar-winning actress (for Cactus Flower, 1969) herself which movie she thought the Facebook crowd would identify, Hawn deliberated a moment and blurted out “Overboard?” (In that comedy, real-life squeeze Kurt Russell co-starred, pulling Hawn’s spoiled, fussy amnesiac from the water and convincing her she’s the mother of his wild-and-woolly brood).
Goldie knows her audience: In my informal poll, that film tied with the earlier Private Benjamin, a comedy about a once-sheltered young soldier ill-suited to Army life. When you have the opportunity to chat with an Oscar winner and tremendously popular actress, you feel compelled to bring up her feature films. So I dutifully asked Hawn to comment on four of her most-loved movies.
• The Sugarland Express (1974): “We were all very young, in Houston. It felt like I was working on an indie movie. Steven [Spielberg] was extraordinary, even at that early point in his career as a director. My character was both innocent and complex. It was the only role that took me a long time to get out of my system. She got under my belly button because I immersed myself in her left-handed drama and emotions.”
• Shampoo (1975): “That was a seminal experience. Warren [Beatty] makes movies that matter. It documented a period in history—Nixon, the ’70s. The message was that we could have a different kind of optimism.”
• Private Benjamin (1980): The character was in a romantic crisis because of an unfaithful fiancé, and Hawn herself was involved in a breakup while producing the film and acting in the title role. “I was getting divorced, with two little children. There were lots of tears shed because my dream wasn’t working. I was thinking, ‘How do I get through all of this so I can get home and give my babies a bath?’ I had to create balance inside of imbalance. It was a ‘love’ project—and a big deal to see a woman’s name above the title. It spawned Stripes and other movies of the type.”
She suddenly rewarded me with her bubbly trademark laugh. “It also put me on the cover of Newsweek…. It helped make it possible for me to go on to the next piece of work.”
• Overboard (1987): “A great experience! During the shooting, our baby [her son with Russell] took his first steps. It brought a lot of connections—love, family. It was a funny film, and I was working with Kurt!”