Goldie Hawn walks into the hotel room, sits down and splits her legs so far apart that her knees are in a straight line on either side of her hips. She pulls down her top, starts to massage a tanned shoulder, looks at me, then at my tape recorder and declares, “They were much bigger than that in the old days.”
It says in my notes that Hawn is 71, but that can’t be true. “I know,” says the co-star of Amy Schumer’s new film Snatched, continuing to perform her yoga stretches. “It is weird. When I was little, being 70 was really old. But I don’t feel like that at all. And many people I know my age don’t feel like that; we’re vibrant, we’re out there, we’re doing it.”
A trained dancer from Washington DC, Hawn found stardom in the late 1960s on the TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In as the kooky face of the hippy generation. Her film career took off with Cactus Flower in 1969 alongside Walter Matthau, where Hawn won a best supporting actress Oscar.
Leads followed in Spielberg’s 1974 feature debut The Sugarland Express, the 1975 sex comedy Shampoo with Warren Beatty and 1980’s hugely popular Private Benjamin.
As a beautiful young actress in a business run by men, and cast alongside stars who were much older than her like Matthau or, in one sublime TV song-and-dance routine, Dean Martin, Hawn had to navigate her way through unwanted attention.
“Men are men,” she says. “It’s how we handle it. I wouldn’t want testosterone running through my veins, I really wouldn’t. Women are not built the way men are. Men are designed to spread their seed, that’s how they propagated the world. So forgiveness is important.”
Has Hawn had to forgive much? “When I was very young I had a couple of incidents,” she says. “Men can be kind of crazy and it also has to do with a lot of things about the woman. How does she handle herself? How does she carry herself? How does she deal with these situations? Because they come up all the time for women – whether they are movie stars or not.”
How did you react when it happened to you? “I would look the man in the eye and say, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ I used my words. But I’m not talking about the really heavyweight stuff. If you start getting groped then absolutely you fight back. You do not allow that to happen. But Dean Martin never did anything like that. Dean make a move? Never, ever. He was the most wonderful man.”
Hawn’s humour, grace and intelligence shine through in person just as they do on screen, but Schumer, 35, star of Trainwreck and Inside Amy Schumer, is figurehead of a generation of female stars who believe women can be just as gross as men.
In Snatched (in cinemas from Friday 19 May), Schumer plays a dysfunctional city girl obliged to take her mother, Hawn, on holiday to Ecuador. A cavalcade of crudeness follows, including an excruciating personal hygiene scene as Schumer prepares for a date.
Hawn and Schumer on the red carpet for Snatched
“Oh my God, yeah,” Hawn says. “I’m not a prude. I know what’s out there and it seems to be the way that things might be moving, but women today aren’t how I was. I liked to be pursued and I liked a male-female dance. I still do.”
Ask her if appearing in Snatched means she has hitched herself to a new women-can-do-it-just-as-well-as-men movement and she dismisses the suggestion there’s any such thing. “We’ve been doing this for so long. When Private Benjamin came out it was like, ‘Oh my God, a woman can actually carry a movie.’ It had one woman on the posters and no man underneath who was starring with her. Just one woman!”
That woman, of course, was Hawn. The First Wives Club (1996), she also points out, “Put three women on the cover of Time magazine and brought in $180 million.”
It’s 15 years since her last major role (with Susan Sarandon in The Banger Sisters), but she says, “It wasn’t a problem for me on any level. I just go on set and do it. You don’t forget that stuff. And do you know the wonderful thing about the brain? It changes itself every seven years? You can grow new neurons! But I don’t want to get crazy on you.”
She tells me several times that she doesn’t want “to get crazy”, concerned her faith in unconventional fixes can sound zany. But Hawn is very serious about the charity she runs called MindUP, teaching children meditation and mindfulness – in fact, she seems more attuned to kids’ concerns than those of grown-ups.
“Most of the movies I have made have had messages in,” she says. “I have always thought that was important.” But not this film? “This movie is about mothers and daughters. It’s not about fighting the demons; it’s not about winning the battles. Anyway, I like men. It’s amazing when the sexes work together, honouring what your limitations may be and what the other person’s strengths are. That’s just awesome. You want to get to that place.”
Hawn has been in that place herself for a long time, the longevity of her 33-year-long relationship with Kurt Russell entering Hollywood legend, and the couple were photographed necking when they simultaneously received stars on the Hollywood walk of fame earlier this month.
Hawn and husband Kurt Russell at the Hollywood walk of fame
But Hawn had two difficult marriages before that, one to Bill Hudson, the father of her actor daughter Kate Hudson. And, like many women in showbusiness, she had to fight. “Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries even when people think you are on top of the world,” she says. “We’re all human. I have been crushed and I could be crushed again.”
One wonders what could have crushed such a self-possessed soul. Bad reviews? “A few movies didn’t come out the way I saw it,” she says. “That hurts, but it doesn’t crush me. There’s different kinds of crushed: there’s death, there’s illness, there’s loss of money. There is something, God forbid, happens to your children. Resilience is the answer… we’re not made of Teflon but we get through it. The only other way is to be endlessly depressed, which is not good.”
Hawn showed her resilience early in her career when, in the 1960s, she was happily go-go dancing in a cage in an LA nightclub and caught her reflection in the mirror. Hawn asked herself: what am I doing, dancing in a cage?
“It was a moment of realisation,” she says. “But I got up and left. I can’t take being a victim; it’s the worst path to take. It’s just an excuse. Take action, that’s what I do, and I think I was born with a pretty high set point for happiness.” And is she happy to wait another ten years before her next film? “Another ten years? But by then I’d be old!” Somehow, I doubt that.