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by Nancy Griffin, AARP The Magazine, March 20, 2009
"I got a heart tattooed on my foot," says Goldie Hawn, laughing and pulling her jeans up above one lizard-skin high heel to reveal a tiny blue heart on her ankle. "It's my first tattoo."
Hawn and longtime love Kurt Russell, one of Hollywood's most enduring movie-star couples (they met in 1984 while costarring in Swing Shift)are ensconced in a tower suite at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, in town on a brief business trip. Hawn is settled into a sofa talking about how they celebrated her 60th birthday, while Russell quietly pads about in a bathrobe. Now Russell, blowing his image as a macho dude, hikes up his pants to show off a G on his leg. "She signed me," he says. "She drew it on me, and the tattoo guy went over it."
For the record, Hawn's lithe dancer's body, big grin, and saucer like blue eyes are still intact, as are the shrewd business instincts that have made her a powerhouse in Hollywood for decades. But the sexy-genarian grandma has amore serious agenda to discuss today than tattoos: fed up with Hollywood's obsession with youth, she is working to get more movies made with mature characters and story lines that appeal to older audiences. As the aging Hollywood star she played in the female revenge romp The First Wives Club noted, she is tired of actresses' being relegated to three screen roles: "babe, district attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy."
She is not, nor was she ever, the adorable nincompoop she played on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, the television show that rocketed her to stardom in the '60s. After winning an Oscar for her first film role in Cactus Flower in 1969, she cemented her bankability with a series of hits that included Private Benjamin, Foul Play, and Shampoo. Although she demonstrated range with skillful dramatic performances in such films as Spielberg's Sugarland Express, audiences loved her best as the blond gamine who could always make them laugh. She also succeeded at both producing (Protocol) and directing (the TV movie Hope) but limited her professional commitments in order to raise her three children: Oliver, 29, and Kate, 26, both from her second marriage an destablished actors themselves, and fledgling hockey player Wyatt, 19, her son with Russell. A cozy domesticity and family life have always been her first priority. "All I ever wanted to be was happy," Hawn wrote in her bestselling 2005 memoir, Goldie: A Lotus Grows in the Mud (Putnam), in which she reveals herself as a lifetime spiritual seeker. (Readers of AARP The Magazine can receive a 15 percent discount on her book by visiting http://us.penguingroup.comand entering coupon code GHLOTUS at checkout.)
Hawn believes that the huge success of The First Wives Club in 1996proved that she and her costars (and buddies) Diane Keaton and Bette Midler tapped into a market of older females hungry to see screen characters with whom they could identify. But the studios won't green-light movies with actresses over 40 in the leading role, with rare exceptions, such as Keaton's Something's Gotta Give, a movie that got financed only because Jack Nicholson joined the cast. The great screen actresses over 40 have been all but sidelined. Even the mighty Meryl Streep, another pal of Hawn's since they made Death Becomes Her together, has had to settle for plum supporting roles, as in Prime and The Manchurian Candidate.
Undaunted by this harsh Hollywood reality, Hawn is now struggling to finance a comedy called Ashes to Ashes, which she has written and wants to direct and star in with Russell. Moviegoers in the 50-plus demographic, she says, "need to stand up and say, 'We're not being served and I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore.' Can you imagine if that happened? Certainly Hollywood would sit up and go 'hmmmm.'"
Q: Where did you spend your 60th?
A: We were in Tahiti with my sons; Kurt took us all down there. Katie [daughter Kate Hudson] couldn't come because she was working. And we just had a great time. We had champagne and a great dinner on the beach, with candles and pillows. It was just divine. It was Oliver who said, "I think in honor of Mom's birthday we should all go get tattoos!" I thought it was a great idea.
Q: Did 60 feel like a big milestone?
A: It did, actually, more so than 50. It's not how I look at the world; it's how the world looks at me. That's really what you're dealing with, because we're still the same inside. We still feel the same, we think the same. The 60th was the birthday where everyone goes, "Wow, you still look good, even though you're on your way to the end of your days."
I feel incredibly frustrated knowing that there's an unserved audience that will come out for the right movie.
Q: How have you dealt with Hollywood's aversion to making movies about older people, especially women?
A: Personally, I have never felt terribly frustrated by the system. I was doing many other things, like raising my children. I didn't have much to complain about: I was producing, creating, directing, acting, and doing really well. At50 years old I was on the cover of Time magazine with First Wives Club.
But now I have written a script called Ashes to Ashes that has frustrated me more than anything I've ever done. It's a story about a woman who is very successful and has traded success for some of the things that she should have done to make herself happier as she grew older. She doesn't have a good relationship with her son. She doesn't have a good relationship with her ex-husband, and then he dies, and his spirit takes her to India to teach her how to experience life again. The movie is big in scope. Kurt and I are doing it together, and it may not get made because Hollywood fears it will not have an audience.
Q: When you got into the business in the '60s and '70s, all the studios were run by men. Now there are many women executives in Hollywood. Doesn't that help in getting female-driven movies made?
A: Women have been absolutely no help, because they're working very hard top lease the men that they're working for, and they are afraid to stand up for women. The movie industry has changed: we are now being run by conglomerates and boardrooms. Hollywood is fearful because most of the films that they put their heart and soul behind are heartless films that cost about$180 million. So the industry has become about the big weekends, and it has lost its passion to tell human stories. If they do them, they want them at avery, very low budget. But when you look at women's films and the amount of money that they have generated, it would shock you. There aren't many women's films made, but the success rate of women's to men's films is much greater. Nobody is looking at that.
Q: So why aren't the studios targeting older women?
A: Here's a good story. We did First Wives Club, and it netted around $250 million. It was a great success, but they didn't want to do a sequel. Diane [Keaton]—amazing, tenacious Diane—called me and said, "We've got to do this. We've got to make this happen." So she dug up a script that was rejected by them. I looked at it, and I thought that a lot of it was quite funny.
So I got a call from the head of the studio, who said, "Let's try to make it work. But I think we should all do it for the same amount of money." Now, if there were three men that came back to do a sequel, they would have paid them three times their salary at least. It would have been demanded by their agents, and it would have been paid. Then it was reported to me by my agent that the head of the studio said, "Isn't Goldie getting a little greedy?" And she was a female, so in terms of women helping women, this was really a kick in the butt.
Q: So you were once again relegated to the "difficult woman" category?
A: Oh, yeah. But it hasn't stopped me from speaking out—speaking my truth.
Q: How do studio executives react to Ashes to Ashes?
A: It went to different studios before Kurt got involved, and it was turned down. The studio reaction always was, "Who's the man?" It's just the way it goes. You can't win.
Now, I am not a complainer, and I never have been. I can't complain about my life. I can't complain about the movies that I've done. But I can feel incredibly frustrated at the state of the business and knowing that there's an untapped, unserved audience out there that will come out for the right movie.
Q: But while the studios are courting the young audience with hugely expensive spectacles, the character-driven stories that appeal to older viewers don't have to be so costly—they don't need explosions, car chases, or special effects.
A: Right. You can spend $10 million or $15 million on films that are fun to watch and have a little bit more of an adult theme. They don't have to be slow and lugubrious; they can be interesting and challenging and motivating. Movie businesses can be built on them. You don't have to make a gazillion dollars. All I need for Ashes is $15 million. Everybody likes it; they are just afraid. When I look at Cocoon, would that movie be made today? I'm not sure. Or Driving Miss Daisy or Fried Green Tomatoes?
Q: In In Her Shoes, Cameron Diaz went against type by playing a dark character. Do audiences prefer their blond comediennes to keep thing slight?
A: They really do. You make them feel good, and they're not ready to trade that in for anything. Right now Cameron is just this delectable, fabulous piece of candy, and everybody wants a piece of it. Early on, I went through some real soul-searching. I said, "Why am I not doing other kinds of roles? Why can't I stretch and do that?" And I tried, but it didn't work. It wasn't what they wanted to see. We are musical instruments: some person might be a violin; the other one is a clarinet; another is a saxophone. You can change your words, your hair, your makeup, but you can't change that energetic essence that you are. And film knows that intimately, and it does not lie.
Q: Do you want to say anything to the fans who have grown up with you?
A: The only thing that I would say is, you've got to get your tushies out of the seat and get to the movie theater. Everybody has to play their part. It's a collaborative effort. You can't make a movie for nobody.
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