Kate Hudson’s latest role is “quite sad actually.”
“She’s trapped by this billionaire that she probably doesn’t like very much but feels attached to,” Hudson says. “He needs to be deeply scrutinized and seen and heard where it’s self-destructive. He always goes his own way.”
No, Hudson isn’t in some new movie you haven’t heard about yet. He’s talking about Birdie J, the delightful comic confection he brought to life in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” Hudson says that when you analyze Flighty Birdie, her problems seem overwhelming but on screen, she flies as comic relief.
“She’s a great character with funny lines that any comedian would love,” said Hudson, who rose to stardom with her Oscar-nominated turn in “Almost Famous” and rom-com hits like “Bride Wars.” became chief. “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “You, Me and Dupree.”
While Birdy scans superficially as obnoxious, Hudson says the script gave her the ability to ground her character in true emotion. “I don’t often get to play complex comedic characters but here you see what’s driving his desire to be at the center of everything,” she says. “It was such a dream.”
Hudson says all the layers were in Rian Johnson’s script from the beginning. “The birdie just popped off the page,” she recalls. “When I read it, I said, ‘Let me bulldoze his door.’ Highs and lows and finesse were all in the pages. I just wanted to say, ‘Get me in, coach.’
One of the reasons he was so eager to go was that he immediately felt he could see and feel Birdie. “What jumped off the page was her movement and I think the dancer in me was excited,” she says. The first time I met Ryan I said, ‘I know how he walks’ and I couldn’t wait to get into it. His physicality was amazing.”
Hudson also felt that Birdie’s physicality was essential to understanding her character, even if the audience did not consciously reflect it on her impatience and unhappiness. “He can’t sit still so his legs are moving or he’s touching someone else or his own clothes. He has to constantly confuse himself with his movements.”
The costumes she’s touching are another memorable part of Birdie and Hudson says the costumes definitely informed the performance. “Clothes are essential, especially with a character like Birdie, with her fluid and accessory wardrobe,” says Hudson, who has had her own fashion lines at various points, including successful athleisure brand Fabletics. “Jenny Egan did the costumes and she’s so collaborative. The moment I first met her I could see Birdie J come alive. It was a bucket list kind of costume.”
For all of Birdie’s “me, me, me” aspirations, Hudson also had to make sure she fit seamlessly into the cast (admittedly, almost all the unhappy egos too). He says that because the film’s tone was so specific, it was a challenge for the actors, but the entire cast “encouraged each other to play more and have fun with that tone.”
That chemistry, he says, owes as much to Johnson’s casting as if he were throwing a dinner party.
“I think he was looking at personality as much as anything else,” she says, adding that off set they often played their own murder mystery games at night. (“I was so impressed with Janelle’s commitment to everything,” she tells co-star Janelle Monae. “They showed up for game night with capes and mustaches and top hats. Where on earth did they find a top hat and cape? Belgrade?”)
The on- and off-set bonding had the feel of a summer theater acting troupe. “We have to pretend it’s crazy on the outside about how much we love what we do,” she says, “but when you’re on the inside, it’s so meaningful and rewarding and nourishing.”