The Knives Out 2: Glass Onion star talks about new challenges, old roles, and why her forties are her “best pocket” of life.
As Hudson worked her angles in latex and a slick updo, she felt the serendipity on set. By sheer chance, our photographer, Jonny Marlow, grew up just miles away from Hudson in Colorado, and the pair hadn’t reconnected since their early days in Aspen more than 30 years ago. The team quickly developed “a shorthand,” says Kate, due to their shared history, which lent the whole project a cozy, holiday feel like a warm, tinsel-covered reunion party—and no, that’s not just the glitzy-golden backdrop talking.
“We were laughing about that on set. There’s ‘birdie’ everywhere,” she tells me with a smile when we chatted over Zoom a few weeks later. She calls into the interview fresh from a long walk home through New York City after a day of nonstop promotion for her latest film. She looks cool and relaxed with her hair up and out of her face, wearing a loose button-down—her girlfriends are over and hanging out in the next room, she tells me. But don’t let all the good vibes fool you into thinking Hudson reads much into the whole thing. She’s surprisingly grounded in real life. She’s still effervescent with movie-star-megawatt charm, but she’s more apt to discuss family and career choices than make sweeping statements about life and art.
DRESS: ATELIER BISER; SHOES: ROGER VIVIER; EARRINGS: LELE SADOUGHI
“My dad [Kurt Russell] has called me Birdie since he met my mom. They met when I was 3, and he just called me Birdie immediately,” she adds, explaining the origins of her nickname. It’s not hard to see why with her hummingbird-like good energy, fluttery laugh, and way of moving that screams “former dancer”. Hudson has always radiated a hopeful light, which is how she’s so successfully cast as a lovable, occasionally flighty optimist. With her latest project, Glass Onion, however, we finally get to see a bit of Hudson’s dark side.
Enter Byrdie’s After-Dark Issue—a celebration of holiday glam, letting loose, and yes, a bit of excess—the perfect opportunity to explore Kate Hudson’s transformation from rom-com fixture to central player in a biting satire with her turn as a washed-up party girl. Read on for more from Byrdie’s latest cover star, including her mixed feelings about the word “balance”, why she side hustles, and how her forties are the “best pocket” of her life.
From the outside looking in, Hudson’s role in the highly anticipated Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion, feels meant to be. In it, she plays a delightfully delusional former magazine editor–turned–sweatpants girl boss named Birdie. It’s a role that seems like a return to her fashion-girl roots (Andie from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days worked at a woman’s magazine). It’s also a gleeful send-up of today’s world of seemingly infinite celebrity- and influencer-led brands, in which some famous faces enter new categories with varying degrees of success and others feel superfluous.
Hudson herself was one of the first movers in the space, launching her athleisure line with Fabletics in 2013 before actress-to-entrepreneur was a well-worn career path. Her character’s company, on the other hand, falls into the latter category, but more on that later.
When the first Knives Out hit theaters in 2019, it breathed life into a genre that, frankly, had become a bit dusty: the murder mystery. Borrowing the twists, turns, and strong ensemble casts of mid-century Agatha Christie films, director-slash-writer Rian Johnson injected class consciousness, biting satire, and 21st-century pacing into the stodgy old whodunit, giving his genius detective, played by Daniel Craig, a Louisiana accent and Southern charm instead of an English lilt. And we all loved it. On the heels of the hit’s critical acclaim (and streaming numbers boost), Netflix quickly ordered two sequels. Of course, no one anticipated the upheaval 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic would wreak on the film industry, but the Knives Out team rolled with the punches, embracing the times with a COVID bubble premise—both on and off set.
Glass Onion features a new ensemble cast, except for Daniel Craig reprising his role as Benoit Blanc, who rivals the first installment with electric star power. For Hudson, the experience was like joining her “dream theater troupe.” And it’s not hard to understand why. The movie’s IMDB page reads like a character actor’s greatest-hits album with names like Edward Norton (who plays a dumber-than-he-looks tech billionaire), Janelle Monáe (a scene-stealer as his embittered ex–business partner), and Kathryn Hahn as an uptight mom and politician running for office (who always seems just one margarita away from a mental breakdown), among other colorful characters. Filming a story about a pandemic pod of friends (or rather, frenemies) who jet off to a gorgeous private island in the Mediterranean while confined to a similarly claustrophobic COVID movie set on the Greek island of Spetses and a sound stage in Serbia does have a magical stagelike quality to it.
To pass the time between long days of filming, the cast stayed on theme with their leisure time. “We couldn’t really do much. We were in this hotel [in Serbia], so we would take out this top restaurant floor once in a weekend,” says Hudson, and in a case of “life imitates art”, they turned to—what else?—“murder mystery games” to unwind. “We played Mafia and, you know, drank,” she laughs. “That’s a good way to get to know each other.”
But it wasn’t just the fresh ocean air and small-cast comradery that made this a special project for Hudson. She credits clever writing and directing for the substantial material she had to work with. “Rian is an unbelievably talented filmmaker who clearly is writing and commenting on the state of our world right now. As would all of us, he would say, ‘that’s what these murder mysteries should be.’” This mode of “actress gushing over director” is admirably modest, but I’ll do some bragging for her: Hudson’s portrayal of the poorly adjusted party girl, Birdie, is absolutely one of the film’s highlights. As the actress puts it, “you enjoy the insanity of all of these characters”—hers especially.
DRESS, TIGHTS, GLOVES: VERSACE; SHOES: PAUL ANDREW
“She’s just completely oblivious to what’s happening around her in the world,” says Hudson of the privileged, laugh-out-loud narcissistic Birdie. But like any great comedic player, she knew how to make the role more than just “love to hate her”. “She just seeks validation from every button and just needs to feel loved and be loved,” adding that the character’s charming “innocence” was the key to making her arc a redeeming one to watch.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kate Hudson flick without a bit of fashion eye candy. “I’ve always loved clothes. I’ve always loved fashion. And to me, fashion and film go hand in hand,” she explains. And Glass Onion was a return to that school of thought, something Hudson’s excited to see back on film sets today.
“When I first started, everything was very custom. And then, all of a sudden, I was like, ‘Wait, you’re just, like, pulling a bunch of stuff off of racks.’” Besides dominating Instagram ads and Google searches everywhere, fast fashion had wormed its way into movie sets in the 2010s, making everything look more “generic,” as Hudson puts it. But when she stepped onto the Glass Onion set, the costume team (led by Jenny Eagan) greeted her with strong silhouettes, bright colors, and thoughtfully crafted fabrics.
“I could tell we were about to play and really customize Birdie,” says Hudson, her eyes lighting up. It’s clearly a passion point in the process for Hudson and one that shows in both the roles she chooses and her lasting legacy as an actress. In Glass Onion, Birdie’s clothes are practically their own plot point, as Hudson spinning in a rainbow-colored silk dress like a ’70s Halston babe marks the last moment before the night goes awry. Even the subtler notes are not lost on Hudson. She cites Kathryn Hahn’s costume direction as one of her favorites (“I asked, ‘How was your fitting?’ She’s like, ‘Beige. Very beige.’”), loving that each character exists in their own sartorial universe with a distinct palette and texture.
Of course, that’s probably why the actress has such an enduring fashion legacy: She appreciates the little things. “All of those little tiny details, they are so important to remembering and falling in love, hopefully, with a character.” TikTok is still obsessed with re-creating the silk dress she wore as Andie Anderson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days almost 20 years later. And her Penny Lane coat from Almost Famous has launched a thousand Halloween costumes every year since its premiere. Hudson, for her part, isn’t surprised (or even bored) by her old roles having a second life on the fashion front.
“I love it,” she says of her fashion icon status with Gen Z. “Sometimes people don’t take the care and time to show what these characters are like,” but when they do, fans definitely notice. “Andie had very minimal lines, with her pencil skirts and the way she wore her hair to work. Her look was very clear,” she explains. “So when she got into all of her insanity and all of her crazy [later in the movie], we got to have such fun, you know?” Think Andie faking a psychotic episode over a dead plant while wearing a polka-dotted sundress or donning a yellow revenge dress to get the guy by the end of the movie. The outfits (much like Hudson herself) stick with you.
In a notoriously fickle industry like acting, especially in the pre-#MeToo era when the shelf life for a young actress was disturbingly short, Hudson seems to have figured it all out, what with her enduring decades-long career. But she asserts that what might look like staying power from the outside isn’t necessarily the whole truth.
TOP, VEST, SKIRT: VERA WANG; BOOTS: ROGER VIVIER
This attitude stems from some early advice she got from her family, which happens to feature plenty of fellow actors. “Kurt [Russell] said something to me really young. He was like, ‘You gotta love something just as much.’ Because it’s such a tumultuous business, you’re never going to be really happy in it.” This sort of tough-love pragmatism isn’t something you’d expect from one of Hollywood’s leading blondes, but it’s something Kate Hudson lives by. “You’re always going to want to do something better. You’re always going to want to do something more. You’re going to be a part of this,” she says of the film business. “It’s gonna love you one minute and it’s not gonna love you the next. It happens to everybody in this industry.”
Hudson’s acting has long been punctuated by passion projects and side business—and clearly, that’s by design. “Some people don’t like this, you know, but I like a side hustle. So that’s just always been my thing as an actress,” she explains. Her résumé includes, most recently, a craft cocktail brand (King St. Vodka), a wellness venture that focuses on powders and supplements (Inbloom), a podcast with her actor brother Oliver Hudson (called Sibling Revelry), and, of course, her activewear empire with Fabletics. She credits these career pivots with keeping her fulfilled and grounded in an industry that’s full of rejection and disappointment. “It fed me and fueled me and then got me really excited to be more creative,” she says, citing periods when she’s focused more on her self-proclaimed “side hustles”, which would qualify as full-time gigs for most of us, than her acting career.
She clearly has an internal compass when it comes to living a balanced life—this is, after all, a woman who has two wellness brands and a vodka company linked in her Instagram bio. “I’m too naughty to be too clean, you know?” she explains. It’s a refreshingly honest take on wellness—to embrace a bit of both ends of the health spectrum—and one that’s often lost in an age of algorithms that make you feel like an Erewhon green juice–fueled “clean girl” lifestyle or a dirty martini–and–penne alla vodka night luxe attitude are the only ways to exist in the world.
“There are just so many things that I enjoy. I really love life,” Hudson exclaims, adding that, “I know that sounds kind of a little too exuberant or something.” But for her, it’s absolutely true. She’s all about feeding all the different sides of herself and not denying any part of her multifaceted identity. And, for the record, she doesn’t love the term balance. “I think awareness is probably a better word. Because if you are imbalanced, you’re aware enough to see it and to correct it.”
For her, a Dirty Shirley one day and yoga the next is sometimes the best way to be. But, living the Kate Hudson wellness plan takes constant checking in on yourself. “How am I? You know, where am I at? And do I feel good? And do I feel healthy? And how are my kids? How’s my relationship? Like, am I happy right now? And what do I need to be happy? Where do I need to spend some time refocusing?” She’s always evolving and recalibrating—and that’s what keeps life interesting.
It’s a change in mindset she applies to her children too. “I’ve been having children my entire adult life,” she says. “I’ve got my 4-year-old and I’ve got a kid in college. And I don’t even know if I’m done yet. You know, I don’t have that answer yet.” Instead, she tries to live in the moment, teaching her kids self-awareness and fostering their ability to balance what they want and need at any given moment. “The thing is with kids, you have to let them be who they’re meant to be.”
Now in her early forties, Hudson believes this age is her “best pocket” of life yet. “Now I know why all of my friends that were older than me in their forties were like, ‘This is my best. This is my favorite decade so far,’” she explains. For her, the age-old “aging in Hollywood” question is a nonstarter. She “doesn’t really think about it,” giving a firm but fair answer to the unspoken pressures society puts on women to stay forever 29. “The focus is much more from the outside than it is from the inside, I think, which says a lot about how we’re programmed. Because the only time I think about aging is when I’m asked about how I think about aging.”
“Everybody wants to talk about, you know, what women are doing to their face. Or how women do antiaging,” she explains. “And I love all that stuff. I love talking about what’s the new laser, but it’s interesting that men don’t really get the same questions.” It’s a cogent point, and I doubt someone like, say, Ryan Gosling (who’s 42 to Hudson’s 43) is often asked about his experience getting older in the industry, whereas for Hudson, it came up early and often. “But, you know, they’re just as worried about aging,” she adds.
For Hudson, getting older is more about putting things in the right order—prioritizing, if you will. “I think aging is hard because it gets you closer to the inevitable—that we are impermanent. And the question becomes, what do you seek out of life? What is it that makes you feel alive and excited to be a part of this experience?” She’s also quick to point out that everyone’s lived experience is different—and equally valid. But for her, aging has been a rich learning experience, one that’s made her more sure of herself and confident in taking risks.
“I’ve always loved just jumping into the deep end—and sometimes it’s put me in not the best place, but mostly it’s really put me on the right path,” she explains. And she tries to embrace her adventurous Aries streak as much as she can. Case in point: Earlier this year, Hudson announced she was recording an album. “I was like, if I don’t do this, I’ll regret it. And it will be because I was too scared,” she says. It’s an entirely new creative endeavor for her but one that feels right.
“People talk about joy and happiness and ask me, ‘You seem like you’re so happy all the time’—and that’s just not the case. But I do choose it. And I choose it sometimes when it’s really hard to.” She says that for her, it’s all about finding the things that get her out of a rut and turning to them “when you’re struggling.” This year, singing is how she’s choosing happiness, and it’s more than just another bullet point on her list of side hustles—it’s what sparks her creative fire.
Right now, however, Kate Hudson is just focused on enjoying the response to Glass Onion, a project she’s visibly proud of. Considering her varied and winding path through Hollywood, it’s unlikely to stay that way, however—admittedly, she’s an Aries who “gets bored easily”—so it’s safe to say she’ll shift priorities soon. When asked about what her perfect day looks like this winter, she gives me a beautiful, cozy description of quality time with family (“fireplaces, real fireplaces—not the fake kind—smelling the wood, and chai tea”) before quickly recalibrating. “Okay, now let me give you the real perfect day. The real perfect day is I actually get two hours to myself,” she laughs. It’s really that simple: Kate Hudson will keep following her bliss wherever it takes her.
TALENT: Kate Hudson
PHOTOGRAPHER: Jonny Marlow
BEAUTY DIRECTION: Hallie Gould
CREATIVE DIRECTION: Jenna Brillhart
MAKEUP ARTIST: Tonya Brewer
HAIRSTYLIST: Gregory Russell
MANICURIST: Ashlie Johnson
STYLIST: Sophie Lopez
SET DESIGN: Wanenmacher Studios
PRODUCER: Caroline Santee Hughes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Kahler
VIDEO EDITING: WesFilms
VIDEO PRODUCER: Lisa Fischer
BOOKING: Talent Connect Group