There are certain people you expect to talk about with Goldie Hawn: Kurt Russell, her partner of more than 25 years; Kate Hudson, her identikit actress daughter. But Michael Gove, the Member of Parliament for Surrey Heath and Secretary of State for Education? Michael Gove, the man who looks as if he has just been pulled out of a sheep by Kate Humble in an episode of Lambing Live? Yes. Goldie Hawn, Oscar-winning actress, Hollywood producer, America’s sweetheart, is talking about that Michael Gove.
I don’t know. It’s hot outside – perhaps I have sun stroke. Or maybe there has been a rip in the space time continuum, and somewhere, Jennifer Aniston is spouting forth her views on Danny Alexander and Vince Cable. No, no. Actually, Hawn is keen to set the record straight on a strange story that appeared just before the general election.
The actress, who is described as a Jewish-Buddhist, runs the Hawn Foundation, an educational charity that teaches American children mindfulness and breathing exercises to boost their learning ability. And in an interview in February, Gove announced that the Tories were in talks with her to adopt the practice in the UK.
“I never met him,” she says, shaking her trademark white blonde tousled hair. “I’ll tell you exactly what I did. I had a meeting with an aide of his, I’ve forgotten his name, in some lobby at one of the Parliament buildings down there, by the river you know? Anyway, I came in and sat down with this man, just in the place where you get the coffee from the vending machine, and I spoke to him about the programme, and that was it. I never met Michael Gove.”
Was she, perhaps, a little irritated by the story? “Yes because they [the press] were wrong. When you don’t check facts and you use it for other purposes, you’re abusing something that is actually quite wonderful… So yes, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.” She says firmly that she hasn’t heard from the Tories since. Does she think she fell prey to political spinning? “I have no idea,” she says with a sweet, knowing smile. “I mean, you could draw a conclusion…”
Anyway, I do like the idea of Goldie Hawn drinking vending-machine coffee in one of the House of Commons canteens – perhaps her experience in Private Benjamin helped prepare her for such miserable conditions. She met blinking Ed Balls, too. Did she like him? “Yeah,” she says dispassionately, before adding that “I mean, I was only there for a short period. I had a nice conversation with him.” She doesn’t seem bowled over to me. I wonder if he asked for her autograph. “No!” And out comes that wonderful Goldie Hawn giggle.
Hawn only arrived a couple of hours earlier from Greece, where she has been holidaying with Kurt and Kate and various other family members. She says that she is sleepy, that she was up late last night, but one gets the sense that Hawn’s sleepy is a lesser person’s perky.
“Oh, OK, so wooow,” she says immediately. “Last night, we had dinner on the boat of this big shipping guy, he’s fat and he’s Jewish, and his father’s Greek and his mother’s French, and brrrr, can you imagine?! The most wonderful mix! I’m obviously disciplined and was like ‘well, I’m going at 11’, but we had so much fun we didn’t get to bed until 2.30am.”
We meet in the Royal Suite of the Ritz Hotel. Hawn turns 65 this November but as we are given a tour of the giant oval bedroom, the dressing room and the study, she radiates an almost childlike wonder. Dressed in loose linen trousers, a vest and flip-flops, she settles her teeny-tiny body on a giant sofa in the drawing room, tucking her feet underneath her in the lotus position. Is she going to start the interview with some meditation (she does a lot of that)? Is she going to answer me in ohms? I shift in a giant armchair. “Honey,” she spreads her arms out, and surveys the drawing room. “I just love your house.”
Goldie Hawn is just as you would expect her: warm, bubbly, doling out “sweeties” as if the word were going out of fashion, a natural comedienne as witnessed in such films as The First Wives Club and Death Becomes Her. She is that rare thing in Hollywood: a woman nobody would ever dare bitch about. Females want to be her, men want to be with her. I try and think of people as universally lovely – or as loved – as Hawn and can come up only with Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and when they were alive, Mother Theresa and Diana, Princess of Wales. Simperingly, I tell her this. “OH. MY. GOD” she squeals, giggling as she goes.
I suppose the best (and less over-the-top) comparison would be Joanna Lumley, or America’s version thereof, right down to the tireless campaigning for worthwhile causes.
She is in London as guest of honour at an event hosted by the conservationist Mark Shand, whose charity The Elephant Family raises money for the endangered Asian pachyderm. For the last two months, Londoners have been admiring 258 elephant sculptures dotted around the capital – they have been designed by artists as diverse as Marc Quinn and Jack Vettriano. Hawn, who sponsored an appropriately gold elephant, has jetted in to see them auctioned off.
“I’m not an animal-crazy person, you know.” It’s as if she wants to make clear the fact she hasn’t turned into some crazy Brigitte Bardot figure. “I don’t have a house full of cats. But animals, children, elderly people… that’s my level of empathy.”
She visits India regularly. (In 2006 she published a book with the terribly spiritual title A Lotus Grows in the Mud. It was full of life advice and was based on her journey from Washington suburbia to the Hollywood Hills, where she picked up a best supporting actress Oscar for Cactus Flower). Anyway, on one of these visits she encountered a blind elephant and her calf, who acted as its mother’s eyes, an experience that Hawn describes as “profound” and “absolutely honest”, and that moved her to tears.
Hawn explains that as humans take elephant habitats, herds break down “and when that society is breaking down, we can only look at our own, and say ‘they are behaving no differently [from us], they are angry, they’re irrational, they’re throwing tantrums’.” From another Hollywood celebrity this would be enough to make you vomit up a bucketful of cynicism, but Hawn is so sincere that her sentiment is infectious and to mock it would just be wrong.
She talks about the Hawn Foundation, and explains the MindUp programme that she briefly discussed with Ed Balls, and last month, Jamie Oliver, who is helping her to establish the project in several British schools. “It teaches children how their minds work, it teaches them to recognise stress, and when they do, it gives them tools for how to deal with stress. All of this is wrapped around the curriculum, so in other words, it doesn’t take time from the academics.”
“And we have done tests that show there was better attendance, that their aggression went down in the playground, that their optimism went up to 63 per cent…” How, exactly, does one measure optimism, I ask. “It’s been done by neuroscientists and researchers from the University of British Columbia,” she says sharply. “People who have been doing this for 30 years…” It’s the only time she is short; it is a hint of the steeliness that must have kept her afloat during her 40 year career.
Would she call herself an actress, or a philanthropist? “I’m a humanitarian. I’m a dreamer, someone who wishes the best for mankind.” I ask her what someone would have to do to make her angry. “I get angry at lies, and I get angry at ill-intended people. I think the thing that thrills me the most in life, aside from seeing a happy child giggle, is human spirit.”
Hawn may sound like a Miss World contestant, but so what? She is genuine, which is all that matters, and I think, however simpering this might sound, that the planet would be a much better place were there more people like Goldie Hawn in it.
“I do have a side that is contemplative,” she says, at the end, stretching her legs out. “When I was younger I was this sort of ditzy young comedienne, and people loved to see me laugh, and when I wasn’t they would say to me ‘oh come on Goldie, smile!’ I used to say to them, ‘well, give me a reason to smile’. Because I do get sad, and I do get hurt, and I do get let down, and I do care.” On the last point, I am left in no doubt.[via The Telegraph]