This year brought the high point of her career to date, portraying a Jewish Princess turned triumphant Sad Sack (right) in Private Benjamin. The Army spoof has grossed more than $50 million, making it one of only three smashes (along with Airplane! and The Empire Strikes Back) at a time of terrible box office blues. The most satisfying part of that victory is that this time Goldie, 35, was the general who carried it out. Her debut as the executive producer of a major, $10 million feature was a stunning, and liberating, success.
"Life sort of unfolds, and certain things, which you can't plan, reveal themselves at the right time," she says. "I realized here was a chance at last to exert influence." Goldie's new clout as a comedienne indeed has only one precedent: She is on her way to becoming the Lucille Ball of the 1980s. "I had to earn my professional validity," she says, "by proving that my instincts are correct."
If that sounds gently feminist, well, so be it. Private Benjamin doesn't exactly take arms against a sea of sexism, but it does, as producer Hawn says, have "a serious underbelly" that might be "instructive for women who feel trapped." In the midst of toiling 13 to 14 hours a day on the movie, Goldie herself broke with her husband of four years, Bill Hudson (of the three comedian-musician brothers). As in her first divorce (from director Gus Trikonis), Hawn concedes that her greater fame was a factor: "The ego in our industry kills us." She also worries about the effect of her grueling pace on her children, Oliver, 4, and Kate, 18 months, but she and Hudson deny rumors of bitterness that swirled around their separation last October. "We're going to do the best for our children, including joint custody," says Hudson. "Nothing bad is going on between Goldie and me."
She also appeared this year with Chevy Chase in Neil Simon's disappointing comedy, Seems like Old Times. Hawn had no say in its production (wrapped before Benjamin's release), and she is henceforth determined to maintain the control over her art that she feels over her life for the first time. Goldie is interested in teaming with Liza Minnelli for a film adaptation of Broadway's Chicago, but only if she can co-produce. There's also talk around town of a Best Actress nomination for Private Benjamin's executive producer. The feeling about Hawn in Hollywood is best summed up by Neil Simon. "Goldie is funny, sexy, beautiful, talented, intelligent, warm and constantly sunny," Simon says. "Other than that, she doesn't impress me very much."