When Kate Hudson opened the door for Mira Nair for a meeting they had scheduled to talk about "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," they both started laughing.
"You're so pregnant!" exclaimed Nair, director of such films as "Monsoon Wedding" and "The Namesake."
"I know," replied Hudson, who was eight months along.
Nair then told the actress that the film was scheduled to start shooting shortly and in her present state, there was no possible way she could be in it. Hudson explains that the meeting, which had been set up by their representatives, was as a bit of a mix-up. Nobody had told Nair that Hudson was pregnant, and no one had told the actress when the film was scheduled to start shooting.
The two sat down to talk anyway and really hit it off.
"We ended up talking forever about the movie," says the 34-year-old Hudson. "I was so fascinated by the story and how she wanted to tell it."
"We really had an excellent connection," Nair agrees. "I really loved her honesty and that she was unfettered by any kind of pretension."
They parted assuming they would not be able to work together, but then "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" temporarily lost its financing. By the time it regained its ground, Hudson had had her son, Bingham, with Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy in July 2011. (It's the actress's second child - she also has a 9-year-old son with Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson.)
Only two months after Hudson gave birth, Nair said she still wanted her for the role of Erica in the "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," which is opening today. The actress agreed, even though she was still breast-feeding.
"It's quite a time when you're still recovering from having a child," Hudson says. "It's even hard to remember lines when your baby is an infant, but everything went really smoothly."
Based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid, the film is set in New York City, Lahore, Pakistan, and Istanbul, Turkey, and co-stars Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber. Its protagonist is Changez - played by Riz Ahmed ("Four Lions") - a young Princeton-educated Pakistani who is doing well climbing the ladder on Wall Street when the World Trade Center is attacked by terrorists on 9/11. The event inevitably changes his life.
Hudson plays Changez's lover, an artist who is haunted by the death of her previous boyfriend.
"I was drawn to the role because it was something very different for me than I've been delving into in the last couple of years," says Hudson, who has dark hair in the film. (She was back to her accustomed blond at the film's premiere earlier in the week.)
"Of course, we all know of the effervescence of Kate Hudson," Nair says, "but I had no idea of her worldliness and her intelligence and curiosity about doing things that are way beyond what she's normally known to do."
Since last week's bombings in Boston, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" has taken on an even more timely quality. Though Changez proclaims he loves America, he finds himself thrilled by the audacity of the Twin Tower attacks. The young Pakistani then becomes more and more alienated living in the United States as people see him as an object of suspicion because of his looks. Although he is not a practicing Muslim, he finds himself being drawn to radical factions of that religion.
Hudson says she was attracted to the film because it explores a number of complex themes. "For me, one of the most interesting things is the idea of fundamentalism," says the actress, "a sort of stripping things down to black and white and the idea that you lose that sense of human connection."
She says she discussed with Nair the story as one of searching for identity and where one belongs against the backdrop of a political thriller.
"I think one of the things that was important for Mira in terms of the film that she wanted to make, was that the love between the couple was unable to bridge the gap because they were two people at different places in their lives," Hudson says.
"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is told through a series of stories that Changez relates to a U.S. journalist, Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber), at a Lahore cafe after the kidnapping of an American professor. No one is exactly who they seem to be. Bobby is there to get information - and not just for a news story. As the CIA closes in during their search for the professor, Changez - a man still caught between two cultures - may or may not be willing to help.
"What we tried to do in striving for nuance and preserving complexity was not to reduce it to just simply good and bad, us and them, good guys-bad guys," says the India-born Nair, who makes New York City her home.
As for Hudson, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" signals something of a return to the limelight, although she had a recurring cameo on "Glee" last season as a dance teacher. She will next be seen in Larry David's HBO movie "Clear History," set to air in the summer.
"Working with Larry was just great - I haven't laughed that hard in a long time," she says.
But because they haven't been announced yet, Hudson couldn't talk about a number of other projects that she is rumored to be attached to. ("That's always annoying, I know.") Still, she is excited to get back to work. "My baby is almost 2 now; so it felt like it was time."