Classic Movie Characters: Judy Benjamin

Played by Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin
Star and executive producer Hawn never envisioned Nancy Meyers’s comedic script about a Jewish princess-divorcée (and widow) who joins the Army as a “full-on feminist film,” she says. “I mean, what’s so heroic about walking away from what’s bad in your life?” Well, nothing—but that’s exactly why Private Judy Benjamin is so likable. She has more flaws than Swiss cheese has holes, yet she still shows up the Thornbirds. Though she played a feisty naïf (“Is green the only color these come in?” Judy asks about her fatigues), Hawn was all business offscreen as both a producer and a new mom: “Kate [Hudson] was nine months old, and I took her to the office with me every day.”
Fortunately, there was no need for boot-camp conditioning. “I had just had a baby and was already on the case,” she says. “Getting back into shape was an everyday effort.” Physical comedy, costars like Eileen Brennan (“my friend from Laugh-In”), and “jokes that were driven by character instead of mindless shtick” all combined to make Private Benjamin click.
Defining Moment: “When Judy’s parents came to take her away from the Army,” Hawn says. “The sergeant was overjoyed she was leaving and held the release document in front of her face, coaxing her to sign on the dotted line. That marked the beginning of Judy’s awakening.”
1980. Directed by Howard Zieff.