Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn Never Felt the Need to Wed: 'It's About the Will to Stay Together'

The couple, who costar as Santa and Mrs. Claus in Netflix's The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, have been together for 38 years

There's a palpable energy between Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Sitting down together over a Zoom call at their house in Los Angeles, the couple is just as affectionate and playful as they were when they first began dating while filming 1984's Swing Shift. And while they've built a life together over the last 38 years, they insist there's no big secret to their lasting love. "You’ve just got to want to be together," Hawn, 75, tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "I don’t think there’s any way other than do it."

Despite their union, Hawn and Russell, 69, have been more selective when it comes to acting together, choosing to only costar again in 1987's Overboard before Hawn's cameo in Russell's hit 2018 Netflix film The Christmas Chronicles. Now they're back for the sequel with a beefed-up role for Hawn as Mrs. Claus.

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

"I was excited about playing her," the actress says. "She hadn't been really defined yet really as a character. She's always been in the background, making cookies. And now it's a new world, right? And they gave Mrs. Claus magic, and Kurt was a big part of that as well, of designing the character."

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Ari and Louise

Thinking back to when they first met on Swing Shift, Russell recalls being "impressed with Goldie visually... the images of her were alluring and attractive, so all those things were taking place," he says. "But then you get to know somebody and you begin to find that, yeah, you do share things in common deeply. Hey, listen, it goes where it goes."

For more of Hawn and Russell's exclusive interview, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

Though they never married, the two stars created a tight-knit family together, raising their son, actor Wyatt Russell, 34, as well as their children from previous marriages: Russell’s son Boston and Hawn’s kids, actors Kate, 41, and Oliver Hudson, 44, who call Russell “Pa.”

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn
Ari and Louise

"For people like us, the marriage certificate wasn’t going to create anything that otherwise we wouldn’t have," says Russell. "I don’t know. 40 years isn’t enough to finally say, 'Well I guess...' "

Adds Hawn: "Well, we’re not at 40 years yet. Our children got married. I mean, they didn’t not get married. Oliver’s very happily married and Wyatt’s very happily married. Katie got married once and that didn’t work, and she’s with this most amazing human and I don’t know if she’ll marry again. The point is that we all tried marriage and sometimes marriage doesn’t work."

Which is just fine with Hawn and Russell. "It’s okay. It’s not about the marriage. It’s about the people and the relationship, and the will to stay together," Hawn says. "And that’s a big one because if you want it, you can have it. You’ve got to give things up, but the joy and the excitement of being together and touching the toes of somebody at night is really a nice feeling."

Looking ahead to their own holiday celebrations, the couple — who have six grandchildren — remain grateful for their family and love. "That feeling of gratitude is important, because it’s good for your brain and your heart and your health," Hawn says. "It’s a good thing to pass on."

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two is now available to stream on Netflix.

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