By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—While other actresses get arrested for selfish and stupid mistakes like public intoxication, shoplifting or assault, Daryl Hannah prides herself on getting into trouble for altruistic reasons.
Within a recent six-month span, the “Splash” and “Kill Bill” star was arrested twice for protesting the building of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would bisect the U.S. from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, most recently on Valentine’s Day in front of the White House. (She was arrested in Texas last October for protesting the pipeline, which she fears, along with other environmental activists, will contribute to further climate change.)
The 52-year-old actress, who was arrested with 47 other protesters in February, including Robert Kennedy Jr., says the arrest was worth it, because she hopes to raise awareness of the potential environmental disaster the pipeline poses. She encourages others to take action because she has lost faith in our elected leaders who, she says, are beholden to corporations.
Hannah has long been an outspoken environmentalist and vows she will continue to fight for causes she believes, even if it means occasionally breaking the law and getting arrested.
Of course, when she’s not speaking out on pet causes, Hannah is busy with her acting career. She stars in the ensemble comedy “The Hot Flashes,” alongside Brooke Shields, Virginia Madsen, Wanda Sykes and Camryn Manheim.
As the title suggests, the film (directed by “Desperately Seeking Susan’s” Susan Seidelman) is about a group of women of a certain age. Set in a small Texas town, the women, from various walks of life, form a basketball team and take on the teenage champions of the local high school girls’ basketball team for a series of games. Their goal is to raise money to keep a mobile mammography truck going that is slated to shut down due to lack of funding.
With her wild, hippie-like getup, Hannah’s introverted Ginger is the odd duck on the team. Her teammates are a bit dubious about a so-called “friend” she keeps talking about but whom they never see. Nevertheless, the ladies form a bond as they work toward a united goal.
At 52, Hannah remains happily single. She phoned recently from her California home to talk about her latest role, Hollywood’s age-bias, staying healthy after 50 and fighting for the environment.
Q: What drew you to “The Hot Flashes?”
Hannah: For me, it was Susan Seidelman. She called me up and asked me if I was interested in playing this character. I had been a fan of her films since she did “Desperately Seeking Susan.” And so I was just really excited to have an opportunity to play such a different character from what I’ve played before. Also, the fact that it was about five grownup women—I loved that! I love the fact that they’re all facing different challenges and doing this altruistic act helps them all confront those challenges in a more direct and healthy way.
Q: Since you, Virginia, Brooke, Camryn and Wanda are around the same age, have your paths crossed before?
Hannah: I’d known some of them peripherally but not really very well. Usually, I’m the one girl in the movie. I’m used to working by myself as a female, except for “Steel Magnolias.” Usually, I’m the only girl. I’ve worked with Virginia’s brother (Michael Madsen) a bunch of times, in “Kill Bill.” But I’d never worked with her. I’d met her a few of times and I’d met Camryn once or twice and I’d met Brooke once or twice. This was the first chance I had to really spend time with them and boy, did we enjoy it! We just loved it. We had a great time with each other. We still stay in touch and will have a laugh riot together. It was a real pleasure.
Q: It’s so rare to see a movie about a group of grownup women.
Hannah: I know. I’m surprised that Hollywood hasn’t picked up on the idea that stories about grownups, particularly women, because they do show a lot of films about grown up men, but there’s always a 25-year-old girl in the mix, but women are very much a part of the audience and we want to see stories we can relate to and inspire us, and reflect some of our experiences. It still blows my mind that whenever one of these films comes out, and does good business, like “Bridesmaids,” or something, (studio execs) think it’s an anomaly.
Q: This is a very physical role for you. Had you played basketball?
Hannah: No. I’d never played it. I was always tall but I could never make a basket. I’m not good at it. It wasn’t my thing. I was a little worried about that. I was hoping they’d have some good stunt doubles or something. (She laughs.) We got trained by Michael Cooper, who was one of my favorite L.A. Lakers (players), and coaches Carla (Hauser) and Laura (Beeman), who trained the USC women’s basketball team. I learned how to play basketball. I learned how to make a basket. I can pretty much make every layup now. It was so much fun to be able to do that. That has to be one of my very favorite bonuses about making movies: You have the opportunity to delve into these different skills and learn them at least well enough to fake it. I learned how to wield a samurai sword and do kung fu (for “Kill Bill”) and now I know how to play basketball. The thing is we’re not spring chickens, so here we are learning how to play basketball and we’re all finding we have to get our knees drained and we’re wondering why are we getting so injured? Someone realized that professional basketball players play a game for maybe one or two hours, maximum. We were shooting for 12 hours, sometimes 15-hour days. We were playing basketball for more hours than any professional athlete has to do their thing.
Q: What was the worst injury you sustained?
Hannah: I had to get my knee drained a few times.
Q: When and where did you shoot this?
Hannah: In New Orleans last year. It was right about Mardi Gras.
Q: Did you get to have fun there while working?
Hannah: Oh yeah. We worked six days weeks so we didn’t have that much time off. We got into some trouble. Wanda got kicked out of Harrah’s.” (She chuckles.) We had some fun. New Orleans is such a great town. I rented a bike and rode it everywhere.
Q: Was there a healthy competition between you and your co-stars on the court?
Hannah: No. It was a very collaborative experience, not a competitive experience. That’s the usual tone of movie sets between actors and actresses but this was an incredibly collaborative one. Not that competition can’t have a positive spirit but we had a much more of a collaborative and helpful atmosphere.
Q: Do you have any suggestions or advice for women turning 50?
Hannah: I’ve always been an athletic person so I have a lot of longstanding injuries. I have no ACL in my knee. I’ve broken my back three times in different places because I do things, whether it’s stunts in movies or just in my life. I ride horses. I snowboard. I surf. The best possible thing, and going forward, and looking forward to even older years, I think for me the best thing is swimming. It keeps out of pain and it keeps me walking. Wherever I go, if there’s an opportunity for me to get in a body of water, I’ll do it and spend an hour or two. You don’t have to swim laps. Sometimes I do that. But just to goof around in the water and get your body moving has saved my life. It’s prevented me from having surgeries that they’ve told me I’ve needed. It’s staving off me walking around with a cane or anything like that.
Q: Any other advice?
Hannah: This is the biggest lesson: The thing that’s made a difference for me is staying active and engaged in life. I’m really thankful I’m still interested in the world. I’m thankful that I feel engaged and part of the process of creating a better reality for us all is whether or not you have negative challenges, you continue progressing.
Q: You’ve been involved in trying to stop the Keystone pipeline and other environmental causes. Do you feel you’re making headway in that cause or other social and environmental causes that you’ve been active in?
Hannah: Definitely. I see that people’s awareness levels have shifted a bit. People are starting to wake up to the fact that we can’t leave the important decisions in the hands of the government because they’re beholden to the financial interests that are giving them the opportunity to stay in office these days. It’s no longer people that put elected officials in office; it’s the corporate dollars. Those are influences they are listening to if we don’t stand up and speak louder. I definitely see a change. Look what’s happening on a global scale. People are starting to wake up. You see what’s going on in Turkey and Brazil and Egypt—it’s going on globally right now. People are realizing if they want a livable world, we’ve got to take matters into our own hands and demand we protect our life support systems and our ability to have a livable planet. That’s why I focus so much on energy issues because they seem to touch every other social and environmental issue. We can move beyond this awful fuel age and we have those solutions available to us now. We know how to create and produce energy that won’t destroy our water, soil, air and climate, and if we can start moving into those things, we’d have a lot less violence in the world. So many wars are fought over those issues. We could move forward and not destroy the very things we need to survive.
Q: What’s next for you?
Hannah: I’m producing a couple of things that I can’t talk about yet. I’m working on a documentary that Neil Young is doing about getting off fossil fuels. So I’m about to do some filming with him, and forging ahead. I’m trying to figure out what needs to be done to make this world a better place.