Daryl Hannah: Rich Little Rich Girl

With me, Hannah would comment on her allegiance to causes (Central America, ecology, Amnesty International) that, to some, smack of the guilty deb who limos to Skid Row to feed the bums every Thanksgiving. Has she heard such criticism? "I haven't actually," she says, laughing, "and I don't think it would bother me. The only time I've publicly voiced any opinion was when I did an ad for Amnesty International."

Hannah comes by her activism honestly. She spent her 15th summer with uncle Haskell Wexler, during which the politically-committed cinematographer hipped Hannah to things she says she had "never even heard of, like nuclear power." To that "awakening" Hannah attributes her conviction that "Your conscience either does or doesn't respond to the things you learn. Either you feel capable of trying to do something or not." Former principal Geer says of the Wexlers, "They do an enormous number of things in a very low-key, understated way. In my position at the the school, they did remarkable things for children and I was the only person who knew what was going on. If they became aware of anything that needed to be done, particularly for a black or Hispanic child, it would be."

Forbes Magazine estimates the net worth of Jerry and Susan Wexler as "at least $250 million," and Wexler is currently rehabilitating the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago from a combat zone to affordable living units. He has also been known to buy a piano for an impoverished Russian emigre musician or to endow educational programs for the disadvantaged or to contribute humanitarian aid to El Salvador. Says a Chicago arts patron, "If any of the Wexler children become interested in a complex, possibly not-very-popular cause, their parents support it, no matter how much negative reaction is generated by it."

"We're a big family and we spend a lot of time gathering in different places," Daryl Hannah says. Those places include a lavish estate in Telluride, Colorado, a Santa Barbara ranch where Hannah keeps horses, and the two-floor apartment decorated by wonderfully eclectic art pieces in an unassuming building on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago's Lincoln Park area. Two of Hannah's stepsisters and Page, her "absolute best friend in life now," and a star of last summer's Shag, live in the same neighborhood as she.

Signs point to Daryl Hannah's willingness to step up to smarter career choices. Aside from Steel Magnolias, she, to overcome her "enormous amount of stage fright," performed in an invitation-only play in Manhattan and will next be seen in a black comedy, Crazy People, out later this year. When she signed to do that movie, her costar was John Malkovich. Days into filming, Dudley Moore replaced Malkovich. Could that twist of fate take Hannah back to square one as the Bo Derek of the '80s? She says, laughing, "There was all this turmoil on the surface, but everyone liked each other. I think it'll turn out to be good." In November, Hannah will be glimpsed in Crimes and Misdemeanors, in which she utters a single line for director Woody Allen.

What she hopes to avoid is another movie in which she is a mere "ornament." She says, "To this day, directors say 'I'm really going to show people that you can act. On most of the films I've done, the most I ever hoped for was that the director would just leave me alone. And most of the time, they did. Only a few times have I been fortunate enough to have directors who actually knew how to help. I'm tired of getting discovered every time I do a film, I'm ready to take a little responsibility for myself, you know?"

Pondering her future, Hannah says she's enthusiastic about her reactivation of Girlie Productions with Dawn Steel at Columbia. "There will definitely come a day," she says, "when I will just stop making movies and start focusing on the things that I feel are truly important." Such as? Again, her gaze seals over. Yesterday's favorite blonde, ready for responsibility, ready to tackle the important stuff? For an instant, I think maybe so.

On the street outside the deli, Hannah snaps her orthodontic retainer back in, jams on her sunglasses, and dashes off on her bike as I climb into my car. As she pedals toward her home, she shoots backward glances. Is Hannah merely cautious in Southern California traffic or is she worried that a journalist will further invade her privacy by following her? As I drive away, I think, Daryl Hannah probably isn't ready to forsake movies for more important things just yet.


Stephen Rebello's work has appeared in Playboy, Premiere, Vogue, Los Angeles and L.A. Style. He is currently at work on his third book.

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