Daryl Hannah's prolific career in film has spanned more than two decades, but by our estimation, a new film from Susan Siedelman marks the first time the outspoken actress has played gay. Hannah joins an all-star cast in The Hot Flashes, a feel-good comedy about a team of middle-aged former female basketball stars who team up to take on the teenage state champs in a charity match to save their local breast cancer screening unit. Hannah's character, Ginger Peabody, is a "closeted" lesbian — who everyone in the small town knows is gay. Hannah's Ginger is affable, no-nonsense, and has some mean skills on the court — which Hannah actually performed; no stunt doubles involved.
The rag-tag team of women also includes team leader Brooke Shields as Beth, whose late best friend founded the mobile mammogram unit the team is rallying to save. She's joined by out comic Wanda Sykes, the former high school basketball star who's also running to be the white-bred town's first African-American mayor, and is worried stepping back onto the court will seem to "black" to get her elected. Rounding out the team are archenemies Virginia Madsen as five-time divorcee Clementine, and biker babe Camryn Manheim as Roxie, who has a weak spot for cannabis-infused sweets.
The Hot Flashes debuts in select theaters nationwide today, and will be available on digital platforms through Video on Demand on Sunday. Before the film's debut, SheWired caught up with Hannah, to talk about playing gay, learning a lay-up, and being a woman of a certain age in Hollywood, where youth is prized above all else.
SheWired: First off, I just want to say you were excellent in the film — I really enjoyed it.
Daryl Hannah: Oh, thank you.
So, it’s a very female-centric story.
Oh, yes. Which is, strangely, still kind of rare.
Exactly! That’s what I was going to ask you about.
It’s something I’ve just never been able to understand, why that’s the case — because every time a movie comes out that has strong female characters, and does really well at the box office, and people in my industry tend to think it’s an anomaly, a one-off, and that’s just not the case! You know, we know that the majority of audience-goers are women, and that women like to see themselves reflected in stories that relate to their lives. I think it’s because we still have such a male-dominated industry, in terms of people who run studios, and financing groups, and all that stuff, and they want to go, "Yeah! We need more cars! And more car crashes!" And 20-year-old girls.
So not only the fact that it’s these five female lead characters, but it’s the fact that these characters, they’re grown-up women. That’s all so unusual — almost unheard of.
So, working with a cast of strong, middle-aged women like that, how does that change the atmosphere on set?
You know, it doesn’t really change the atmosphere on set. I mean, it’s just been a lovely experience. It was just easy, we all got along great, so it was kind of a no-brainer.
And kind of on that note, what was it like working with Susan Seidelman?
Oh, Susan? She was really fun. I’ve been a big fan of her work before. She was really fun and she made sure that we all got our chance to learn how to play basketball. [Laughs] Which was great — we got to train with Michael Cooper, who is one of my favorite L.A. Lakers. And Coach Laura and Coach Karla, who work with the USC women’s basketball coach, which was just amazing, because never in my life have I been able to play basketball or make a basket. I’m tall and athletic, but it's just something that eluded me. And finally I understood how you do it and it was so much fun!
So that’s all you making those shots?
Yeah, yeah. No, we didn’t have stunt doubles. No resources for stunt doubles. [Laughs] But we all wanted to do it — we really wanted to learn how. [It was] super fun.
I believe that. So given the that this film features a strong set of female leads who are all adult, kind of middle-aged women, what does it mean to you to be a middle-aged actress in Hollywood who has this really terrific career? How do you feel like your involvement in "Hollywood" has changed or evolved over the years?
I definitely still love movies, and I still love just the whole concept that you can sort of make a dream tangible. [Laughs] And I love being transported into the lives of others, both as an actress and as a movie-watcher, and seeing through their eyes. So it’s still a huge passion of mine. I don’t necessarily have the same ambition that I did when I was young, because I've already had some of that satiated, to a certain extent. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more informed about the world and so I do spend a lot more of my time focusing, educating myself, and focusing on solutions to other crises and issues that we’re facing. We all evolve as adults. So while I do still do a lot of movies and they exercise my creative side, they have become less of the central focus of my life. Although I do really enjoy them. And it's kind of worked, in terms of timing it doesn’t work out too bad because there’s very few parts of women after you’re 25, anyway.
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You’ve made a name for yourself with your activism around the environment, and around women’s issues. How are those issues connected to one another for you?
It’s all one song, in a way. The crises that we face are all somewhat related, and this really comes from making choices that we’re not all that conscious about. We’re not conscious about the ramifications, of their implications. So whether we’re talking about the issue of slavery, or human trafficking; whether you’re talking about environmental degradation and devastation because of the way we decide to produce and use energy; we know that there are ways to do these things differently. We have ways to produce energy that doesn’t destroy our life support system. There’s a recipe for ending slavery in our lifetime, if we want to. And it’s just a matter of being informed, and then making those better choices and then insisting upon our elected representatives we’re selecting on reflecting those choices as well.
And we used to live in a country where we could sort of trust — or we thought we could trust — our leaders and our elected representatives to help us make choices that reflected our Constitution and reflected our values. Well, we know that that’s not the case anymore. We know now that the political interests are led by economic interests, and economic interests have those agendas. We need to take matters into our hands now, and obviously it’s not something that a lot of people look forward to. They don’t want to be bothered; they don’t want to have to make the effort. It’s just that time of day.
Absolutely. In the film, your character, Ginger, is closeted for a solid chunk of the story. What parts of your character did you find that you identified with?
I definitely felt empathetic towards that struggle. Fortunately, I didn’t suffer the kind of ostracism that a closeted person would in a small Southern town, but I spent many years being picked on as a kid, because of my skinny legs, and shock of white hair on my head, and just being a creative, oddball girl. I was an outsider all my life, so I definitely could identify with that. And that’s what I do. I try to inhabit other characters — that’s my job. I really just loved the character, I really felt for her. I think it’s really interesting that we’ve seen so much progress in the last few weeks in terms of rights of gays and lesbians, and I just feel like the walls are starting to come down.
We’re starting to realize that, yeah, we’re all human beings and that people love each other and love is love.
And it seems like that’s the kind of the evolution that Ginger experiences. It went from, ‘Oh, no, I could never be open about this’ to, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s my partner.’
Yeah, and, ‘I’m a human being and nothing is bad about love.’
Exactly. Is there anything else you'd like to add that we didn't touch on?
Just one thing, is that I was really pleased to hear that my mom really enjoyed the movie!
Oh, that’s awesome!
Yeah! And her husband is also somewhat conservative, not politically, but my movies these days make him uncomfortable. And they actually really enjoyed it, and she was so thrilled, and she kept telling me, "You know, that’s a movie I could take my grandkids to, my great-grandkids to! And my husband! And we’d all have a great time and all enjoy it." And I just thought that was a really good point, you know.
Yeah, it certainly is; it’s a relatable film. And I’m a little bit younger, but my partner and I watched it, and we both enjoyed it and we found parts to identify with. And the characters seemed relatable, and we just really enjoyed it.
Thank you so much for your time. I’m kind of the envy of the office right now because I’m talking to you.
Oh yeah! We have some serious fans here at the office.
Thank you! That's such an unusual name, Sunnivie.
Yeah, it’s a weird one.
Well, so is mine – that’s one of the reasons I got picked on. I like it. Embrace who you are!