The older sister of actress Page Hannah and niece of cinematographer Haskell Wexler, athletic, blonde leading lady Daryl Hannah trained for the ballet before switching to acting at the Goodman Theatre. Taking the stage would prove quite a daunting task for the girl who suffered from agoraphobia and was once such a wallflower that she was diagnosed as borderline autistic, and though it would take Hannah a few years to become truly comfortable in front of an audience, she eventually overcame her fear to stunning results. In addition to ballet Hannah also exuded a certain grace on the high school soccer field. Her interest in film was sparked by a severe case of insomnia early in life, and young Hannah would spend hours on end soaking in film into the wee hours of the night. Before completing her theatrical training under the guidance of Stella Adler, the young hopeful appeared in the Brian De Palma film The Fury (1978) at the age of 18 . After delivering a remarkable performance as a tough android in Blade Runner (1982), Hannah achieved full stardom with her winsome portrayal of a mermaid in Splash (1983). Not all of her subsequent films -- nor her performances -- have been as successful, though she was highly praised for her interpretation of a nerdish hairdresser in Steel Magnolias, and was treated kindly by the press and public for her characterization in the title role of the made-for-TV Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1992).
Her often turbulent private life achieved an even keel with her long-term relationship with lawyer/ publisher John F. Kennedy Jr. Sadly, their relationship was doomed from the start due to Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis' disapproval of her son marrying an actor, the two eventually parted ways. In 1996 Kennedy wed Carolyn Besette, and the rest of their story is history. Despite public perception that Hannah withdrew from acting in the later 1990s, it was simply an unfortunate series of career missteps that kept the enigmatic actress out of the multiplexes and in such mediocre fare as The Last Days of Frankie the Fly and Gun (both 1997). Of course not all was lost during the 1990s, and audiences could indeed catch memorable performances by Hannah in Grumpy Old Men (1993) (as well as that film's 1995 sequel), the Emmy-nominated mini-series The Last Don and the Robert Altman thriller The Gingerbread Man.
As the millennium turned Hannah was still stuck in a sort of celluliod limbo, though such edgy efforts as Cord and Dancing at the Blue Iguana (both 2000) showed the actress had a fearless side that had been left virtually unexplored since her days in The Fury and Blade Runner. Of course Hannah still had a soft spot, and following a supporting performance in Mark and Michael Polish's quirky 2001 drama Jackpot she went family friendly with the mini-series Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story and the comparitively earnest and innocent teen drama A Walk to Remember (2002). Having formed a friendly working relationship with the Polish brothers with Jackpot, Hannah returned to the screen for the filmmakers in their acclaimed 2003 drama Northfork. The critical success of Northfork marked the beginning of a critical year for the veteran actress. A turn as a contract killer with a conscience followed with The Job, and after a trip to the middle of nowhere in The Big Empty Hannah aspired to adopt a Mexican orphan in John Sayles Casa de los Babys. Teamed with a powerhouse cast that included Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Marcia Gay Harden, the critically acclaimed drama cemented the comeback that would continue with Kill Bill Vol. 1 just a few short months later. Cast as deadly assassin Elle Driver (Codename: California Mountain Snake), Hannah's eye-patch wearing killer was inspired by the exploitation roughie Thriller (also known as They Call Her One Eye). Though Hannah was still breathing at the end of Kill Bill Vol. 1, audiences held their breath to discover the ultimate fate of her viscous character until the release of Kill Bill Vol. 2 four months later. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi