Famous for her role as a mermaid in the 1984 movie, Splash, American actress Daryl Hannah hasn’t let her childhood autism diagnosis interfere with her rise to Hollywood superstardom.
The 57-year-old Chicago-born star played a mermaid who fell in love with human Tom Hanks in the romantic comedy. Hanks played a New York businessman who was depressed following the break-up of his relationship. He returns to his home town of Cape Cod, where he falls into the sea after his motorboat breaks down.
He awakens on the beach in the company of a beautiful blonde mermaid, who has saved his life. She falls for Allen and later comes ashore in human form, going by the name Madison, to find the love of her life.
Splash is one of many hit films that Hannah has made during her 40-year career. Her other most famous roles have included an assassin called Elle Driver in Quentin Tarantino’s two-part martial arts adventure, Kill Bill, in 2003 and 2004, for which she won a Saturn Award.
She also played android Pris in the science fiction film Blade Runner in 1982, Roxanne Kowalski in the 1987 romcom Roxanne, Darien Taylor in the drama Wall Street in 1987 and Annelle Desoto in the 1989 comedy drama, Steel Magnolias, about a group of women in a small, close-knit community.
Born on 3rd December 1960, Hannah became interested in movies as a child. She later attributed this to being an insomniac and watching films when she couldn’t sleep. She was very shy and later described herself as “a little odd” and “introverted and withdrawn” in her youth. She was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
People who have Asperger syndrome experience the world differently from others. The condition can be characterised by the feeling of anxiety, as the world can seem overwhelming.
This often leads to difficulties in relating to other people and participating in family life, school, work or social activities.
Hannah was the victim of bullying at school. She described herself as being tall, skinny and “kind of goofy-looking”, while she was “not very communicative” – making her feel different from her classmates. She said her shyness was worse because of her condition.
She would arrive home from school and cry herself to sleep because of the bullies. First hand, she experienced that kids can be cruel when someone doesn’t “fit in” – the bullying drove her further into herself.
Sadly, bullies continue to target the star today in the shape of trolls, who follow her social media accounts, criticising her appearance. She says she manages to keep her negative feelings under control by concentrating and remaining focused.
Hannah’s mother became increasingly concerned about her daughter’s shyness and awkward social skills. As a result, she took her to the doctor and Asperger syndrome was diagnosed.
In the 1960s, autism was just starting to be recognised. However, the medical profession didn’t have a great deal of knowledge about the condition half a century ago.
Doctors recommended to her mother that Hannah should be sent to a live-in institution and given medication. Luckily, her mother didn’t believe in this kind of treatment and didn’t allow the doctors to take her daughter, refusing to be separated from her.
Hannah has spoken of how thankful she is that her mother didn’t permit this course of treatment, fearing she could well have been in an institution to this day. Her mother withdrew her from school and home-educated her for a year instead.
Introduction to acting
It was during this period, when Hannah was 11, that she realised movies didn’t just happen and that someone actually made them. When she realised getting a job in films could be a reality, she began planning her career in earnest.
On returning to school, she would go to a payphone in her lunch break to ring agents. She viewed acting as an escape from her humdrum life and wanted to live in Oz and meet the cowardly lion and the tin man. She explained it as wishing she could be “transported to other realities”.
She attended a few acting schools, but didn’t like any of them, until she found one where all she had to do was exercise her imagination, without being analysed. This approach worked and she described finding an “artistic outlet” for her feelings.
She made her acting debut on the big screen in 1978, with a small role in the horror film, The Fury. However, her career didn’t really take off until she starred in Blade Runner, when she performed her own stunts as the replicant, Pris.
She went on to win the Saturn Award for best supporting actress for Kill Bill Volume 2 and the MTV Movie Awards’ best fight scene for the same film.
Despite her massive success in the movie industry, she still admits to feeling nervous when attending publicity calls and appearing on the red carpet. She says she has “little tricks” to help her cope with uncomfortable situations.
When attending public events, she tries to imagine it’s her party and she has to make everyone else feel welcome. She pretends they are nervous and uncomfortable, rather than feeling conspicuous and awkward herself.
In recent years, Hannah has devoted much of her time to becoming an environmental activist. She broadcasts a weekly video blog about sustainable solutions, called DHLoveLife – her own home runs on solar power. She has been vegan since her youth and drives a car that runs on biodiesel.
In April 2014, she and Neil Young led a march in Washington to protest against the proposed Keystone Pipeline. She is also a member of the World Future Council – an independent body that seeks to find solutions to preserve the planet for future generations.
Kinderkey supplies a range of special needs beds and disabled beds for people with Asperger syndrome who may experience sleep disruption – medical experts recommend making their sleeping environment as comfortable and relaxing as possible. Providing a soft and safe environment, our Bearhugzzz SpaceSaver bed is a popular choice. Please contact us for further details of our safe sleeping solutions.