LOS ANGELES Actress Daryl Hannah defied the ingenue stereotype early in her career to transform into a futuristic robot, a mermaid and a sword-wielding killer, and in her latest role she battles age and sexist stereotypes as a lesbian basketball player.
Hannah, 52, is part of the ensemble cast that includes Brooke Shields and Wanda Sykes in "The Hot Flashes," out in theaters and video-on-demand now and on DVD August 13.
The film follows a group of women dealing with menopause who form a basketball team to raise money for a breast cancer screening van.
Chicago-born Hannah, best known for films such as "Blade Runner," "Splash" and "Kill Bill," talked to Reuters about playing a lesbian character, battling Hollywood's perception of youth and getting arrested.
Q: What drew you to the character of Ginger?
A: People always think of me as having been an ingenue, but I pretty much through my whole career have played character roles, such as goofy Annelle in "Steel Magnolias" and a robot in "Blade Runner." I always try for roles where I can really disappear into the character. I really liked the fact that (Ginger) was a character that people wouldn't necessarily associate with me.
Q: Ginger has the added challenge of being a lesbian in a small town in Texas. How did you want to portray her?
A: I wanted to portray her as a human being who is uncomfortable with revealing who she is because of prejudice. Racism is the same thing as sexism, and people being prejudiced against homosexuality is identical. You'd think we've moved beyond that in this day and age but we're still working our way through it apparently. So I think in small towns, the experience ... is heightened even more because everybody knows everyone's business.
Q: The film follows the journey of a female basketball team trying to raise money for charity. What message does it have?
A: It's an empowering, positive message to say, just because our media and pop culture pushes youth as the only thing of value, that women of all ages have something great to offer and have value. I think that's also reality, especially in these times, when women are so disparaged and overlooked after you get to be 30. It's ridiculous.
Q: Have you faced similar problems with growing older in Hollywood?
A: I started out as a teenager when I was doing "Blade Runner," and I remember when I was 30 years old, I started hearing I was too old for roles, and I'm talking about roles where you're playing a doctor or a teacher or a mother.
I think that's just partly because the entertainment industry is still a male dominated industry, so their preconception of what is marketable and what is sexy is strangely only focused on youth. And even youth is made to look weird. I think the whole idea of sexualizing girls when they're in their pre-teens on magazines and advertisements, it's just creepy.
Q: You're known for your environmental activism in recent years, alongside your acting. Which is more important to you?
A: Acting is my creative release and also what I do professionally. My advocacy work is just my survival instinct kicking in, when I see that our species is going in a really dangerous direction and compromising our life-support system. I'm trying to educate myself and spread information so that hopefully we can all make wiser decisions.
Q: Your activism has gotten you arrested in the past. Why do you get involved in the frontlines of protests?
A: I believe that civil disobedience is an incredibly important part of shifting a paradigm ... It takes acts of civil disobedience and a peaceful protest to overcome and stand against terrible wrongs. In my case, it's not something I thought about or decided to do or planned, they occurred when I decided to stand in solidarity with the people who were suffering the effects.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by Patricia Reaney and Jackie Frank)
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