Bright Lights Film Journal

Happy Birthday, California Mountain Snake!

It’s a birthday today for DARYL HANNAH, beloved uber-babe whose been immoralized in at least two classic films: Bladerunner and Kill Bill. Even if these were the only two roles she ever played, with the 25 years between them spent driving around in her bio-diesel El Camino, she’d still be a 100% badass. But she’s proven her chops at comedy (Splash!), ensemble chick flicks, indie late night cable crap (The Hit) and outside the cinema as a tireless advocate of environmental and human rights. But for all that, I wouldn’t be writing this if not for her greatness as Elle Driver AKA California Mountain Snake in Kill Bill, wherein she locks swords and long strands of blonde with vengeful hitwoman Uma Thurman and out-scream of rages her by a quarter and a half.

Don’t get me wrong: Uma rocks, but she’s too inherently “nice” to really be a convincing killer, and I’d say ditto for Lucy Liu and Vivica Fox. Are they fun as badass assassins? Yes. But do you get that sickly thrill in your spine that comes from watching pure female serpentine evil in motion? No. No matter how much Clint Eastwood sneer Uma puts in her voice, or how loudly Lucy Liu shouts at her yakuza bosses, it’s still easy to see their inner core of maternal decency — part of the point, I guess, but whether merrily infiltrating a hospital to slip Uma a lethal dose or just leisurely reading from her omnipresent little notepad while Michael Madsen writhes in pain from mamba bites, Daryl Hannah is a first class bad ass–no maternal core of decency (she’s never married or had kids [?] which helps, undoubtedly) and the combo long blonde hair and eye patch, not to mention the very snazzy suit and boots… that’s all just icing, baby.

What’s one of her secrets? She’s really tall, her beauty and poise hides a pretty formidable stature. Also, she seems like she’s lived… she has the same aura that Josh Brolin or Micky Rourke has, the aura of someone who has gone off and done crazy things and traveled the world and the seven seas and been forgotten about and/or forgotten about Hollywood long enough to bring something back to it from the wilderness, some secret grail prize for our stale society to gaze upon and possibly, hopefully wake from its overly civilized stupor to go ride against the evil banality of corporate downpressers. She’s hot, older by just the right amount, where it’s still totally sexy, and when she throws her self into a sword fight you’re actually scared, for and of her at the same time, that’s the true ultimate mark of a badass chick. And that’s my salute to Daryl, and this is for Pris (breaks finger)!