In 1993, after taking a summer off to attend film school at NYU, Daryl Hannah wrote, directed, and produced the short film The Last Supper, which won a Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. But it took until now for her to make her full-length feature directorial debut: Paradox, a lo-fi, sci-fi western musical starring her boyfriend Neil Young, Promise of the Real, and Willie Nelson, which premiered Thursday night at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
“I can’t even tell you how many years I told my manager I wanted [to direct],” Hannah tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I have been working on actual, real scripts and stuff for years, and have things that I’ve developed over the years that I wanted to make as narrative features, and I never even could get a meeting. I even had production deals, but they were always kind of like vanity production deals, ultimately.”
Hannah, who has spoken before about being sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein (including one scary encounter when he burst into her hotel room), pauses when asked about her struggles in Hollywood. “There’s so many stories, but I actually never got a meeting on a movie after Kill Bill, not one — not an offer, not a meeting, not an anything. The next thing I got was Sense8, and that was accidental. They called me for a phone number for somebody else, and they were like, ‘Why don’t you come in?’ I have no idea why. [Kill Bill] was a big, successful movie, but I never got even a meeting, nothing. I think it was … maybe tied slightly to the Harvey thing, because that was part of it. He was telling people I was ‘difficult,’ because I kicked him out of my room!”
Interestingly, in Paradox, a movie made far outside the Hollywood machine, Hannah envisions a utopian future “when the womenfolk had rightfully just about given up” on men, in which a band of male outlaw prospectors — led by Young’s grizzled character, “the Man in the Black Hat” — work for a tribe of frontierswomen. “Every once in a while, I think probably almost every woman has fantasized about just living in a commune or something with their girlfriends and making art and raising babies and growing food, and just letting the guys come visit once in a while,” Hannah chuckles. “[Paradox] was just sort of a little exploration of that fantasy, that in the future women have just said, ‘You know what? We’re done with the mining, the plundering, the pillaging, the fighting. We’re just going to go over here. We’ll take care of the land. We’ll take care of the kids. You guys try to stay alive. We’ll come and visit you once in a while.’ The women [in the film] still have a good feeling about the men, though — it’s not like they’ve written them off completely!”
The real man in Daryl’s life, Neil Young, says he was delighted to be part of Hannah’s quirky vision. “Daryl did everything. She wrote the script, she went out to the thrift shops and bought all of the costumes herself,” he marvels. “She is a real artist, and she knows what she wants. She wrote what everybody said. She gave us good direction throughout the whole thing. … Daryl is great at what she does. She’s a true professional, and a joy to work with.”
“[Neil] has such a natural communication with the artistic process that he doesn’t question it, ever,” Hannah adds. “He just was like, ‘Oh, yeah, right. We’re making a movie.’ It was very natural.”
Young says he trusted his partner’s vision so much, “I never read the script. … I said, ‘Why don’t you just tell me my lines?’ She told me about the story, and so I wanted to see it develop.”
There’s one amusing line in the Paradox script, uttered in the outhouse, that stands out: “Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it’s probably s***.” Hearing that line recited back to him, Young chuckles. “That sounds about right.” Young speaks glowingly of Hannah, and he says nothing about their romance has ever felt like a struggle at all — even when working together on a movie set. “She says I’m unruly, and I think she’s too tough, but aside from that, we’re great!” he laughs. More seriously, he continues, “We’re pretty real. As artists, we support each other and understand, because we both have an element of fame. We understand what that means.”
It seems like Young is referring to the media scrutiny that exploded once he and Hannah went public with their relationship, following his divorce from his wife of 36 years, Pegi. But he insists, “We didn’t pay any attention to that. It doesn’t matter. We don’t give a s***. We don’t care, because they don’t know what they’re talking about. And if they do know what they’re talking about, we still don’t care, but we’re happy for them. It doesn’t matter. What matters is us, not the press.”
It wasn’t just the press that had opinions on the Young/Hannah romance: Young’s onetime CSNY bandmate David Crosby also had some nasty words (for which Crosby later apologized). “When we got together, even some of my good friends were negative about it, and I could never understand it,” muses Young. “[Daryl is] a wonderful human being, and I’m very lucky to know her. That’s all I was thinking.”
Nowadays, Young seems in great spirits, with a slew of forthcoming new releases — including the Paradox soundtrack, which features six new musical interludes with Promise of the Real — and it seems Hannah has a lot to do with the 72-year-old’s zest for life.
“She’s helped me physically to be stronger; she’s got a really intense physical regimen she follows, and I crawl along behind her,” Young reveals, laughing. “We do Pilates twice a week, sometimes three times a week, and get in the pool with weights. We have routines we do in the pool, a lot of stuff together like that. There’s always something. … I’m very lucky. We’re very lucky to have found each other. I’m eternally thankful for the opportunity to share my life with her, and she feels the same.”
That sense of joy permeates Paradox, a freeform romp shot over two days in the Colorado mountains on a shoestring budget. (“It was more of a no-string budget,” jokes Hannah. “It was like a Velcro budget,” quips Young.)
“It was just for fun. We wanted to make a movie, so why not?” Young says. “We had all these people, everybody’s capable of doing it, and we had some time to kill. We started talking about it about a week before we did it. … We said, ‘Do you really want to do this? Yeah? OK, let’s get the tent.’”
“There was a lot that was just sort of improvised, or you didn’t even realize we were filming. … We just did it for a couple of days, by ourselves,” Hannah says. “We just made it. We didn’t go around asking anybody for permission or organizing. Most of these guys were wearing my clothes, or stuff I got at the thrift store. We did everything ourselves. It was just like, ‘Let’s make a movie!’”
“We had no limitations. We just didn’t have any money,” adds Young.
Ironically, Paradox wasn’t even supposed to be Hannah’s full-length directorial debut — she’d only written a 10-page script. But she, Young, and Promise of the Real were having so much fun, “We just kept shooting,” says Young. “We’d get up in the morning and shoot all day and never stop.” Eventually, Hannah ended up with enough footage for a 73-minute feature, which will make its Netflix debut March 23. “It wasn’t made like a normal movie. That’s why it isn’t a normal movie. … If you go in expecting an ordinary movie, you’re going to be confused,” Hannah laughs.
Hannah still has plans to make a more conventional film, based on an old Irish folk tale that was adapted by the poet W.B. Yeats, though she isn’t sure when that will happen. “I’m going to need an actual budget and an actual crew for that one,” she chuckles. But with Young by her side, she says, “I will always do creative stuff. That’s just the way it goes.”