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Daryl Hannah Was Working on a John Candy 'Love Story' When He Died: 'He Would've Been My Romantic Lead' (Exclusive)

Daryl Hannah, who starred with John Candy in 1984's 'Splash,' remembers the late actor as "such a beam of warmth and light and humor"

<p>Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty</p> (Left-right:) Daryl Hannah in 2023; John Candy in 1991

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

(Left-right:) Daryl Hannah in 2023; John Candy in 1991

Daryl Hannah is remembering her late costar John Candy — and their project that could have been.

“What a great man,” she tells PEOPLE when asked about the March 4 anniversary of his death. “He was just so lovely.”

On the set of 1984’s Splash, directed by Ron Howard and co-starring Tom Hanks, Hannah, 63, recalls Candy as “such a beam of warmth and light and humor, just wonderful. I just loved him.”

Related: John Candy's Kids Pay Moving Tribute to Their Dad 30 Years After His Death: 'Miss You and Love You Always'

Hannah starred as Madison, a mermaid who arrives on land and disguises herself as a human to return the wallet of Allen, played by Hanks. Eugene Levy played the conniving Dr. Walter Kornbluth, while Candy played Freddie, Allen’s boisterous and womanizing brother.

Thinking about Candy’s loss 30 years later, and 40 years after they bonded on set, is “so sad,” says Hannah. When she would remain half-submerged during lunch breaks, burdened by her elaborate mermaid tail, “John would come by and drop little french fries in my mouth,” she remembers. 

<p>Moviestore/Shutterstock</p> (Left-right:) Eugene Levy, Tom Hanks and John Candy in "Splash"

Moviestore/Shutterstock

(Left-right:) Eugene Levy, Tom Hanks and John Candy in "Splash"

Their friendship continued after filming the boy-meets-mermaid rom-com hit. In 2016, Hannah described Candy as “tears-coming-out-of-your-eyes, pee-your-pants hilarious” to Empire.

Doing press together, she recalled, "I used to sit on his lap all the time and he would talk for me and I'd mime what he was saying like a ventriloquist doll. He'd answer questions for me in interviews."

Related: John Candy 'Overdid It' with Jack Nicholson the Night Before Shooting Splash Racquetball Scene, Recalls Producer

Had the Spaceballs and Cool Runnings star not tragically died of cardiac arrest at age 43, Hannah tells PEOPLE the two would have collaborated again — with many of the same team members from Splash.

“Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel were writing the script,” she says of two of the screenwriters behind Splash, who earned an Academy Award nomination for the movie.

The project “was something that I kind of made up,” says Hannah, “sort of a love story.”

Candy, she adds, “would've been my romantic lead.”

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<p>Moviestore/Shutterstock</p> (Left-right:) Eugene Levy, Daryl Hannah, Tom Hanks and John Candy in "Splash"

Moviestore/Shutterstock

(Left-right:) Eugene Levy, Daryl Hannah, Tom Hanks and John Candy in "Splash"

Related: Catherine O’Hara Recalls Her ‘Crush’ on Friend John Candy: ‘He Was Always Really Lovely’ (Exclusive)

Candy was survived by wife Rosemary and their two children, Christopher and Jennifer. On the 30th anniversary of the Canadian star’s death, fellow actors remembered him as a generous collaborator and friend. 

“He just taught me a lot about being a great scene partner,” Laurie Metcalf, who starred with Candy in 1989’s Uncle Buck, told PEOPLE.

“I hadn't done hardly any movies,” she added. “He was good at reading people and knowing what would make them comfortable.”

“John’s comedy lives on, but my memory of him has the words ‘kindness’ and ‘sweetness’ in the headlines,” said Steve Martin, his costar on 1987's Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

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