“Splash” Turns 40! Daryl Hannah Remembers Swimming with Barracudas and Her 'Painful' Mermaid Tail (Exclusive)

40 years later, Daryl Hannah recalls ‘Splash’ costars Tom Hanks and John Candy feeding her lunch as she and her mermaid tail stayed in the water

<p>Alamy</p> Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks in "Splash"


Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks in "Splash"

40 years have passed swimmingly by, but Daryl Hannah still remembers her Splash mermaid tail.

“It weighed so much and it put pressure on spots where it shouldn't have pressure,” the actress, 63, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “So almost every day, my feet came out bloody and stuff.”

The fish-like and “incredibly painful” costume prosthetic, created by award-winning visual effects artist Robert Short, was unwieldy enough that Hannah would elect to stay half-submerged in the water during lunches on set.

Costars Tom Hanks and John Candy, she adds, “would come by and drop little French fries in my mouth.”

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

Yet despite the scars still on her feet and the often frigid conditions of scuba diving for hours on end, Hannah has nothing but positive things to say about filming Splash. “I loved filming the whole thing,” she confesses. 

<p>Touchstone/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Daryl Hannah in "Splash"


Daryl Hannah in "Splash"

“I was absolutely fine,” she says of filming in Los Angeles, New York City and, for the most aquatic sequences, the clear waters off an island in the Bahamas. “Even when I accidentally swam too far in the wrong direction and a safety diver couldn't catch up to me, I wasn't panicked. When I'm underwater — I already have low blood pressure, but my heart rate even drops further. I get super, super chilled out. I can hold my breath for ages.”

And as the Ron Howard-directed boy-meets-fish story still proves 40 years later, Hannah does indeed seem in her element underwater. As Madison, a mermaid who ventures onto land to fall in love with Hanks’ Allen, the then-burgeoning star charmed audiences and launched a screen career that would later include Roxanne, Wall Street, Steel Magnolias and the Kill Bill movies.

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“For me, wanting to do movies was wanting to disappear into real fantasy worlds, into different realities,” Hannah tells PEOPLE. As a kid growing up in Chicago, she adds, her imagination ran rampant — particularly when it came to mermaids, in fact. “It's like a part I'd practiced for my whole childhood, as I'm sure many little girls have. We were fortunate enough to have a pool when I was young, and so I would just spend all my time basically underwater, pretending.”

So Hannah “was more than prepared when [Splash] came around,” and game for anything the role required. “It was pretty interesting in terms of literally putting yourself in someone else's shoes — or fins, for that matter,” she quips.

“I had pilot fish following me around thinking that I was the real deal,” recalls the actress. “Barracudas would hang out underneath the boat and watch everything that was going on. I used to think barracudas were really scary. And then after that, I realized that they're super friendly and curious and fascinated by everything. They never attacked anyone or anything.”

Getty Daryl Hannah at the 2023 Grammy Awards
Getty Daryl Hannah at the 2023 Grammy Awards

Related: Tom Hanks Jumps Into His Birthday with an Epic Pool Dive: 'This Greyhound is 64!'

Splash becoming a box office hit and cinematic classic was just a bonus for Hannah, whose “whole reason to be in movies,” she says, “is to have those type of really, really transformative experiences.” 

It’s why she also savored transforming into Elle Driver a.k.a. California Mountain Snake in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 hit Kill Bill and its 2004 sequel. “I love learning all the flying and wire work and all that stuff, even though I didn't even have that much of it. I'm like, ‘Let me fly today, please!’

“I love doing all these kinds of fantasy things where you get to do something you'd never really be able to do in real life,” says Hannah. “That's the best thing ever. It's like a dream come true.”

While a Splash remake has been rumored to be in the works (following 1988’s made-for-television sequel Splash, Too), all Hannah can say about what the star-crossed Madison and Allen would be doing 40 years later is “swimming around with their guppies" today. "They would probably still be together!"

Among Hannah’s upcoming projects is helming another music documentary featuring her husband, Neil Young. Last year she became a Grammy Award nominee for directing Young and Crazy Horse's A Band, A Brotherhood, A Barn.

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