Oh, right: Daryl Hannah. You kind of forgot about her for a while.

There was a time, back when your voice was cracking, when her name conjured up all that was blonde and unattainable—when she was the mermaid, the ass-kicking android, the winsome-but-sexy girl next door of your lonely adolescent dreams. Then she made a string of movies you didn't care about—High Spirits, Steel Magnolias, Grumpy Old Men, for God's sake—and you moved on to new flaxen-haired goddesses: the Heather Grahams, the Cameron Diazes. Before long, you'd stuck Daryl Hannah in the back of your mental eighties-memorabilia closet with your Atari cartridges and your Christie Brinkley poster. Ungrateful bastard.

After Hannah's brief reign on the A-list following Blade Runner, Splash, and Roxanne, she became better known for her ill-fated romances with Jackson Browne and John F. Kennedy Jr. than for anything she did onscreen. She took jobs in under-the-radar indies, straight-to-cable flicks, and pride-swallowing crap like My Favorite Martian. Settling into a solar-powered house in the Rockies, she considered bailing on acting but was curious to see if her number would come up again.

"The whole thing is cyclical," Hannah says, picking at a veggie burger in a Malibu restaurant. No one in the lunchtime crowd seems to recognize her, though she has the wary look of someone who knows what it means to be stalked by paparazzi and psycho fans. "People get hyped, they get overexposed, you get sick of them, they go away," she says. "And then, if they stick around and still want to work, they come back."

And come back she has—not with the saturation-bombing media blitz of Demi Moore, maybe, but in her own quirky fashion. The career renaissance started earlier this year, with her role as a hermaphrodite gypsy angel (a very different breed from Charlie's variety) in the well-received art-house curiosity Northfork. Now Hannah's return reaches its multiplex climax with the first installment of Quentin Tarantino's chop-socky-meets-spaghetti-Western epic Kill Bill, in which she's an eye-patch-wearing assassin called California Mountain Snake. "She's the fiercest character I've ever played," she says. "Just a complete badass."

In person, Hannah cuts about as fearsome a figure as an Olsen twin. Though she turns 43 in December, she retains the girlish, dreamy-eyed innocence that turned Tom Hanks to butter in Splash. But unlike the boy-toy-toting, zero-body-fat Moore, who appears to have had herself encased in some kind of experimental polymer around 1992, Hannah doesn't seem at all desperate to show she's still got it goin' on. "I think I'm still pretty good-looking, so I'm not really worrying about it," says the actress, who's comfortable enough in her skin to bare it all in the November issue of Playboy. "I'm not going, Oh, no, I'm not 24 anymore!"