”I’d never had any formal acting training, as you can tell immediately when you watch Zabriskie Point,” says Daria Halprin. ”It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t a silent film. I would have been better off.”
Today, she can joke about the controversial film that cast her into the spotlight at 21, but at the time, it threw her life into tumult. Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni chose the beautiful but inexperienced actress to star in his 1970 fantasy, a critique of American civilization set symbolically in Death Valley.
Halprin got romantically involved with her costar, Mark Frechette, and despite the film’s spectacular failure, they became famous. ”It put me in a kind of lifestyle and situation that in many, many ways I wasn’t ready to deal with,” she says. (Frechette tried to pull Halprin into Boston cult leader Mel Lyman’s ”family” and died in 1975 in a prison weight room, suffocated by a barbell.)
Soon after Zabriskie Point, Halprin made one other movie, The Jerusalem File, then married actor Dennis Hopper and moved to Taos, New Mexico. ”I pretty much withdrew, dropped out,” she says.
About a year later, she left Hopper and returned to her hometown, San Francisco. ”I was in a lot of trouble, very close to burnout. I just got through by the skin of my teeth. It took me a long time to find my way again. I began to work on myself. Out of that I came to a new interest in movement therapy and education. My professional interest in those fields came out of my commitment to save myself.”
She became a creative-arts therapist and founded the Tamalpa Institute Dancer’s Workshop in Marin County with her mother, Ann, a noted dancer. Currently, she has a private practice in creative-arts therapy, but she’s not sure what’s in her future. ”Maybe I’m ready to be rediscovered,” she remarks.
Halprin, 36, who has a daughter from her marriage with Hopper and a son from her current marriage, still gets recognized for her moment of film glory. ”There was a time when I felt quite embarrassed about it, but at my age it becomes enjoyable.”