Mariel Hemingway participated in this year’s first installment of the “Conversation Series” tonight at FST’s John C. Court Cabaret. Mostly chronologically, the actress reviewed her career and provided insight into her experiences, thoughts and mental outlook concerning her work and family dynamic.
She was young and naïve during her early years within the film industry, and she was shocked by the acclaim attributed to her work in Lipstick; an occurrence that fed the familial tension between her sister, Margaux, and her. She expounded upon her work with Woody Allen in Manhattan, the role that earned her an Oscar nomination, and, at 15, she had to practice kissing her arm in front of the mirror, because she lacked experience. The film took her to the festival in Cannes, and it was necessary for her to make an early exit during the film’s screening due to paparazzi-induced hyperventilation.
Hemingway worked with director Bob Fosse on Star 80; a film based on the true story of 1980 Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten. Fosse was a choreographer, and he approached the film’s preparation in accordant spirit; they held lengthy rehearsals, an antiquated process now, and the director would literally click a stopwatch to cue the actors to perform the film through in its entirety, like a play.
“That’s where I learned how to get in to character and act,” says Hemingway. “You’ve done it so many ways- over the top, flat and boring- that the character is just in your cells. You don’t have to think about it.” Consequently, the actress had to deal with the long-term repercussions of embracing a psychologically vulnerable role. “The film had a disturbing effect on me for a lot of years after. I related to the victim too much. Too many elements were too much alike.”
Hemingway weighed in on the shift of the film industry in the 80s from auteur work to blockbusters and the commercial effect of needing to perform at box office. She laughed about her controversial participation in an episode of Roseanne in which she played a lesbian, and her work in Superman 4 served as the butt of several jokes- she just couldn’t believe Nuclear Man didn’t go over well!?
The closing of the conversation focused on her psychological battles and served as segue to her work in Running From Crazy. The film explores moments of her life and the weight of her ancestry carrying mental illness, coming from a lineage that has experienced seven suicides. For example, she opened up about her sister Margaux killing herself and the seeming transfer of her demons to Mariel, which led to a lengthy struggle to realize that she isn’t defined by her family. The documentary is one of the festival’s centerpiece films and screens at 6pm tomorrow night at the opera house.
Mariel Hemingway is hosting a signing for her self-help and fitness book “The Willingway” Saturday at 4pm at Barnes & Noble.