Throwback Thursday: Mariel Hemingway Recalls First Time at Cannes, When "I Freaked"

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The actress was only 17 when she hit the festival's red carpet as the sole representative of Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' in 1979: "It was great, but it was really scary for me."

This story first appeared in the May 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

In 1979, Woody Allen's 'Manhattan,' about a 42-year-old comedy writer played by Allen who falls for a 17-year-old high school student played by Mariel Hemingway, screened out of competition at Cannes. Hemingway remembers the film's frenzied reception.

Woody wasn't there, nor was the cast. I was the only one representing the film. I think I was just 17. For me, it was just like this was an adventure. I'd never even really had a boyfriend. So for me to play somebody with a boyfriend who was in his 40s was pretty absurd, but I loved the sort of fantasy of it. I loved the fact that I could pretend that it was me.

I think men of a certain age love youth. They get energy from young women; they feel looked up to. There's a sense of "I can be young again." I think that's a subject that Woody may forever want to explore. But I wasn't uncomfortable. Woody was always very respectful of me, and it was an amazing film to work on. [Later that year, as Hemingway details in her memoir Out Came the Sun, Allen developed a crush on her and tried to take her on a trip to Paris; she declined.]

One of the most daunting things I've ever done was go up those red-carpet stairs. And the thousands, or it felt like thousands, of photographers who just yell your name: "Mariel, Mariel, Mariel, Mariel!" I was overwhelmed. I probably looked like a deer in the headlights, trying to smile while looking for my dad [Jack Hemingway] for help.

We got into the theater, the movie started, and my heart was beating. I had never seen the movie, either. So I was scared. In the middle of the film, I started to have a total panic attack. I realized, "Oh no, I have to go back out and all those photographers are gonna be there again! What will I do?" So I freaked. I told my dad that I'd gotten sick and I didn't know what was going on. My dad was great. He was just like, "You're OK. I think you're just panicking." The doctor came and they took me out the side entrance. So I never went through those people again.

I realized that everybody on Manhattan had thrown me to the wolves. They knew what that was going to be about! But I was just so young. It was great, but it was really scary for me.

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