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.