| Familiar tune: Mariel Hemingway
Los Angeles, May 5: Ernest Hemingway, the American author whose novels have been out of favour with Hollywood for almost half a century, is back in fashion.
Film producers and academics are showing renewed interest and three films based on his books are now in production.
They say that his terse, taut prose and swaggering macho attitude is resonating with Americans once again. Redd Griffin, a Hemingway scholar, said: “In these troubled times, Hemingway’s clarity, spirituality and sense of hard reality in the midst of confusion is very helpful.”
The films’ producers believe that there is a whole new audience for their projects as women discover Hemingway’s spiritual side. Marianne Rusenick, of the Hemingway Foundation in Illinois, said: “Women did not like Hemingway but now there is a whole new wave of female Hemingway scholars.”
Hemingway’s granddaughter, the actress Mariel Hemingway, hopes to be first on to the screen with A Moveable Feast, the author’s memoir of expatriates in Paris in 1920. She will direct and co-produce the film with actor Billy Bob Thornton and they hope to begin filming by autumn.
“It’s the least dramatic of his books but it’s incredibly poignant to his life,” she said. “It’s what people yearn for when they think of the Hemingway life in Paris in the 1920s — wine, art and the whole deal.”
In addition, Warner Bros is developing For Whom The Bell Tolls, and Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal, has given the go-ahead for a remake of To Have And Have Not.
For Whom The Bell Tolls was originally filmed by Paramount in 1943. It starred Gary Cooper as an American fighting in the Spanish Civil War and was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture.
Warners has hired David Benioff, who wrote Spike Lee’s most recent film, 25th Hour, to adapt the book for the new version. Casting should not be a problem. Jack Nicholson, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks were among the stars who turned out at a recent charity event to read Hemingway’s short stories.
To Have And Have Not was first filmed in 1944 by director Howard Hawks and famously teamed Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, making her film debut. Their sexual chemistry and legendary love scenes made it a hit.
Benicio Del Toro, who recently starred in the award-winning film Traffic, about the drug trade, has been cast in one of the starring roles but no leading lady has yet been selected.
“I hope the new version sticks a bit closer to the story,” said Griffin. It may be a forlorn hope as the producer, Laura Bickford, said that the new film is likely to be set in the present day.
Observers believe that the new crop of Hemingway-based films may open the floodgates for several more. Fifteen feature films and several made-for-television films have been based on Hemingway’s stories, beginning with A Farewell to Arms in 1932.
The most recent was the less-than-successful Islands in the Stream, which was made 15 years ago. As one critic put it: “Hemingway has always delivered the two things Hollywood wants — plot and character. And anyway, Hollywood likes to remake things more than make things. It’s safer.”