How Mariel Hemingway found calm amid chaos
The actress shares with us her struggles to escape a legacy of mental illness, addiction and suicide while still embracing her famous last name.
When your last name is as storied as Mariel Hemingway’s, tied not only to enviable literary fame, but also a dark lineage of mental illness and substance abuse, it can be difficult to figure out who you are outside of that. As part of her journey to self- discovery, Hemingway is releasing her memoir in two forms: “Out Came The Sun” for adults and “Invisible Girl” for teens, both out this month.
In both books, Hemingway describes her childhood as chaotic. Both of her parents were alcoholics and got into loud fights, during which she played peacemaker and tried to pick up the pieces. “I thought all families threw bottles and would yell and scream like that. I didn’t know,” Hemingway tells us.
Finding new families
Partly to cope, she ventured into acting. “Part of why I liked making movies so much is that I would make families out of the whole set," she says. “It was a way to avoid worrying about my own family."
In “Out Came The Sun,” Hemingway describes how during the filming of “Manhattan,” Woody Allen started pursing her --- Hemingway was 18 at the time --- and asked her to go to Paris with him. She declined his offer, knowing the strings that came attached to the trip. “That [moment] was really about me finding my voice,” she says. “It was a revelation that I had to stick up for myself and make my own decisions.”
Searching for her own way
While Hemingway says she loved her last name and the link to her grandfather, she worried about the mental illness and addiction attached to it. “I didn’t want to end up like that,” she says. “So my search throughout life has been, how can I be healthy naturally? How can I stay balanced? How can I know more about myself and do more?”It’s this process of searching for these answers that she thinks saved her from the issues her sister and parents faced. Her sister Margeaux died of suicide in 1996 at age 42 while her mother died of a drug overdose in 1988.
Her hope with her books is to start a conversation about mental illness and addiction, so people don’t see it as a stigma and are more willing to talk about it. “People are terrified to talk about it because they are scared of losing their jobs. … I think we can prevent suicides from mental illness and depression if we can talk openly about it so that people can get the right help,” Hemingway says. “I hope my story will give courage to someone else to tell their story.”
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence