Our Man in Havana: New Hemingway Biopic

Biopics are the film equivalent of biographies: they can be decent but often they seem to be overly indulgent and superficial. Dickens is the most recent subject of the biographical attention in The Invisible Woman (2013), while the late David Foster Wallace is to be the feature of a forthcoming biopic (purportedly played by Jason Segal). But Ernest Hemingway is perhaps the most notable author to have been immortalised in film, his richly detailed life the subject of films including Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011) and Philip Kaufman’s lamentable Hemingway and Gellhorn (2012). Midnight in Paris, evidently, focuses on Hemingway’s Paris years, while Hemingway and Gellhorn focuses on Hemingway’s Spain years. Now, a new biopic on Hemingway is set to be released, focusing on the author’s Cuba years, directed by Bob Yari, the film producer  behind films such as Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil (2006), now in his directorial debut. The biopic is the first major Hollywood movie to be filmed on the island of Cuba in fifty years, due to political tensions between the US and Cuba. While The Godfather II (1990) was forced to film its Havana scenes elsewhere, Carol Reed’s Our Man in Havana (1959), based on the novel by Graham Greene, was one of the few films to secure filming rights in Cuba. As opposed to Allen and Kaufman’s films, the Cuban biopic evidently sees Hemingway in his ‘Papa’ years when the author lived and worked in Havana during Fidel Castro’s communist reign, with the author now being portrayed by veteran actor Adrian Sparks, a shift from the young, strapping Hemingway we have seen in the guise of Corey Stoll and Clive Owen. The film will focus on the friendship between Hemingway and American journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc (played by the severely underrated Giovani Ribisi). In the same vein as most biopics, including Grace of Monaco, Diana, Capote, and J. Edgar, the unimaginative title (Papa), threatens to set the tone of the film as yet another big Hollywood money-maker without much substance. The political portrayal may also prove controversial, particularly in light of Cuba’s political status, as many biopics romanticise historical aspects of famous figures and events. Yet the film will be based on the memoirs of Petitclerc, which may potentially set the film apart from its one-dimensional contemporaries. And as the first major Hollywood film set in Cuba in half a century, the film is likely to be of great interest to both history buffs and Hemingway enthusiasts.

Hemingway with Fidel Castro




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5 responses to “Our Man in Havana: New Hemingway Biopic

  1. Patrick Lyons

    You’ve been prolific in the past couple of days!


  2. Actually, a big chunk of the Godfather was set in Cuba just as Batista is falling. It was depicted gloriously.

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