British star Clive Owen (Children of Men, Closer) portrays iconic novelist Ernest Hemingway in HBO’s new movie Hemingway & Gellhorn, which begins its run on May 28th, 2012.
The film spotlights the writer’s seven year affair with war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman), and follows their romance through the Spanish Civil War and beyond. As witnesses to history, they lived through the great conflicts of their time, but weren’t able to survive the war between themselves.
Is it possible to go over the top playing Ernest Hemingway? And is that liberating, to some degree, as an actor?
I think it’s possible to go over the top playing any part, really. When I took this on, it was a huge challenge. And I took a lot of time off before to get ready for it.
You can’t play somebody like Hemingway and treat it like you do every other film. I did a lot of research. I just immersed myself for months with everything Hemingway – everything he wrote, everything that was written about him.
I visited Madrid, Paris and Cuba. I saw all the places he went and lived.
He was very much a part you have to attack. There’s a danger in playing any part that you can go over the top. But we had such a brilliantly written script.
It was so smart, intelligent, sensitive and nuanced, that it was a case of just trusting the material and committing to that.
Did playing a writer give you any further insight into the process of writing some of the words you speak as an actor?
I think I’m quite familiar with the whole process of that, having made a few films. I don’t think I was any more enlightened.
We learned a lot working with [director, producer Philip Kaufman], seeing how he developed the script for this, but I wouldn’t say I learned more than normal playing a writer.
Can you talk about what kind of mark Martha Gellhorn left on Hemingway?
I think she left a huge mark. She was probably the serious love of his life. The relationship lasted about seven years, and it was incredibly intense, incredibly passionate. He met his match, really.
They did, for that time, an enormous amount of traveling together. He was at the height of his powers. They were seeing the world.
It was an incredible relationship. There’s something very special in the fact that it only lasted a certain amount of time. It was probably a huge regret to him that it did end.
The story of the film is about how she finds her voice, and becomes more passionate about what’s going on in the outside world.
To a certain extent, they found [their perfect] place in Cuba. He was living a life of just wanting to be Ernest Hemingway, and for her to live her life through that as well.
She was too independent, too fiercely intelligent to do that. And that’s why it ended.
It was an incredible relationship for its time.