Actress and writer Mariel Hemingway and her partner Bobby Williams, shown here taking a break from lunch in Ketchum, sat down with Idaho Mountain Express reporter Tony Evans on Friday to discuss the upcoming release of their new book, “The Willing Way: Stepping Into the Life You’re Meant to Live,” and Hemingway’s journey out a troubled family past. The granddaughter of acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway returned to the Wood River Valley to attend the Sun Valley Film Festival and continue promotion of the book, which is scheduled for release at the beginning of April. Express photo by Willy Cook
Fame can be a doubled-edged sword. The literary legacy of writer Ernest Hemingway has cast a spotlight on three generations of his descendents, several of whom have made it big in the worlds of fashion, acting and writing. But the Hemingway family has also been ravaged by addiction, mental illness and suicide.
Actress and Ketchum local Mariel Hemingway takes an unflinching look at the potential causes of her family’s dysfunction through interviews in a new documentary film, “Running From Crazy,” which won a Best of Festival second screening last weekend at the second annual Sun Valley Film Festival. The film is directed by Barbara Kopple.
In the film, Hemingway reveals that she believes her two sisters were sexually molested at the hands of her father, Jack Hemingway, a popular Ketchum outdoorsman who died in 2000. She notes that her eldest sister, Joan Hemingway, also known as Muffet, suffers from mental illness. Joan lives and paints in an assisted-living facility in Twin Falls. Margaux Hemingway, the middle daughter, was once the highest-paid fashion model in the world. She died of a drug overdose in 1996 in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Fame can be a problem if you’re not stable and don’t know that it is all B.S,” Hemingway said during an interview at Glow Café in Ketchum on Friday, the opening day of the film festival. “To think you’re different or special, that’s where the danger comes in. The ego takes over and you begin to elevate yourself. Fame was supposed to make you feel a certain way and that didn’t happen, so then there’s just more pain. That’s what happens with addiction. My sister [Margaux] didn’t find the solution within herself.”
Mariel Hemingway, 51, is honored in the documentary at the 200th anniversary of McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Boston for helping bring awareness to the tragedy of suicide. She says in the film that seven of her family members over four generations took their own lives, leaving her in fear that she might one day “wake up suicidal.”
“The more we talk about this issue, the less it’s stigmatized,” she said in the interview. “I was depressed my whole life. I was in my mid-40s before I realized that I am my own healer. After I was divorced, I knew I had no one else to look to for my own healing.
“I personally am not a big supporter of pharmaceutical medications. But some people … need a certain amount of them. What I’m against is not seeing food and lifestyle as part of balancing brain chemistry. How are you living? What are you thinking? Do you drink enough water?”
Hemingway said staff at McLean Psychiatric Hospital were also interested in bringing back a focus on lifestyle as a component of restoring mental health, including exercise, contact with nature and changes in diet. She also expressed a personal interest in exploring brain state technology, the use of sound to optimize the balance of brain chemistry.
Hemingway was joined at Glow by her life partner of five years, Bobby Williams, an engaging raconteur and Hollywood stuntman who said he has driven across the United States 87 times, sometimes picking up hitchhikers to hear their stories. Hemingway and Williams tease one another jokingly.
“People have never seen us for who we are,” Williams said. “I think people can see us more clearly when we’re together. I asked Mariel what she was doing all this yoga for. She said, ‘This is what I do. This is who I am.’ I said, “Let’s go hit the track, do some running.’”
Mariel said she has returned the favor by bringing a measure of focus to Williams’ “visionary” nature, helping him to organize his time and complete one project before starting another.
“It’s kind of like breaking a horse, without breaking his spirit,” she said with a grin.
Hemingway and Williams live in a secluded area in the hills above Malibu, Calif., called the Willing Way Ranch. “The Willing Way: Stepping Into the Life You’re Meant to Live” is their new collaborative book, scheduled for release next month. It combines male and female perspectives (Bobisms and Marielisms) on how to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle, as well as a 100-point system that can be used to measure progress toward goals.
“The goal of the book is to inspire people to find in themselves their own teachers,” Hemingway said. “We want to inspire people to write the story of their own lives.”
The Willing Way Ranch has a garden and chickens. There are also kettlebell weights, a trampoline and a climber’s slack line, as well as yoga mats. This is where the couple entertains many friends and associates in the film industry, Williams said. They have plans to launch media projects, including Williams’ “Man 2 Man,” a TV show featuring explorers and athletes.
Hemingway said she plans to produce “Mariel,” a wellness talk show.
“I want it to be very humorous,” she said.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org