Hemingway biopic first major film shot in Cuba since 1959
An Ernest Hemingway biopic has become the first full length Hollywood feature film to be shot in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.
‘Papa’, tells the story of the iconic American writer's friendship with a young journalist in 1950s Havana. The film received special dispensation from the US government to film despite the six-decade American embargo of Cuba.
Director Bob Yari wrapped production over the weekend following a two-month shoot. His film stars Giovanni Ribisi as Denne Bart Petitclerc, the young journalist who befriended Hemingway, with stage and screen veteran Adrian Sparks as the novelist. It is based on Petitclerc's autobiographical script.
"It was an absolute passion to actually make it in Cuba where everything that is in the script happened, where the finca [farm] is where [Hemingway] lived, where his boat was, all the spots from the Morro castle to Cojimar where he fished," Yari told the Hollywood Reporter. "It's all here, so trying to duplicate it somewhere else was not very appealing."
The production received support from the Cuban state film institute, ICAIC, which provided help with locations, period costumes and local actors. There was a cap on how much producers could spend in Cuba, connected to the US licence, but expenses were limited by the ready availability of period vehicles and other props in a country that has in many ways changed little since the 1950s. On the other hand, the country's limited internet meant old-fashioned call sheets had to be slipped under hotel doors, rather than sent via email, and film-makers faced difficulties with a boat scene in a country where defection by water is a regular occurrence.
The experience seems to have been worth it for Yari and his crew. "To be playing a section of the film where [Hemingway's] struggling with writer's block, I'm standing on exactly the square foot of ground that he stood on, with his typewriter in front of me, playing the scene. It wasn't acting, it was channeling," Sparks, who has played Hemingway regularly on stage, told the Hollywood Reporter. "It was just allowing him to come through."