Turns out, Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway were close to becoming the May-December couple they played on screen in Manhattan.
In her new memoir, Out Came the Sun, Hemingway recounts that Allen came into her life unexpectedly, when he called her, after she'd appeared in just two projects. He reached her at the home where the then-16-year-old lived with her parents in Idaho, and asked Mariel to meet with him to see if she would be a fit for his next movie. Allen was in his early 40s — long before his controversial relationship with another younger woman, Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Allen's ex-wife Mia Farrow, began in 1991.
Of course, Hemingway got the part and played Tracy, a love interest to Allen's neurotic New Yorker Isaac. The actress recounted how much she enjoyed making the film as a naive teenager, and how the cast and crew began to feel like the affectionate family she never had at home. (Mariel is the granddaughter of writer Ernest Hemingway and the daughter of his son, Jack Hemingway, also a writer, and his wife, Byra, who have all passed away.)
"The one thing that threw me was the sexual innuendos — and sometimes they weren't even innuendos but outright sex talk," Hemingway writes. "There's a moment in the movie when [Hemingway's character] Tracy and [Allen's character] Isaac are in bed, eating food. 'Let's do it some strange way you've always wanted to do but nobody would do with you,' Tracy says. Isaac is shocked by her forwardness, and then he says, 'I'll get my scuba-diving equipment and really show you.' When I ran across that line, I asked my mother what it meant, and she got a mortified look on her face. I asked again. Her expression darkened. 'Don't ask stupid questions,' she said."
Hemingway wondered if other parents would allow their daughters to act in the movie, but she wasn't all that surprised since she made her acting debut in a movie in which her character was raped. In that flick, the 1976 thriller Lipstick, Mariel played the younger sister of her real-life older sister, Margaux. Mariel recalls that she didn't comprehend her parents had allowed her be in a film where her character was raped until she saw the fully finished movie in the theater.
"I had a number of different emotions all at the same time: fear and surprise and a little uneasiness at the inappropriateness of it all and, deep down, in ways I couldn't even admit to myself, maybe even a little excitement," she writes, "not because of the sexual violence, but because I was being allowed into an adult world."
While on the set of Manhattan, Hemingway formed a close bond with her leading man and director. "At some point, I started to notice that he was listening to me," she shares. "If we had bad weather, he would take me to a museum or art gallery." He even began to joke that the two should go to Paris.
"He brought it up more and more often, to the point where I started to think that maybe he wasn't joking," she says. "Our relationship was platonic, but I started to see that he had a kind of crush on me, though I dismissed it as the kind of thing that seemed to happen any time middle-aged men got around young women. And I encouraged the conversations and the walks because they validated me."
Manhattan was released when Hemingway was just 17.
"Back in Ketchum," she continues, "I told my parents about the Paris offer, hoping they would squash it immediately. Instead, they were impressed and even a little enthusiastic," she notes. "I repeated myself, thinking that maybe they had misunderstood: he wants me to go to Paris with him. And they repeated themselves: Paris with Woody Allen, no problem, sounds interesting. I tried to raise the threat level further. I told them that that I didn't know what the arrangement was going to be, that I wasn't sure if I was even going to have my own room. Woody hadn't said that. He hadn't even hinted it. But I wanted them to put their foot down. They didn't. They kept lightly encouraging me."
And then, she writes, Allen called her and said he was coming for a visit to her parents' home. His trip started out fine, and Mariel was even excited to show Allen her hometown. But one night while he was there, she began to have second thoughts about what was happening.
"I was suddenly panicking about the whole Paris trip; I had somehow pushed the invitation out of my mind, but now it flooded back in, and I started thinking through all the angles, none of which worked to my advantage," she writes. "It was a great offer, and we were great friends, but were we really friends at all? Would we get our own rooms? We would, wouldn't we? I dozed off, flailing, and woke right back up with the certain knowledge that I was an idiot. No one was going to get their own room. His plan, such as it was, involved being with me. In the middle of the night, I went downstairs to the guest room and roused him from what was probably the deepest sleep of his life."
Mariel informed Allen that she wouldn't be accompanying him to Paris, and he left the next morning.
"Deep down, I was really sad," she explains. "I loved him as a friend. He had made me feel important in ways that I hadn't, up to that point, felt."
She writes that her friendship with Allen continued over the years. They spoke occasionally, and he even asked for her take on his next film.
Out Came the Sun arrives in bookstores April 5.