The first Hollywood film to shoot on location in Cuba since the 1959 revolution, PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba is the true-life story of a young journalist who finds a father figure in legendary author Ernest Hemingway. Their relationship began in the late 1950’s when Ed Myers, then a junior reporter at The Miami Herald, wrote a fan letter to his idol. Myers thought he was being pranked when the larger than life Hemingway phoned the newsroom a week later, inviting him to Havana.
”Good letter, kid,” the famous voice growled. ”You like to fish?“
Hidden away at his private estate with his wife Mary, the elusive author mentors Myers in fishing, drinking, and finding his voice while the Cuban Revolution boils up around them. In this turbulent landscape, observing an icon in his twilight years, Myers discovers his strength while recognizing that all of our heroes are human.
PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba is directed by Bob Yari, whose credits as a producer include the Oscar® winning Best Picture Crash and The Illusionist. With its title derived from the Nobel Prize-winning novelist’s nickname, PAPA, is based on an autobiographical script by Denne Bart Petitclerc. Played by Giovanni Ribisi, the character is named Ed Myers in the film. Theater and screen veteran Adrian Sparks portrays Hemingway; Joely Richardson is his wife, Mary Hemingway. Minka Kelly is Debbie Hunt. James Remar portrays Santo Trafficante, Jr., reputedly the most powerful Mafioso in Batista-era Cuba. Hemingway’s legendary first-mate of the Pilar, Gregorio Fuentes, is played by local Cuban actor, Eduardo Almirante.
The producers are Amanda Harvey, Michael Pacino, Weezie Melancon and Bob Yari. PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba was filmed with the assistance and cooperation of The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). Santaigo Llapur from ICAIC is PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba’s Production Director. William Immerman and Kirk Shaw are the executive producers. Wanda Petitclerc is co-producer. The line producer is Fernando Uriegas.
The team that brought PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba’s Old Havana to life includes Los Angeles-based Salvadorian-American director of photography Ernesto Melara, Cuban production designer Aremis Balebona Recio, American costume designer Jane Anderson, and Cuban casting directors Libia Batista and Odalys Garcia, among others.
As relations between the United States and Cuba slowly thaw, PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba marks a watershed moment in that Yari and his multinational crew filmed almost entirely in and around Havana. A cultural milestone, helmed by an American director with Hollywood actors, a film of this significance has not been produced in Cuba in over 50-years since Castro’s revolution signaled the beginning of the U.S. embargo.
“Cuba was the ideal and only location to make this film. After all, there is no better place to shoot a story of Hemingway’s life than in his home. We shot entirely at the actual locations, both exterior and interior,” Yari says.
As an inadvertent result of the U.S. blockade, Havana is a city uniquely locked in time. Every other car that rolls down the street is from the 1950’s. “Cuba is perhaps the only place remaining in the world that you can get authentic production value for a late 1950’s period film without building massive sets or using CGI,” explains producer Amanda Harvey. “The locations we used in Havana are not much different than they were back in the 50’s and early 60’s.” Locations included; The Ambos Mundos hotel where Hemingway had taken up temporary residency; the Floridita, which he enjoyed many a night; the exterior of the Presidential Palace. Perhaps most extraordinary of all the shooting locations was the interior of Hemingway’s historic home, ten miles east of Havana, Finca Vigia. Now a national treasure preserved by the Cuban government it is exactly as the legendary author left it when he departed the island for the last time in 1960.
Ernest Hemingway is long considered to be a cultural bridge between the American people and the Cuban people. The quintessential American writer loved Cuba and five decades later the Cuban people still adore him and honor his legacy. “Protecting Ernest Hemingway’s legacy has been one of the things that America and Cuba have worked closely on over the years. Hemingway was the most iconic American to make Cuba his home, and the people of Cuba to this day cherish him and love him. The mutual adoration of the legendary writer is what paved the way to allow us to shoot PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba on location.” Yari said of his passion project, “My hope is that film will become an addition to that component, of bridging this gap between two cultures and two peoples that have drifted apart.”