HOLLYWOOD actress Mariel Hemingway has been speaking exclusively to the Stockport Mail about a documentary which traces her family’s history of depression, mental illness and suicide.
Peter Devine conducted the interview at the Key West Film Festival, where Mariel was launching a new documentary called Running from Crazy at the home of her late grandfather Ernest, who shot himself just weeks before she was born. She has lost seven of her family to suicide
PD: Could you give me a brief synopsis of the new film you are launching here in Key West?
Mariel Hemingway: “It’s called Running From Crazy, which I jokingly said a while ago to a friend of mine(laughs), and it is literally what I have been doing all of my life. At one point in my life, I thought I was going to wake up and maybe not be sane because so many of my family struggled with schizophrenia, manic depression, bi-polar and as a result there have been seven suicides in my family.
“So it’s about the journey of why my family are the way that they are and it’s truly a story of three sisters, my sister Margaux committed suicide in 1996. What was strange is that before she took her own life she had, unbeknown to the family, made a film about that nobody had seen until Barbara Kopple, the wonderful director, found it and it definitely brings a visual to what I am talking about in our family.
“When I was doing the interviews with Barbara, she would be running back to the editing room to see if there was footage to follow it up.”
PD: Why did you make this documentary now?
MH: “We did this so that people who might see it would then have the courage to talk about their story. And everybody, I don’t care what family you come from, either knows somebody who suffers from depression or someone who has committed suicide, and that periodically, includes ourselves.
“Sometimes it a matter of being way too stressed that causes us anxiety but giving people permission to tell their stories is what this film is all about. It’s also about starting the conversation about mental illness, depression and suicide.”
PD: Where for you did the depression start?
MH: “I was depressed every single day of my life. The solution for me was about my lifestyle and that is why I have written the book called Running with Major. It details everything from the food you eat, the water you drink, mindfulness practices, adventure, exercise, all the different things that sound like they are separate from the mind, but they are not. And also I did something which is called brain state technology which is about balancing the hemispheres of the brain through sound.
“I have been on the search for throughout my life because I was running from that (depression) and towards running with nature. I do believe that nature is one of our greatest teachers and finding that stillness within each of us. And as a result I am no longer depressed and to be honest, it’s a miracle I never believed was a possibility.”
PD: Returning to the town where your grandfather is revered must have some special thoughts for you?
MH: Well it was never a personal town for me, I mean my grandfather grew up here, he loved it but he didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time here. He spent a lot more time in Havana and Cuba. I have spent a lot of time there and that’s an unbelievable place which is extraordinary.
“But Key West holds this wonderful mystique of my grandfather and who he was. I find it ironic he was here long before he was this grizzled old white haired, bearded man. And when he lived here he was much younger.
” This young man in the 1920s and I think there is this misinterpretation of who he was. Yes, I think he lived a hard life, but he lived a hard life to have an understanding of humanity. He was a deep thinker and he was not just a man on an island that partied(laughs).”
PD: So when you went to Havana was it to try to understand his own depression?
MH: Oh God no, his depression was attached to addiction, he was an addict he was a heavy drinker and at that time when people didn’t know it was detrimental to your health and your brain. He probably had the same gene as I probably do and his lifestyle triggered a pre-disposition to manic depression and suicide. But being addicted to alcohol doesn’t help somebody who is like that.
PD: What stories did your grandmother tell you about him?
MH: I was really young at the time so didn’t see her very much but she said she loved him, but she said that that from very early on he was very difficult and he was self obsessed, he was a creator and he was like he wanted and the world was all about him. Even before he was anybody he was somebody!
PD: Is there a small part of you that would have loved to have lived in his time?
MH: Yes, a little bit of me because it would have been fascinating but I would have lived it differently
You can view the official ‘Running From Crazy’ trailer below: