Dree Hemingway on 'Starlet,' Porn and Her Famous Great-Grandfather, Ernest

Dree Hemingway on 'Starlet,' Porn and Her Famous Great-Grandfather, Ernest

As much as she'd probably like to avoid it, the first line in Dree Hemingway's biography probably would note that she is the great-granddaughter of famed writer Ernest Hemingway and the daughter of actress Mariel Hemingway. But with a few more movies like Starlet, her first leading feature role, that just might change.

Hemingway, 25, plays Jane, a flighty, listless woman in her early 20s living in Los Angeles with her friend and the friend's boyfriend. She flits about through her days, smoking weed and shopping and taking her Chihuahua wherever she goes. She might seem like a low-rent Paris Hilton, but she has more depth than it appears at first glance.

Film Review: Starlet

When she buys a thermos for a dollar at a yard sale from an old woman, she finds $10,000 rolled up inside. After trying to return the thermos to the cantankerous octogenarian, who refuses, she decides to at least befriend the lonely widow, Sadie. This is easier said than done, though the two eventually form an odd relationship. It is one built partially on lies; Jane doesn't tell Sadie about the money, or the fact that she works as a porn actress -- something kept from the audience through much of the movie, as well.

THR recently spoke to Hemingway about the film and her famous bloodlines.

The Hollywood Reporter: What happened in your interview with director Sean Baker?

Dree Hemingway: I’m so passionate about this character, but a lot of it was how I perceived her and who I thought she was and to clarify if I’d do the porn scene. And really wanting to assure me that they’d use a body double and just wanting to make sure I’d be comfortable with the whole situation. And everything he was saying about the character was something I had thought of, and there were things that I wanted to bring, and it was really nice. And what really hooked it was the communication between us.

THR: So you weren’t uncomfortable with the porn thing?

Hemingway: I mean, it freaked me out, I’m not going to lie. I think I was so passionate about the whole story that it’s kind of something that it needed. It freaked me out, but also knowing that it wasn’t me was kind of OK for me -- although I’m not in denial that people are going to think it’s me because a lot of people don’t watch the end credits, and it’s really well cut. But as much as it scares me, and is such a scary thing to do, it’s such a neat film that I think that one ending scene is kind of the most perfect ending for any movie, and I just love it. … I’m not a huge fan of porn, but I really wanted to embrace the world from a different perspective, where it’s not a tragedy, it’s not coming from a tragic place.

VIDEO: Starlet Trailer

THR: How much of the film was improv?

Hemingway: Most of it was improvisational, to be honest. It was like, we were given some lines, and you always had to know where you were going to end up in the scene, but a lot of it was improvisational. A lot of it was scary in a way that you can’t really craft. But it’s actually one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. You really have to be present in the situation that you’re in because a lot of time you were working with real people, who didn’t know until they were done working with us that they were on film and working with actors.

THR: Which points were that?

Hemingway: The whole entire porn convention. We had a hidden camera. I had a hidden mic. People thought I was a real porn star at a real booth. All those people talking to me.

THR: So they were just big porn enthusiasts.

Hemingway: They all kept coming up to me and saying: “I really love your movies. I want to work with you.” And I was like, 'Let’s go!' It’s so weird and crazy. And all those people playing bingo, we just stood in the bingo hall.

THR: Was anyone upset about being caught on camera?

Hemingway: A lot of people at the porn convention were really upset that they were on camera. Some of them were like parents, and some of these guys were like, “I’m a schoolteacher.” And you’re like, OK. … But the thing is, there is no judgment on them because they are just the ones that have the balls to get their asses off the computer and go to an actual porn convention. Which I have to say is kind of hilarious and really fun.

THR: Really?

Hemingway: Yeah. It’s an adult amusement park.

THR: It’s like a Comic-Con but for porn.

Hemingway: Exactly! It’s just like Comic-Con. You get some whacked, crazy people, but it’s so much fun. I think if you come to it from a point of not taking it seriously -- a lot of these people go, and they’re there to see one porn star whom they’re obsessed with -- but if that’s not your basis, it is a fun time. It’s hilarious.

THR: What would you do if you found that money, in that situation?

Hemingway: Oh, I’m such a guilty person, I’d totally give it back.

THR: No hesitation?

Hemingway: I mean obviously, I think that part of me would want to keep it in a way because it’d be like, oh I found it, and it’s -- what is that saying? Finder's keepers? But no, even if I’d try to do that, I’m too guilty. I remember when I was 14, I stole a little bracelet from a vendor, like an outside cart vendor, it was me being rebellious, and I had a lot of friends who loved to steal ChapSticks and little things, and so it was me trying to include myself in the situation. So I stole this bracelet. And I had it for a full day, but I couldn’t wear it because I felt so guilty. So when I wasn’t with my friends, I went and brought it back.

THR: So you are Ernest Hemingway’s great-granddaughter? Did you ever feel pressure to be a writer?

Hemingway: I would never write, ever. I might as well exile myself.

THR: Why?

Hemingway: Because it’s like, if I were related to Monet, I don’t know if I would be comfortable becoming an artist because it’s too much, the comparison. If I wrote a book and put it out, the comparison to my great-grandfather, the comparison would be hilarious. Every critic, it would be their dream, they’d tear me apart. I’m just not a confident writer, either. I feel like I can’t make sense of things in a way. I’m so scatterbrained when I write.

THR: Do people ask you to?

Hemingway: People ask me all the time. And my mother is an actress, and my aunt Margaux was a model. And it’s funny, as much as I’m all about I’m my own person, and I’m making my own name for myself, I have grown up in a world where most of these people who are like me are children of famous parents. So it’s easy to become the socialite and be famous for that. But my whole thing was, as much as I was inspired by what my parents do, and growing up on film sets, watching that made me really want to do that. I am my own person, and I think that the only thing with the Hemingway name is that it has gotten me in the door. But once you’re in there, I know I’m under a huge microscope, and everything you do, people are going through it with a fine-toothed comb and picking at you.

So it’s great, it gets you in there, but once you do, you’ve got to f---ing prove yourself. The modeling, I think it’s different because they don’t give a f---, it’s harder to get in there with a name already, and I think I had to prove myself, and it didn’t matter who I was. But I don’t feel like I’m competing against anything in my family; I’m so honored to be a part of it, but I also know I am my own self, and I’m not riding anyone’s coattails because I know I really worked for something.

Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin