Hemingway: Object of affection

Richard Falkner and Scarlet Hemingway. Photo / Supplied
Richard Falkner and Scarlet Hemingway. Photo / Supplied

If you have a name like Scarlet Hemingway, you're pretty much obligated to become a movie star. The 23-year-old English-born-but-in-New Zealand-since-2000 actress plays the subject of a male admirer's extensive stalking in the new Kiwi comedy How To Meet Girls From a Distance. It's a light-hearted film accurately described in the press materials as a "peeping-tom-rom-com".

In a somewhat predictable but also genuinely ironic turn of events, preparing to interview Miss Hemingway rendered me a stalker in the terms laid out by the film. It's pretty standard to Google someone before interviewing them, but doing so in this case led me to Hemingway's actors agency profile and a bevvy of photographs. As this is pretty much what the main character in the film does, I felt a little dirty.

It also occurred to me that once the film is released into theates on November 1, plenty more people will be Googling the actress based on her luminescent presence in the movie. After confessing my own stalk to her, I ask her if she's worried about life replicating art once the movie comes out.

"The thing is, everybody does that kind of stalking these days," Hemingway reassures me. "The Facebook/Google stalk. You can find out so much information and it doesn't feel like stalking because it's so easy."

Ah that's good. I no longer feel dirty.

"I think I may need to take down some interesting photographs," she quickly adds.

It's been a quick, but intense journey to the big screen for Hemingway and How To Meet Girls From a Distance. The film is the result of the first ever Make My Movie competition, which late last year invited budding filmmakers to submit film ideas that could be shot relatively quickly and cheaply. The best entrants were whittled down, and the 'Traces of Nut' team - who cut their filmmaking teeth with the 48 Hour Film Competition - won with their pitch about a guy who finds out everything he can about a girl he likes before he dares approach her.

The film debuted to a rapturous response at this year's International Film Festival, and Hemingway is excited now that it's going out to a wide audience with a general release on November 1st.

"It's kind of just surreal. A year ago if someone had said: 'Imagine if all this stuff happened to you', I would've thought 'Wow, amazing!'. And now it's actually happening. Okay."

We don't have a magnificent track record of romantic comedies in this country (ahem, Love Birds), and the first remarkable thing about How To Meet Girls From a Distance is that it's actually pretty darn good. And legitimately funny. As an audience, we've had our expectations lowered to the point where enjoying a film like this comes as a genuine surprise.

"I had the same experience when I first read the script," says Hemingway. "Reading reading, laughing out loud, what?!"

It's even more surprising considering the tight parameters applied to the film. Did that aspect make Hemingway nervous, or create any stressful situations on set?

"No. But probably because it was my first feature film so I didn't really know any better and just took it as it came. The producers and the director took all of the pressure. That's not to say it wasn't hard - we were often rehearsing at night after filming because we knew the next day we'd have to get it in one take. But it was so much fun. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise - because I had to get it right on the first take, it was exciting."

Hemingway originally auditioned for a different, much smaller role in the film, but the filmmakers saw something in her they liked and asked her to read for the female lead.

"Apparently I was just wearing the right dress. It was quite floral."

While there's plenty of humour in the film, Hemingway admits to being disappointed that her character had to act as a sort of 'straight man' to all the zaniness around her. I attempt to reassure her that she has a few funny moments in the film and that she is clearly the possessor of some decent comedic timing.

"Next time!" she replies with hastily assembled conviction. "Next time, I'll be the stalker".

*How To Meet Girls From a Distance is in theatres November 1st.

- Herald on Sunday

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