Everyone knows about actress Mariel Hemingway of course and her sister Margaux, the model. Now here is cousin Hilary, a fledgling writer and the family’s best hope to carry on the literary line. “I was born with the luck of the name,” Hilary Hemingway says, “and, be it inherited or whatever, the ability to tell a story.”
Hilary, 24, is a daughter of Leicester Hemingway, Ernest’s younger (by 16 years) and only brother. Leicester’s best-known work was a 1962 biography of his author brother. Both suffered from failing health, each took his own life (Ernest in 1961, Leicester in 1982) as had their father before them. “I think they did it because their bodies were dying,” she says. “They preferred to be in control of the situation.”
The Florida-born Hilary knows most of Ernest’s 11 grandchildren. But she has never met Margaux, and she came face-to-face with Mariel only last summer. Before that, Hilary recalls, “I saw Mariel in a TV movie, and my mom said the weirdest expression came over my face. I was looking at someone who looked just like me. It was spooky.”
Hilary became serious about writing at the University of Miami, from which she graduated with honors last year. She has since directed a four-minute music video for cable TV and finished the manuscript of the Hemingway Florida Guidebook. While pursuing her ambition to become a screenwriter, she lives with her mother, Doris, in Miami Beach.
Hilary doesn’t imitate the writing styles of her father or Uncle Ernest. Yet the work she’s proudest of so far is a screenplay titled A Light Within the Shadow, a tersely told tale of Leicester’s struggle to establish an independent reputation as a writer. Entered anonymously in a statewide writing contest last January, it won her a $500 prize and a trip to Hollywood. Hilary, however, hasn’t let that turn her head, remembering her father’s advice: “The Hemingway name may open doors, but it won’t keep them from slamming shut.” First and always, he said, “Write for yourself.”