Hemingway biopic 'Papa' brings Hollywood back to Cuba

'Papa' is reportedly the first full-length feature Hollywood movie to film in Cuba since 1959.

Ramon Espinosa/AP
Actor Giovanni Ribisi films a scene for the movie 'Papa' in Cuba.

The movie based on the life of Ernest Hemingway, titled “Papa,” recently filmed scenes in Cuba, reportedly the first Hollywood feature movie to do so since the revolution in that country in 1959.

Hemingway famously lived in the country from 1939 to 1960, so director Bob Yari said it was essential to actually shoot the movie in the area.

“It was an absolute passion to actually make it in Cuba where everything that is in the script happened, where the finca [farm] is where [Hemingway] lived, where his boat was, all the spots from the Morro Castle to Cojimar where he fished," Yari told the Associated Press." "It's all here, so trying to duplicate it somewhere else was not very appealing.”

“Papa” stars actor Adrian Sparks as the author and “Dads” actor Giovanni Ribisi as reporter Denne Bart Petitclerc, who became acquainted with Hemingway while the author was living in Cuba during the 1950s.

According to the AP, the “Papa” production crew was able to film in the country because of a license from the U.S. Treasury Department that exempted the film from most restrictions from the American embargo. The producers told the AP that there was a limit on how much they could spend on the film. The movie also technically qualified as a documentary because it was filming actual events from a firsthand point of view (Petitclerc penned the script, which is of course based on events from his life), so it may still be difficult for other movies to qualify to film in Cuba.

Sparks, who portrayed Hemingway in the play also titled “Papa” by journalist John DeGroot, said traveling to Cuba changed his perception of the country.

“I grew up with this image of this evil, dark country somewhere in the mist,” he said. “To be here is to realize what an exquisitely beautiful country this is.”

He also considered the experience of playing Hemingway while being in the same location where the author actually was to be invaluable.

“To be playing a section of the film where he's struggling with writer's block, I'm standing on exactly the square foot of ground that he stood on, with his typewriter in front of me, playing the scene,” he said. “It wasn't acting, it was channeling. It was just allowing him to come through.”

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