Ernest Hemingway — The George Plimpton Interview

Steve Newman Writer
7 min readJun 2, 2021

“ After the interview George Plimpton would often visit Ernest in Cuba, and was witness to the lunch meeting between Hemingway and Tennessee Williams in 1959…”

George Plimpton. Image: kickstarter

In his day George Plimpton was very much the journalist who got the interviews with movie stars, not least John Wayne who, being interviewed by Plimpton during a filming break, was suddenly called back on set. He told George to follow him, and before the journalist knew what was happening he was in the film — a 1970 western called Rio Lobo — the victim of a shoot-out. It made great copy and gave him an unwritten letter of introduction to many more movie stars and studios, and the world of the celebrity.

Earlier in his career, in 1954, he had interviewed Ernest Hemingway in Cuba which, like his encounter with John Wayne sixteen years later, opened the door to many more famous writers.

Plimpton with John Wayne. Image: Rotten Tomatoes

A year before the interview with Hemingway, Plimpton had, with Harold L. Hume and Peter Matthiessen, co-founded the then Paris based quarterly magazine, The Paris Review which, after the prestige of the Hemingway interview, managed to attract many well known writers and poets, including William Faulkner, Robert Frost, and playwright Thornton Wilder, plus many new voices, such as Jack Kerouac, all eager to do interviews. The magazine was also able to commission contributions from such high profile authors as Samuel Beckett, the aforementioned Robert Frost, and a host of others, not least Ralph Ellison and Philip Roth. It was, and still is, a widely read, and hugely respected publication, now based in New York.

The edition of The Paris Review in which the interview appeared

The last big interview with Hemingway, before Plimpton’s, was Lillian Ross’s massive piece of work for the New Yorker, published in 1950, which had been written over the best part of a year or more, with Ross meeting up with Hemingway frequently, dining and drinking with him, almost becoming part of his so called ‘Squadron’. Hemingway rated her highly, as he would Plimpton.

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