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Personal Best February 1982: Mariel Hemingway looks back on her iconic role as a young track star in love with a female teammate in this athletic coming-of-age tale. (Justifying our love).

Lesbian movie fans still talk about Personal Best for its gloriously frank sex scene between Hemingway and real-life Olympic hurdler Patrice Donnelly. "It was a powerful movie on many levels," says Hemingway. "I mean, I grew up on that film. I started it when I was 17; I was 21 by the time it came out. Not only did I have to train physically for that amount of time, this character I was playing--this Chris Cahill--was confused and growing up in the world. She just didn't know who she was. By the same token, I think I was a little bit like that myself. I had never had a boyfriend, I was still really a naive girl. So for me, it was a discovery of who I was. And I think it's why I wasn't uncomfortable with anything. I was in a period of my life where I was unsure anyway. There is the time where you wonder, Well, who knows what I am? I think I went through that a bit with that character," says the actress.

Hemingway's journey clearly brought her to a very hip place: She has since played gay several times, famously planting a lesbian smooch on Roseanne in prime time. And she was hilarious as a married woman who goes gaga for lesbian sex in the indie film The Sex Monster. But for Hemingway, Personal Best remains a personal landmark.

"The beautiful part of the film is that it really strikes a chord with so many," she says. "I can't really say that there's anything specific; there was so much about the movie that colored my life. But what I've loved about it is that over the many years that have gone by since then, there's not a few months that go by that someone doesn't say to me, `I just have to tell you that that movie helped me. It made me feel OK that I was a girl and that I was gay.' So that's nice. It's like [having been on] the cutting edge of something. I mean, now you could make that movie and it wouldn't mean so much. But it meant a lot then, and I think that's cool."
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Article Details
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Author:Vaillancourt, Daniel
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 12, 2002
Previous Article:Making Love February 1982: writer Barry Sandler recounts the crafting of a gay love story that somehow got made by a Hollywood studio. (Justifying...
Next Article:Maurice October 1971: David Leavitt measures the impact of E.M. Forster's passionate novel of gay love, published after his death. (Justifying our...

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