Everything Is Peachy For Armie Hammer
The Oscar-tipped actor on his best film yet.
Everything Is Peachy For Armie Hammer
Adapted from The Journal on Mr Porter
By Lotte Jeffs
Photography Beau Grealy
Styling Nicolas Klam
This, as everyone keeps telling him, is Armie Hammer’s moment, and the 31-year-old actor is carpe diem-ing the heck out of life right now. As awards season kicks off, he finds himself the star of 2017’s most universally acclaimed film, in a career-defining role that is sure to propel him from generic leading man to Hollywood’s hottest property. After a 10-year career of notable supporting roles in some very good films (The Social Network, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, J Edgar) and starring roles in some downright turkeys (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Lone Ranger), his performance in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is the one that has catapulted him into the big league.
Hammer plays Oliver, a young American academic who joins a classics professor and his bohemian family in their Italian summer house in 1983, to assist the professor with his research. The professor’s teenage son, Elio, played by the prodigiously talented Timothée Chalamet, becomes infatuated with Oliver and, as it turns out, the feeling is mutual. What transpires is a beautiful story of fleeting summer love, played out against a backdrop of intoxicating landscapes, lavish breakfasts, bike rides, lake swims and stolen kisses.
Hammer and Chalamet spent the month before filming acclimatising to the culture of rural Italy, living in the location and building up the kind of natural intimacy that makes Call Me By Your Name so compelling. “Some of those Italian countryside towns are lost in time,” says Hammer. “It’s like La Dolce Vita. When you want peach juice, you just go out and make it. You take your pitcher, you go and sit somewhere beautiful and you just enjoy your juice.”
“There is something really beautiful about a life that is stripped down, simply having the bare necessities, [such as] time,” says Hammer. “Nobody is rushing anything. You are just free to enjoy everything in the moment. I came back to the States thinking that is exactly how I wanted to live my life, but then the rat race starts all over again. The world now is so quick paced. Someone sends you an email and expects you to get back right away. There is a lot of pressure. Back then, you could call someone’s house phone, and if they didn’t pick up, you’d be like, right, well, I’ll call them in a couple of hours.”
“These characters in the movie, I don’t think, would ever have really fallen in love with each other if they had cell phones. They would have been on Grindr, talking to their friends on WhatsApp, and they would have never really connected because they never would have needed to.”
Hammer himself is an avid tweeter (or at least he was until he recently deleted his Twitter account), and brilliantly shut down septuagenarian actor James Woods, who said of the age difference between the two characters in the film, “they chip away at the last barriers of decency”.
“Didn’t you date a 19 year old when you were 60…?” retorted Hammer in a tweet that subsequently went viral.
In the film, there is nothing seedy about the love affair between Oliver and Elio. We see them kissing in doorways, staring longingly, play fighting, running through the rain. The sex is tender, and many of the advances are made by the younger man. Hammer acknowledges how rare it is to find a story about a gay male relationship set in the 1980s in which no one dies or is crippled with shame and self-loathing. Perhaps most surprising of all is that Elio’s parents embrace the affair and even encourage it.
Hammer says the effortless dynamic he and Chalamet share on screen “really developed naturally over time. We had the luxury of spending all day, every day together before filming started, as we were basically the only native English speakers there. We weren’t doing a lot of rehearsals before the movie started, so we would meet up at night at my place, and we’d go over scenes.”
Guadagnino is known for his immersive, unconventional approach to filmmaking. Hammer has spoken in the past of feeling like he was falling in love with the director, because the experience of working with him involved a level of trust and commitment beyond anything he’d experienced previously. “I have never been pushed like that before,” he has said. “So much of what that movie was about was accessing a certain emotional vulnerability, and sharing that with somebody. I think everyone’s life changed because of it.”
Creating a safe, happy space for his actors has resulted in a flawless track record of stylish works such as I Am Love and A Bigger Splash and visceral performances from stars willing to do anything for the Italian auteur, who is likely to win his first Oscar in February.
Hammer and Chamelet were cast separately, though. What would have happened if there hadn’t been a spark between them? (For the record, both are straight.) “It would have been a totally different movie,” says Hammer. “I think that we all just had so much blind faith in Luca, that if he didn’t feel that we needed to meet beforehand, then that was OK.” Hammer approached playing a gay man as he would any other role. And it’s not his first time. He shared a kiss with Leonardo Di Caprio in 2011’s J Edgar, when he played the protagonist’s secret lover. He was entirely unfazed by the prospect of playing a gay character again, this time in a love story, and says there was no difference in terms of conveying desire between two men than between a man and a woman.
“Love is love,” he says. “I feel like making this movie has freed me up in so many ways. I no longer have to subscribe to the societal expectations of being a straight white male. The more a child travels, the less they are likely to be racist or xenophobic. This was like travelling, but just in an emotional capacity.”
Original story from The Journal on Mr Porter