Armie Hammer, the star of the upcoming film Call Me by Your Name, is the cover star of the Hollywood Reporter’s latest issue, and the interview is truly something.
Normally, celebrity profiles like this give us carefully constructed insights from the subject. But sometimes you get less of a delicate dance on the boundaries of privacy and more half-baked opinions from someone who has been played by Hollywood a few too many times and is also historically not great at interviews. And for good measure, Hammer’s THR interview also includes a passage in which he forthrightly touches interviewer Seth Abramovitch in a way that feels quite uncomfortable.
Call My by Your Name, a sensitive, romantic-coming-of-age gay drama from Luca Guadagnino could potentially be the success Hammer has been waiting for, but either way it’s clear that a succession of failures—from the infamous Lone Ranger to Birth of a Nation, which sank under the gravity of rape allegations against director Nate Parker—has left him rather jaded and a bit detached. That and perhaps the fact that his great-grandfather was an immensely successful oil magnate and Hammer grew up with an insane amount of privilege.
Let’s start with Hammer’s thoughts on the fall of Nate Parker and therefore Birth of a Nation:
The timing of the headlines “was orchestrated for sure,” says Hammer. “There was another person in the industry, who had a competing film for the Academy Awards, who decided to release all of the phone records and information. I’ve been told who did it — by several people.” (Hammer refuses to say who he believes it was.)
This seems like a weird takeaway from the Nate Parker scandal, but okay!
He thinks the incident reveals a double standard. “Nate had the stuff in his past, which is heinous and tough to get beyond. I get that,” he says. “But that was when he was 18, and now he’s in directors jail. At the same time, the guy who went and won an Academy Award has three cases of sexual assault against him.”
“And [Parker] had one incident — which was heinous and atrocious — but his entire life is affected in the worst possible way. And the other guy won the highest award you can get as an actor. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Hammer (who was also referring to Casey Affleck) isn’t wrong that it’s disappointing that Affleck was able to escape that controversy and be rewarded for his work. But of all the ways to compare what happened with Parker and what happened with Affleck, this is maybe not the best? Hammer also notes he was only accepted into the academy because of how Birth of a Nation was handled—but not after saying, “I always open my mouth too much, but fuck it.” Because there’s nothing like a renegade rich white actor speaking his mind.
That would be enough to make this a “hmmmm...” interview. But there’s more. Here’s what happens when Hammer tries to demonstrate the seemingly irresistible charms of Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino on the interviewer (emphasis mine):
“Luca is a sensualist,” Hammer tells me as we make our way back to the city. “He floats through the ether like he wants to make love to everything. He’ll literally be like, ‘Ooohh — I love your jeans.’ “He leans over and places a hand on my thigh, then slowly slides it toward my knee. “At first you’re kind of like, ‘Whoa.’ “ (I too was like, “Whoa.”) “But then you’re like, ‘Yeah! They are really nice! Feel this part over here!’”
It’s probably not the best look to suddenly touch your interviewer like that!
This queasiness continues when Hammer defends Call Me by Your Name, which has been the subject of some criticism because it revolves around the attraction between a 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old man, exploring that grey area. It’s a pretty nuanced film, but Hammer’s breakdown of it is anything but.
“We weren’t trying to make some salacious, predatory movie,” Hammer continues. “The age of consent in Italy is 14. So, to get technical, it’s not illegal there. Whether I agree with that or not, that’s a whole ‘nother Oprah, you know? Would it make me uncomfortable if I had a 17-year-old child dating someone in their mid-20s? Probably. But this isn’t a normal situation: The younger guy goes after the older guy. The dynamic is not older predator versus younger boy.”
Hammer has come some way since he talked about how he used to enjoy being a dominant lover in a Playboy interview. And by “some way,” I mean, new movie, new branding, same old Armie.