As the actor unravels the tragic love story between his film character and the legendary FBI director, we speak to him about firing machine guns and chilling with Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio
As the 6ft 5” blond haired, blue-eyed scion of an oil dynasty, Armie Hammer has excelled at playing a certain type of American male; none so apparent as his unnervingly convincing combination of entitlement and arrogance in his breakout role as the Winklevoss twins in David Fincher’s ‘The Social Network’. And while his upcoming role as Prince Charming (alongside Julia Roberts’ Wicked Witch) in Tarsem Singh’s surrealist take on Snow White and taking the lead role in Johnny Depp’s long awaited Lone Ranger project keep him firmly in the heroic mode, Clint Eastwood’s sombre biopic, ‘J. Edgar’ should let audiences see a different side of Hammer.
With Clint, you learn you don’t have to freak out or stress. He makes it look effortless. He’s been doing it for so long he can make it look so easy. With Leo, his sense of dedication to what he does is what is so inspiring
As Clyde Tolson, J. Edgar’s (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) loyal right-hand man and longtime companion, Hammer subtly brings to life the unspoken love that existed between these two men at a time when it was forbidden and in turn humanizes a legendary character that’s been simultaneously revered and demonized throughout history. Dazed spoke to Hammer the day after he garnered a SAG Award nomination for the film.
Dazed Digital: You moved from a life in the Cayman Islands to LA when you were 13 – how did you find that transition?
Armie Hammer: Jarring initially. It felt like prison a little bit. Like I was stripped of all my freedoms and my rights. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t catch my own food. All that stuff I had grown accustomed to, I couldn’t do it anymore. It was a big change culturally for me. But like anything you acclimate and I got with the LA way of doing things and now this feels like home.
DD: Did you draw from any of your own personal or observed experience of privilege to play the Winklevoss twins?
Armie Hammer: Most of it came from Aaron Sorkin and was refined by David Fincher and brought to life by me. When I was young, I would intentionally not hang out with guys like the Winklevoss twins! They weren’t people I would have like to associate myself with. So I didn’t have too much personal experience to draw on. But I’ve definitely been around these people, maybe more so than other people who didn’t grow up like I did.
DD: Clint Eastwood and Dustin Lance Black each have their own take on the relationship between Clyde Tolson and J. Edgar – what conclusions did you come to in making and researching the film?
Armie Hammer: I certainly came to my own conclusions. I had to for the sake of my acting – I had to take a stance and have something to adhere to. I have my own idea of what happened but I can’t conclusively prove them. Nor can anybody disprove them. I definitely have my own personal views but I wouldn’t espouse them as true.
DD: What resonated with you about the relationship between Clyde and Edgar that made you want to take on the role?
Armie Hammer: That was the hardest part for me to find. Eventually I started to understand the complexities of their relationship. I started to understand that you truly cannot choose who you fall in love with. I have the fortune of falling in love with a beautiful woman who was available but these guys, especially Clyde Tolson had the misfortune to fall in love with a guy at a time when you couldn’t be in love with a guy. And especially with this guy.
All Clyde wanted in the course of their entire relationship was for J. Edgar Hoover to look at him and say, “I’m acknowledging what I feel inside because you feel it inside too. And we share this reciprocal amazing spark of love” And if they chose to, it could culminate in something so beautiful but they never got a chance to because of where they were. It really was a tragic, unfulfilled love story. I loved the love that was shared between these two guys.
DD: Are you sick of people asking you what it was like to kiss Leonardo DiCaprio?
Armie Hammer: I knew when I got into this, that would be one of the questions that got asked the most. But for me, it was one of the least important things about it. I had to do a bunch of things in this movie that I don’t do in my personal life including shooting a machine gun. But nobody asks me about that. So it’s always funny and surprising that people pick that one.
DD: What’s instructive about working with Leonardo and Clint Eastwood?
Armie Hammer: With Clint, you learn you don’t have to freak out or stress. He makes it look effortless. He’s been doing it for so long he can make it look so easy. With Leo, his sense of dedication to what he does is what is so inspiring.
DD: The New York Times said, “Armie Hammer has the kind of good looks that can get in the way of a career” – has that ever been true? Have you found yourself typecast in certain roles and not considered for roles you were drawn to?
Armie Hammer: Oh yeah I feel like I’m currently stuck in that mode right now! I agree and concur and I appreciate because I feel the exact same way. I love the stuff I’ve got to do but I would love to do something where I don’t play the good looking guy or the wealthy guy or the entitled guy. Someone diametrically opposed to who I am. I guess it’s a testament to what I’ve done, I don’t know.
DD: ‘Mirror, Mirror’ looks like a twisted comedic take on Snow White –what can you tell us about it and inhabiting Tarsem Singh’s fantasy world?
Armie Hammer: That was the highlight of the whole experience for me – visiting Tarsem’s fantasy world. Watching how he creates the look and tone of what he does was amazing. Working with him and Julia was really the draw for me. I didn’t necessarily grow up watching or appreciating fairy tales but I definitely appreciate the talent involved. It was like moving surrealist art.
DD: Is Prince Charming the role you’re born to play?
Armie Hammer: God I hope not! I definitely enjoyed it but Prince Charming for me doesn’t sound like a huge struggle or a stretch. But fortunately Tarsem gave me a lot of creative leeway and control and he and I worked from the beginning to create an interesting, dynamic character so it’s not just Prince Charming.
J Edgar is out now