After his breakthrough role as the Winklevoss twins in 2010’s The Social Network, Armie Hammer was destined for great things. Standing at 6’ 5” with blonde hair and blue eyes, how could he fail? After all, his co-star Andrew Garfield went on to become a bona fide movie star.
The great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer, not only did he inherit the family name and privilege, but grace and poise too. Yet he struggled to emerge as a bankable leading man, with a string of movies that probably seemed like a good idea in the script stage – co-starring with Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger, and in Guy Ritchie’s disappointing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Moreover, his award-worthy performance in The Birth of the Nation was swiftly overshadowed by a scandal involving its director, Nate Parker.
Luca Guadagnino’s luscious coming-of-age story Call Me by Your Name proved to be a game changer, creating a buzz at Sundance and Toronto even if, in a post-Weinstein world, there were whispers that the film’s story – a twenty-something American academic engaged in a sexually charged affair with the 17-year-old son of a professor – might be too taboo for a Hollywood in freefall.
Thankfully not, and Call Me By Your Name has gone on to receive numerous awards, as well as Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Actor and Supporting Actor.
Hammer and his co-star Timothée Chalamet are riding the buzz like rock stars when STACK sits down with them in Toronto.
If most hetero couples are asked to chemistry test before being cast, remarkably Guadagnino hired both actors before they’d even met each other.
“The first time we met each other was in Italy,” explains Hammer, 31. “He flew from New York, I came from Los Angeles. I remember walking into Luca’s beautiful palazzo through an open courtyard filled with flowers and I heard this gorgeous piano music, and it was Timothée.”
“It doesn’t get better than shooting the film for three months in Italy,” agrees Chalamet, 21, who is having a crash course in celebrity this awards season with roles in other hot favourites like Lady Bird and Hostiles.
“This is a movie about two human beings organically and naturally falling in love with each other in a very sweet, tender and beautiful way”
“Clearly some of these scenes are emotionally and physically intimate,” he continues, “but just through age and experience, Armie knew what to do way better than I did. For actors of my age, The Social Network was a really formative movie. I haven’t been able to strike up such a strong relationship with anyone I’ve worked with since. I felt so welcomed by Armie and his wife Elisabeth.”
The friendship continues. “It really is a beautiful thing, and now we’re getting to spend more time together as we promote the movie and it’s like I’m hanging out with family members. It feels surreal,” he says.
Based on Andre Aciman’s novel and from a screenplay adapted by veteran filmmaker James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name is set in 1983 to a rapturous soundtrack featuring classical music alongside Psychedelic Furs giddy first-kiss beats.
“Although this story takes place in 1983, it could easily also take place in 1883 or even 83 AD. This is a movie about two human beings organically and naturally falling in love with each other in a very sweet, tender and beautiful way,” says Hammer.
“It was still a time of discretion is the better part of oppression,” adds Chalamet, describing this particular era where the gay community still teetered on the edge of coming out.
(L-R) Timothée Chalamet, Luca Guadagnino and Armie Hammer on the set
“For an actor who has only worked in American films, working with Luca was a tremendous opportunity to be in a lineage of great European filmmaking, whether it’s Bernardo Bertolucci or Pedro Almodovar – making films that are as beautiful to look at as they are moving emotionally,” says Chalamet who, despite his French name, was born and raised in New York, to a French father and American mother.
Together, the two men perfectly capture the awkwardness of an alfresco teenage dance. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable than I was filming those dance scenes,” laughs Hammer. “I was so miserable. But that was also what we were there to do – to be challenged. I don’t particularly care for dancing and, even more so, I definitely do not care for dancing to no music because you can’t have the music going if you’re recording sound with 200 people all just watching you.”
Luckily for Chalamet and Hammer, they are silent dancing all the away through awards season to a deafening applause.
Call Me by Your Name is in cinemas on Boxing Day.