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Armie Hammer—The Social Network—9/20/10

/content/interviews/320/1.jpgArmie Hammer logged his first starring film role playing evangelist Billy Graham in Billy: The Early Years. He played recurring roles on the TV series Reaper and Gossip Girl, and appeared briefly in episodes of Arrested Development and Veronica Mars. Hammer is also known as the great-grandson of corporate tycoon Armand Hammer and as the man who would have been Batman in George Miller's abortive Justice League film. Now, through the power of digital manipulation, Hammer plays twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in David Fincher's The Social Network. Hammer met the press during a barnstorming college tour that saw him (along with Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin) visiting Stanford and U.C. Berkeley; I spoke to him at Berkeley's Claremont Hotel.

Groucho: So I thought I’d start by asking you about the unique challenge of playing these two characters in the film. I presume that you focused during most of production on being Cameron on set, and then only later kind of readjusted yourself to play Tyler. Am I right in that? How’d that go?

Armie Hammer: Partially, yes. That was definitely a part of it. When we would show up on set, I would start as Cameron. And that would always be the starting point. ‘Cause we figured it would be easier to know that this is where we’ll start, instead of having to worry about keeping track while jumping back and forth and all that. So we would start with Cameron and shoot the entire scene with the other actor—Josh Pence, who’s fantastic—him playing Tyler. So I’m here; he’d be here; we’d shoot the scene until Finch was happy, which could be a thousand times, you don’t know. And then he would say, “Okay, switch!” So then we’d go, I’d switch clothes, put on the Tyler clothes, sit in Josh’s seat, and look at Josh and go, “What did you do on that one thing there?” And he’s like “I cleared my throat.” “Ahhhhh! Good, good, okay, I’ll do that, I’ll do that.” So it was really like a joint effort between the two of us to create the twins. And what we couldn’t do like that, on set, we would then do, y’know, in post[-production]…We kept track of it—thankfully, Josh and I would keep each other on track. But then also we had one of the world’s greatest directors there with us the whole time, who would say, y’know, occasionally, “You’re starting to slip a little bit into Cameron, so just make sure that you think about this!” kind of thing. And so he was there the entire step of the way, which was so helpful and, I mean, such a learning opportunity to be under someone who’s that voraciously intelligent…With these twins, I mean, if you look at them on paper, they’re tall, athletic, y’know, good-looking guys who go to Harvard, and they have a lot of things going for them that would make a lot of people in the audience just go, “I don’t like these guys. They suck,” you know? I mean, it’s a real possibility, especially within this story. So we wanted to make sure that we didn’t fall into that stereotypical route of going, “Oh! Good twin, bad twin.” Because if we approached it like that, they would both end up looking like “bad twin, bad twin,” you know? These are real people, and who are living. And two who are bigger than me and can beat me up. So I wanted to make sure that we did a good job of bringing the human element of these guys to the story, instead of bringing a caricature of what the Winklevoss could represent…It’s funny because elements of both of their personalities, I think, are found a little bit in each of us. And it’s sort of the parts of us at war with ourselves, as it pertains to chivalry and manners and your word being your bond and the Old World sense of “you are a gentleman, and you should behave as such.” Which obviously Cameron has a little bit more of. Whereas Tyler is a little bit more acclimated to the modern world. He’s a little bit more litigious; he wants vengeance; if someone steals from someone, he wants to beat him up. I mean, they think differently, but at the same time, they both had to come from the same place. They both had to be born at the same time, almost. They both had to be afforded the same opportunities. They both had to be raised blue-blooded aristocrats. They both have a lot of similarities. But then they also had to be different. So I think that’s in a lot of us: do you operate by a sense of honor because you should, even though now in this modern world, you don’t necessarily have to. So I think that duality is a little bit in all of us.

Groucho: Were there any sort of physicalizations for one twin or the other, beyond the cosmetic—or even the cosmetic, the costume change—that helped you to feel you were in the right skin at the right moment?

Armie Hammer: Sure. Cameron was a little bit more aware of the situation he was in. He would present a little more respect to each situation. A lot of times in the movie you'll see him as the one sitting up straight, focused. "I want to show you that I respect you by giving you my attention. Whereas Tyler a lot of times had his arms crossed, slouching a little bit more. It was little physical things like that that kind of give you an idea as to the character as a whole. You can feel it yourself: when you sit like this (sits straight), you feel one way, and then if you kind of do one of these (slouches), it changes your entire psychology, just by that one little simple movement.

G: That's a very useful starting place for a take.

AH: Exactly. 'Cause even if you start here but then you end up somewhere else, that's where you started from. So, yeah, that's a good point, yeah...

G: I read that the Winklevosses, late in production, met you.

AH: Yeah.

G: They might be the only of the main characters that aren't enjoined from doing that.

AH: Yeah.

G: So can you talk a little bit about meeting them, and obviously it's a little late in the game for you to change your approach—

AH: Sure.

G: But did you sort of glean anything that you took forward from that point?

/content/interviews/320/4.jpgAH: Well, that was Fincher's intention, for us not to meet them before. Because he didn't want us taking—he didn't want us meeting the Winklevii and then, you know, going, "Oh, did you see how he walked?! I gotta do that! Oh, did you see how this? Sorry, Aaron, but you see here where he says this. The real Cameron would have never said that." And he's looking at you going, "How much did you get paid to write this script? Yeah, exactly, say my words." I mean, they didn't want us to show up and do an imitation of a character that didn't fit into the story that they've created. And I completely got that. So after I met them, I was definitely like "Wow, it's a little different! I'm not gonna lie!" Hopefully the difference isn't—our portrayal of the Winklevoss didn't seem like they went to Harvard, or our portrayal of the Winklevoss didn't seem like they were the same kind of people, but it's a little different in the sense of we made a movie about these guys. We essentially took their story and plugged it through the Hollywood machine and came out with a great project that still, you know, adheres closely to the truth, in so much as we understand the truth, but obviously it's a little bit different. You know...

G: It might be just my deficient research, but normally when I look into an actor's background, someone has plied them for how they got their start. I couldn't find that for you. I was curious how you first began acting, what drew you to it, how you caught the bug, so to speak.

AH: Yeah. I wanted to start acting when I was twelve years old. This is going to sound funny.

G: That's good.

AH: Okay...I saw the movie Home Alone, with Macaulay Culkin, and I went to sleep that night, and I had a dream that I was the kid in the movie. But it wasn't like "I'm the kid in the Home Alone movie!" It was like, for some reason, I felt like I was acting in the Home Alone movie. And I woke up the next morning and I was like "That's awesome! I got a BB gun! I got a blowtorch! I got to shoot bad guys! This acting thing is awesome!" And the next morning I was sitting with my parents at breakfast, and I was like "I think I want to be an actor." And my mom, she goes, "No." I was like "What? Why?" She was like "Well, first of all, I'm not going to drive you around to auditions and sit in traffic in rush hour for you to get rejected your entire childhood. That's not fair, and also there are things in this business that no thirteen-year-old, let alone thirty-three-year-old, should ever see." So she said, "If you want to do this when you become an adult, we can't stop you. That's your prerogative. But as of right now, we're going to say we're not going to raise a child in Hollywood. It's just not going to happen." I was like (big sigh) "Okay." And then my eighteenth birthday, I was like "Okay! I'm an adult now. I want to act!" And they were like "Oh nooo." They were hoping I'd forget, and I didn't. And I pursued it ever since. I said I wanted to pusue it, but I didn't know how to go about it. But I was somewhere with my mom and someone walked up to me, and they said, "Have you ever wanted to be an actor?" And I was just like "Okay, lady, I don't know what you're selling. I'm not going to do a porn. I don't know what this is. No thank you." She's like "No no no no no no, just meet a friend of mine who's a casting director." And I was like "Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I'll do that. I'll answer some questions, and I'll see what's going on." She's like "Great." So I went and I met with her friend who's a casting director, and then she introduced me to her friend who was an agent. And that is the agency that I've been with. I signed the day I met her, and I've been there ever since.

G: Alright, this one's probably a little bit of a sore subject. I apologize in advance, but—

AH: Bring it.

G: I'm a huge Batman fan—

AH: Okay. Yeah! Yeah!

G: So obviously I heard about your being cast at the time—

AH: Yep. Yep.

G: And obviously that didn't work out. But I'm curious just how far that went in terms of the pre-production—

AH: Sure.

G: And did you get fit?

AH: It was done. It was done. It was all done. They had everything made. They had completely storyboarded the movie. They had completely pre-viz'd all of the action sequences. We watched some of the fight sequences that they did on computers before we actually shot them. I mean it was—

G: Had you shot some footage?

/content/interviews/320/3.jpgAH: No, we did camera tests and we did, like, tests in the suits and stuff like that. So I got to wear the suit. Which was like, looking back now, the thing that made it so much harder. If I had never worn the suit, it would have been fine. It was a movie that didn't happen. It was a great opportunity. I got to go train for a couple months with the Special Forces. That was great. I got to live in Australia for a couple months: that was great. But I wore the damn suit! And I know how it feels. And it felt so good! And it looked so good. But George Miller created a universe that was insane. It was—I would say, it was going to be the most epic adaptation of any comic book on screen I've ever seen. And I can only say that because I've seen it. I've seen what he wanted to do. I saw the pre-viz. I saw the storyboards. He had a room that was four times the size of this room [Ed.: a small hotel conference room]. At least four times. Probably five or six. And the entire walls were all covered with the storyboards. You start at one point, and you'd walk around the room like a comic book, and just read the wall. So that was an amazing opportunity that I wish would've gotten to go. And I wish the world would've gotten the chance to see what some of us got to see, but you know what? Everything happens for a reason. And, you know, I just gotta keep moving on. I hope it comes back around, but I'm not holding my breath.

G: Right, right.

AH: Thank you...thanks for all the good questions.

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