In the space of just over a year the great-grandson of a petroleum magnate has gone from (wealthy) obscurity to (wealthy) Hollywood star material. He’s shared the screen with Leo DiCaprio – his right hand man in the decidedly laborious J. Edgar – Hammer’s performance a standout in a rather underwhelming and overlong effort. He’s about to star opposite Julie Roberts in the upcoming Mirror Mirror and will be alongside Johnny Depp as the Lone Ranger to Depp’s Tonto in Gore Verbinski’s adaptation of said cowboy hero. But Armand Douglas Hammer is something of a throwback.
There’s an Errol Flynn square-jawed matinee idol quality to Hammer. At six foot five inches he’s the physique and look to hark back to a very traditional, secure, kind of leading man material. There is undoubted screen presence. Think Gregory peck meets Charlton Heston. But bar a couple of TV appearances (among them Desperate Housewives & Arrested Development trivia fans) and a few minor movies, actual acting roles have been few and far between.
His breakout performance as the twin “Winklevii” antagonists of David Fincher’s smashing Facebook genesis movie The Social Network was notable for displaying both acting chops and technical stamina. Each scene played out to multiple takes as one half of the brotherly machine before changing clothes and hairstyle to play the other opposite a body double – don’t you just love CGI?
Strangely he didn’t go to college. Dropping out at the eleventh grade to pursue an acting career – the perks of a comfortable “safety net” you might say. He has admitted to parental grilling on his career choice, with Macaulay Culkin as unwitting enabler, “Specifically it was Home Alone; I dreamed I was the kid in the house with the blowtorch and the B.B. Gun and the whole thing. So I guess I owe my entire career to Macaulay Culkin.”
His breakthrough role as the entitled Winklevoss twins could be said to mirror his own life, but this is something he has tackled in interviews, noting their sense of “entitlement” despite his own similar background. He calls himself “fortunate”, admits his family is “affluent”, but says money has never been an answer in itself for him.
In many respects fine and personally challenging words. But now that Armie Hammer finds himself at the start of a career he’s worked towards, rather than an inherited life of trust-fund playgrounds or foundation overseeing, it will be interesting to see if he can relegate his blue-blooded aura to supporting player in his own story. It’s early days but with two standout back-to-back roles and an atypical early life of privilege, there is a certain fascination in the unfolding of his path through Hollywood. Will he indie it up alá Gosling, run against his pretty boy image alá mid-late 90s Pitt, or indulge in Romcom whimsy until our heads explode alá Mcconaughey. Just don’t fall into the Brendan Fraser trap. Godspeed Armie.