Before The Social Network came out, there was plenty of Oscar buzz about supporting cast members like Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, but now that some of the dust has settled, there's one name that keeps coming up as a comic scene-stealer and awards dark horse: Armie Hammer, who plays entitled twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. In the movie, a Winklevoss twin declares, "I'm six-foot-five, 220 pounds, and there's two of me," but since there's only one of Hammer, that meant the actor was often acting opposite a body double whose face he'd be digitally grafted onto in postproduction (and when you consider the notorious amount of takes that an exacting director like David Fincher requires, Hammer's nimble pair of performances is all the more impressive). Vulture caught up with Hammer to discuss some of the controversy that has arisen since the film's release, why the idea of casting him in the Superman reboot isn't exactly a slam dunk, and the drawbacks to being really, really good-looking.
David Fincher obviously used a lot of cutting-edge facial-replacement technology for your role as both twins, but I was just reading about how he had an elaborate effects sequence planned for the opening credits, too. It's almost like he looks for ways to test his technological savvy.
It's very fair to say that Fincher likes to push himself and likes to push technology. He likes to be the flagship, I think, and he's paved his way in this industry by being a peerless visual director who's willing to do things like replace people's heads in movies. I mean, I think that's the reason he does all those commercials, still; he can do all that R&D and test stuff that he can break out later for movies. He's really one of the most technologically minded guys I've ever seen.
Now that the movie is out, people are analyzing it for little Easter eggs, and a couple of people have noticed that scene where Mark Zuckerberg is wearing an Arm & Hammer shirt, which I'm assuming was an inside joke aimed at you. Did you know Fincher was putting that in the movie?
No, I didn't, but I can settle this for you now: It was not an inside joke, as much as I wish it was. It's funny, but what happened is because everything you put on Facebook is permanent and not going anywhere, [the costume department] had access to thousands of photos of all the people who this story is about. Any outfit that someone in this movie is wearing is because there's a picture of the real-life person wearing an identical outfit. There's a picture somewhere of Mark Zuckerberg wearing that Arm & Hammer T-shirt.
Did you see the video that just came out where Zuckerberg admits that he did see the movie, and he thought the most accurate thing about it was the clothes?
[Laughs.] Well, at least we got something right! That's interesting, because his initial stance was, "Well, I'm not interested in seeing it." And then the night it opened, he rented out a theater and took everybody.
Obviously the Winkelvoss twins are very happy with how they've been portrayed, but there have been people who think the Zuckerberg character is unfair — that this is a guy who's still alive and still running a company, and now everyone will think he's a misogynist who started Facebook because of a fictional ex-girlfriend. How much responsibility did you feel to these guys, and how much did you feel you could change because of dramatic license?
The amount of research [screenwriter] Aaron Sorkin did I mean, I'm sure you've heard the story about what they were drinking during the scene where Mark created Facemash? Initially in Aaron's script it was a screwdriver, and Mark would come in, put down a glass, pour ice in it, pour vodka and orange juice on the ice, and it'd be cinematic and beautiful — plus, drinking a screwdriver reads more "I'm drinking to get drunk" instead of "I'm drinking a beer because I'm in college and I'm thirsty." So after they vetted the first version of the script, word got back that Mark was drinking beer and not a screwdriver, and not only that, but he was specifically drinking a Beck's beer The fact that we know that is sort of an indication of how heavily vetted and inspected this script was. You know, when they gave the script to Mark Zuckerberg and they said, "Feel free to give us any notes you have," the only notes he really gave back were about programming. I think that if someone made a movie about me when I was 19, I'd probably say, "That's not how I remember it," but to answer your question about whether I feel responsible, the answer is, "Yeah." These are real people who are still alive, and now there are more people in America who associate Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Mark and my portrayal of the Winklevoss twins with those people than with the actual people themselves. That's a big responsibility. You don't want to harm these people who are still alive, especially when they've proven that they have no trouble suing people. We did want to be careful with it, but at the same time, it was Aaron Sorkin's script and David Fincher's vision that brought it to life.
There's also been some discussion about whether the film is misogynistic. Were you surprised by that?
Not too surprised. When my wife first saw the movie — and she's about a hair's breadth away from being a feminist — she said, "I don't like the way it portrays women." I had the same reaction, but I was like, "Baby, this is Harvard in the year 2000, when these guys are on top of the world and think that nothing can touch them. They're the rulers of the universe, and of course these guys think that way." Maybe when I was 19 and in college, I was thinking the same way.
How has the reception been in Hollywood since the movie started screening?
It's been really good. Before this, I was fighting an uphill battle to get in movies, and I do one movie and David Fincher gives me a great break and now everyone wants to meet with me like I'm the hottest thing in the world. It's crazy.
You've made a lot of people's Superman fantasy-casting lists. Did you have your people put in a call to Zack Snyder, who's directing the reboot?
[Laughs.] You know what's funny? I did talk to my people recently about that for the first time, and I think they're going a little older with Superman. I hear they're going 35, 40.
Really? Wow, Jon Hamm will be excited.
Yeah, I don't know what that might mean.
Of course, you had a little bit of superhero experience already with George Miller's Justice League, where you were cast as Batman. I know the movie was scuttled just before it was supposed to start shooting, but I also read that you never got a picture of yourself in the costume? Can't you just send George Miller an e-mail asking for that, Armie?
Oh, dude, I would do anything for that! I would paint that on my living room wall. I would tattoo that on my back. No, like when we were down there on the soundstages, they would take our cell phones from us if they had cameras on them. This was so top secret and so locked down, it was like walking into the Pentagon.
There have been a lot of Batman costumes, from the outlandish Joel Schumacher costumes to the more grounded battle armor of Christopher Nolan's films. What kind of take did George Miller have in mind?
It was very, very character-specific. It did have a semblance of a battle-armor feel, but at the same time, because it was so character-specific, it was all made out of the finest materials. Because Batman has such incredible resources, his utility belt was made from the finest Italian leather and highly polished, and the things that would come out of his forearm, they were titanium but wrapped in very fine leather. I mean, it was all really well-done, very utilitarian. This was before Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight had come out, and this was going to be the first movie where Batman would be able to turn his head [in the cowl]. We had the first bat-suit that let the head turn, it just never got the chance to make it onto the screen.
I'm still surprised that it didn't happen. I know there were budget issues and the WGA strike sapped the movie's momentum, but Miller had it so planned out that it's hard to believe he simply walked away from it. And now he seems to be running into problems with his Mad Max reboot.
I know, the poor guy. He's such a genius, too! It's a shame. The thing with Justice League is that he created an entire universe, and everything was done. They had pre-vizzed a lot of the special-effects sequences, and we saw some of the fight sequences without even having filmed them yet. There was a giant room that he had turned into the storyboard room — this huge conference room that had floor-to-ceiling storyboards on the walls — and you'd start at one point and just walk around the entire room and by the time you were done, it was frame-for-frame the entire movie. We saw it on paper and we were going to bring it to life, we just never got the chance.
So now what happens to that stuff? It just gets locked in a box and put in the Warner Bros. basement, Raiders of the Lost Ark–style?
Yeah, I guess so. One of the most crippling things that happened to us financially was that the Australian government denied us a 40 percent tax rebate that we were supposed to get. We had a crew entirely comprised of Australians, the director was Australian, most of the producers were down there in Australia ... it was Australian through and through, but they felt we hadn't hired enough Australian actors. And of the main cast, three or four of them were Australian and there's only, like, seven [main characters], so I don't know how many they wanted. But they denied us that 40 percent tax credit and with a budget that size, 40 percent is something you just can't leave on the table.
Did you learn anything from the prep for that movie that you were able to use later? I mean, you were even shadowing Australian detectives for the role, right?
No, not Australian detectives, Australian special forces!
Yeah, so it was even more bad-ass. [Laughs.] I was learning insertion techniques, gun handling all the stuff that Batman has to know because he doesn't have superpowers. He's human, so he has to be the consummate fighter but he also has to have a detective's mind, so we would spend a lot of time cultivating that. You'd be handling situations and finding people's weaknesses and exploiting them. It was very Machiavellian, in a way.
It's a shame that your roles in Gossip Girl and The Social Network haven't given you the chance to show off your gun-handling skills.
Yeah, I know! I haven't gotten to shoot anybody! I'm kinda pissed!
You're a six-foot-five, good-looking guy, but has that ever been a debit? Do you sometimes think, Wow, I would love to play a scrawny crack addict, but casting directors see you as a matinee-idol type?
Yeah, and I realize that's one of the things I'll have to battle in my career, the fact that when I walk into the room, people do see me in a very specific way. I have about as much control over how I look as the guy who's short and looks more like a character actor — we both have the same drive to be actors and we both have the same drive to assume these different characters, it's just harder for me to get the chance because they look at me and say, "Oh, he's this type," and they stamp me. "He's tall, he's good-looking, he's the whole thing — he's that guy." It's something that I think I'm going to have to fight against for most of my career, for people to take me seriously as an actor as opposed to a good-looking guy. It's not what I want to be known as.
I assume you're looking at new projects, but will you be busy for a while doing awards-season promotion?
Yeah, we're going to be working to promote this film for the next couple months. It's pretty time-consuming. There's also a lot of people in town now who have this "wanna meet the twins" kind of thing, so I've been doing a bunch of that.
Is that weird, that you'll spend far more time promoting the movie than you did shooting it?
Yeah, it's nuts. But at the same time, essentially, the hard work is done. Now I just have a film that I'm so proud of that I get to talk about, and people want to listen. It's nice.