You know Armie Hammer. He’s handsome. He was the two guys in The Social Network. He said that thing about James Woods. His voice is perfection. But you’re about to hear even more about him, thanks to his star turn in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, which hits theaters this November after earning raves on the festival circuit. And so, in advance of what is sure to be a fall full of Armie Hammer promotional appearances, why not brush up on your knowledge of the 31-year-old actor, whose life has already been interesting enough to sustain a mid-tier cable biopic? (Take that, Temple Grandin!)
A note. Though these are all “Armie Hammer stories,” not all of them are about Armie Hammer himself. Think of them as taking place in the Armie Hammer cinematic universe.
Speaking of calling people by their names, Armie Hammer’s full name is Armand Hammer, and he’s named after his great-grandfather.
No profile of Armie Hammer is complete without a mention of the original Armand Hammer, the 20th-century industrialist. While our Armand Hammer was named after his ancestor, that Armand Hammer was either named after a character in an Alexandre Dumas novel, or after the logo of the Socialist Labor Party, depending on who you ask. Neither of these Hammers were named after the baking-soda brand Arm & Hammer, though the elder Hammer did buy a bunch of shares in the brand’s parent company and sat on its board, purely for the laughs. You’ve heard of the one percent; Armand Hammer was so rich he was in the pun percent.
Speaking of the original Armand Hammer, he spent the 20th century as an unofficial go-between for the United States and the Soviet Union.
The elder Hammer was a real-life Forrest Gump, had Forrest Gump been about the magical ability of wealth to open doors rather than the simple decency of a mentally handicapped man. Hammer’s father, Julius, was a dedicated communist, and funded a shadow embassy that coordinated underground trade with the Soviets after the United States cut off diplomatic relations. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
A few years later, Julius Hammer was imprisoned for performing a fatal abortion on a Russian diplomat’s wife, so Armand traveled to Russia in his stead. He soon became the Politburo’s favorite capitalist. Hammer imported much-needed grain into the country, was granted a concession to mine asbestos (and later make pencils), and became the official coordinator for trade between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. He was also allowed to import expropriated Romanov artwork into the U.S. — after paying hefty “export fees,” of course — which kick-started his second career as one of America’s foremost art dealers. He met with Lenin, negotiated with Khrushchev, and was close with Leonid Brezhnev, whom he eulogized in People magazine. More facts about Armand Hammer: His oil business took off when he cut a deal with Muammar Qaddafi for Libyan oil, and he was caught up in the Watergate investigation for illegally donating to Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign. (For this, he received a small fine, and later, a pardon from George H.W. Bush.)
Throughout his life, Hammer’s close relationship with the Soviets attracted questions, and everyone from J. Edgar Hoover to members of the Reagan administration suspected him of being a spy. As the New York Times put it in 1981, “Does Hammer merely take advantage of his contacts with the Russians to advance his business interests? Or does Hammer take advantage of his business contacts to serve Moscow’s interests?” Whatever the answer, he died in 1990, a year ahead of the official dissolution of the Soviet Union, having never achieved his life’s goal of winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
But you came here to read about a hunky actor, not a long-dead petroleum magnate. Back to the Armie Hammer facts!
He was once kicked out of high school for setting a fire on the lawn.
Hammer was not immune to the allure of dumb-ass rich-kid things. “I poured lighter fluid outside the school and set it on fire,” he told New York. “I was a bad criminal, because I wrote my name with the fluid, so they knew who had done it, and … I was asked not to come back.” He had another brush with the pedagogical law, too: As the actor told Playboy in 2013, he was almost kicked out of middle school for selling issues of the girlie mag to classmates (each came with some lotion). The principal searched his locker for the magazines, but Hammer had cannily hid them in the bushes instead. “All he could say was, ‘Why do you have so much lotion?’ I said, ‘I get dry hands.’”
He swears he does not have a trust fund.
Despite a family fortune acquired slightly shadily (just like the Kennedys!), Hammer insists he’s been financially self-sufficient as an adult. This is also why, he told Elle back in 2013, he tries to live within his means: “There was once another Hammer, by the name of MC, who spent all of his money really quickly, and I would like to avoid that.”
His wife once hazed Leo.
Before she became a journalist, Elizabeth Chambers worked as a model in the late ’90s, which is the most likely set of circumstances in which a person would meet Leonardo DiCaprio. Reader, she did. “He hooked up with my roommate,” she told Details back in 2011. “When I saw him on [the set of J. Edgar] after all those years, I said, ‘Tell me you’re not an asshole. Do not make me hate you for the rest of the shoot. She was Spanish — you took a bath your first night together. What’s her name?’” Luckily, Leo remembered. (Her name was Marta.) What a nice memory for everyone.
He stole his wife away from another guy with a prepared speech about how they were soulmates.
As Hammer told Elle, he had a crush on Chambers, but she was dating someone else. So, he wrote a big rom-com-style speech. “I was like, ‘You have to break up with your boyfriend because we have to start dating.’ I said, ‘You were made for me … And I was made for you. We were made to be together. So we can do this 30 years from now, when I’ve gotten married a couple of times and you’ve gotten married a couple of times, or we can start now and end up 60 years from now sitting on a porch in rocking chairs, talking about how good an adventure the whole thing was.’”
His first date with his wife was to an adult gift store.
The speech worked! And so the new couple prepared for their very first date. “We were supposed to go skeet shooting, but it was raining,” Hammer told New York Magazine in 2011. “So we went to art galleries and the Hustler Hollywood store.” This would not be the last time the public would learn about Armie Hammer’s sex life.
He has dreams of opening a cigar factory.
From Elle again: “The actor is of almost atavistically manly pursuits. He owns a collection of vintage Olivetti typewriters, hopes to one day open a cigar factory, and amuses himself on movie sets by reading books on knots.” Remember that last one, it will be important later.
He once fought off a knife-wielding assailant who mistook him for someone else.
While visiting Australia, Hammer told Elle, he was surprised by a homeless man swinging a knife at him. Apparently, the man thought Hammer was somebody who owed him money. “I punched him and stole his knife,” the actor recalled. “I was full of piss and hubris, and was like ‘Fuck you.’ I took his knife. Because he would have tried to stab somebody else!”
In another instance, he was on the receiving end of nonconsensual knife play.
“I should so not be telling this story,” Hammer warned the Elle reporter, which of course meant that he launched right into it. During his wild younger days, Hammer apparently dated a woman who tried to stab him in the middle of sex. “She was like, ‘True love leaves scars. You don’t have any.’ And then she tried to stab me with a butcher knife. Of course I promptly broke up with her … Seven months later.” This, too, would not be the last thing the public would learn about Armie Hammer’s sex life.
A few more things about Armie Hammer’s sex life I feel weird even summarizing, but here we are.
“Not to be graphic,” Hammer told his Elle interviewer, “but you can have sex and in the middle just start laughing about something totally funny. You can’t do that with someone you’re dating; you’re too nervous.” In the Playboy interview, he was less afraid of being graphic. “I used to like to be a dominant lover. I liked the grabbing of the neck and the hair and all that,” he recalled. “But then you get married and your sexual appetites change. And I mean that for the better — it’s not like I’m suffering in any way. But you can’t really pull your wife’s hair. It gets to a point where you say, ‘I respect you too much to do these things that I kind of want to do.’” Even this would not be the last thing the public would learn about Armie Hammer’s sex life.
His first screen credit was playing “Student #2” in Arrested Development.
Here is the scene in question:
He once liked a bunch of bondage tweets.
If you know one non-movie thing about Armie Hammer, you know this. The actor had been open about his love of knot-tying, telling Playboy it was “a man’s version of knitting.” Still, it was at least a little bit of a surprise when Hammer was caught liking NSFW tweets featuring a variety of attractive women in all manner of rope bonds. (Ted Cruz would not learn from his example.) With the combination of ropes and an un-asked-for glimpse into the actor’s sex life, it was perhaps the most quintessentially Armie Hammer Armie Hammer story.