Armie Hammer is searching the eighth floor of the Beverly Wilshire hotel looking for his publicist. He’s wearing a sharp pseudo-Hawaiian inspired print shirt that screams Ted Baker (even if it isn’t) with a sleek cut cut blue blazer and pants. Following our interview I’d told him the shirt was great while omitting the fact I have a thing for flowered print t-shirts. His publicist, on the other hand, thinks Hammer’s ensemble is a mistake. She’s clearly wrong and Hammer playfully wants my testimony to validate his fashion choice (or that of his stylist). It’s actually a familiar scenario for the 31-year-old actor who finally knows what he wants.
After some misadventures in Hollywood studio flicks such as “The Lone Ranger” and the underrated “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Hammer made the decision to focus on films that allowed him to explore the art form he learned to love during acting classes oh so many years ago. He didn’t have to wait long for Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” to emerge as the stepping stone to that artistic fulfillment he’d been searching for. It’s probably an overreaction to say “Call Me” has changed everything for Hammer, but it’s provided an unexpected comeback for an actor who probably didn’t even care that someone somewhere thought he needed one.
The conversation with Hammer that day was quick. We discussed his preference for films in the vein of “Call Me” or the upcoming indie “Sorry to Bother You” and “On the Basis of Sex” rather than the commercial tentpoles that left him creatively unsatisfied . He revealed, much to my amazement, that Guadagnino cast both himself and co-star Timothée Chalamet not only without having them test together, but neither had to audition either. He contrasted the emotional reception for “Call Me,” an expected Best Picture nominee that debuted at Sundance, to the euphoric reaction to “Birth of A Nation,” another expected Best Picture nominee that debuted at Sundance and shockingly became a publicity nightmare for all involved.
“After Sundance I don’t think our feet hit the ground,” I recall Hammer saying about everyone involved in “Birth.” After rape charges against director Nate Parker and his co-screenwriter resurfaced that made the film’s crash in the pop culture context that much harder to take. “Call Me” was a much different experience with Hammer saying his satisfaction came first and foremost from shooting the film. Anything else that happens during its release or this current awards season is simply a bonus.
You might have noticed I used the phrase “I recall.” There’s a disheartening reason for that. Somewhere between reassuring Hammer’s publicist her client’s outfit was on point and recording another interview the following day our interview was deleted from my phone (and, yes, that’s a painful reminder to really make sure your automatic backup is working on your iPhone).
Don’t despair though because I didn’t.