Quint chats with Armie Hammer about David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK and George Miller's dead JUSTICE LEAGUE film!
Published at: Oct. 1, 2010, 2:04 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a particularly interesting interview with one of those guys who is going be huge in the near future. One of the reasons for that is his fantastic dual performance in David Fincher’s The Social Network is going to turn a lot of heads.
With the assistance of Josh Pence he plays the Winklevoss twins in an effect made invisible by Fincher’s fantastic eye. I didn’t notice it on my first go round with the movie and had no clue they used face replacement to execute the twin effects. Hell, I didn’t know there WAS an effect there. Second time with the film, knowing they did it, I still couldn’t spot the seam.
So, there’s a lot of interesting things to discuss with Mr. Armie Hammer regarding that aspect of the film, but we also talk a lot about his involvement in George Miller’s now dead JUSTICE LEAGUE film. Hammer was cast as The Batman in that project and we talk a little at the beginning and lot at the end about what we missed out on. Warning, it might make you angry that we never got to see this movie!
Enjoy the chat!
Quint: Hey man, how’s it going?
Armie Hammer: How are you? It’s nice to meet you, Eric. I’m a fan of your reviews and stuff. You’re Quint, right?
Quint: Yes, sir.
Armie Hammer: Great man! It’s nice to meet you.
Quint: It’s good to meet you, too.
Armie Hammer: And I think we are going to be with Harry tonight for the screening.
Quint: Yeah, Harry’s hosting the screening.
Armie Hammer: I’m so excited. I have never met him. I’m excited about it. Dude, you have the best job. I mean, are you kidding me? You get to see all the movies, you get to meet everybody involved with them. It’s almost better than making movies!
Quint: Almost, because I don’t have to do any of the hard work of making them!
Armie Hammer: Exactly! It’s like “Come to me!”
Quint: I heard that you had spent some time around here. Was it your fiancé or your wife…?
Armie Hammer: My wife now. Yeah, she went to school at UT.
Armie Hammer: This is my favorite city. When I heard that we were coming to Austin on the press tour, I was like “No way! We’re getting Taco C. We are going to the lake!” They were like “Yeah, Armie, you get in at 1:30 in the morning and you leave at 7:00pm the next night” and I was like “Damn it!”
Quint: Have you done Gourdough’s yet?
Armie Hammer: No.
Quint: Oh boy… The screening tonight is at South Lamar.
Armie Hammer: That’s the Drafthouse?
Quint: Yeah, the Alamo South Lamar. Are you going to watch the movie with the crowd?
Armie Hammer: I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Quint: What you should do is there’s a food truck court that’s right across from the Alamo. Gourdough’s is essentially gourmet donuts.
Armie Hammer: No way. Can I tear a piece of paper off and write this?
(Quint spends a minute describing the place and showing iPhone pictures to many “Oh, my God!”s from Mr. Hammer before moving on. Give me a break, I’m fat. I like Gourdoughs)
Quint: You probably worked with some friends of mine at Weta down in New Zealand on Justice League.
Armie Hammer: Those guys are amazing. Some of the most ingenious special effects house guys I’ve ever seen in my life. I wore the full functioning Bat Suit. The batarangs were all titanium spring-loaded, they all worked…
Quint: Did you get to keep them?
Armie Hammer: Dude, please. They wouldn’t even let us bring our own personal cell phones onto the sound stages. They’d be like, “Okay, great! Put your phones here. Ah! Where’s your phone?!?” I was like, “Fine, okay” and pull it out of my butt, trying to sneak it in.
It was nutty. If we had any part of our costume on they’d have four people walk around us with big sheets so no paparazzi could get pictures of us in the costumes. It was insane.
Yeah, I wish I could have spent more time with those guys, but I loved those Weta guys. They’re great.
Quint: Did you work with Richard Taylor there?
Armie Hammer: Yeah, he did a cast of my head with the straws up the nose and all that… they pour it on and it gets hot, then it gets cold and you’re just like, “What’s going on?!?”
Quint: I’ve spent some time in Wellington and I love those guys… they had me in the shop the last time I was there because they needed a decapitated head for 30 Days of Night…
Armie Hammer: No way! Ah, that’s great!
Quint: I’d always wanted to do it, get my head cast, so I was in immediately.
Armie Hammer: Isn’t it crazy? Did they do the thing where they slicked your hair back with the hair paste or whatever it was?
Quint: Yeah, they did. A guy named Gino Acevedo did my head cast. Did he work on yours as well?
Armie Hammer: Nope, Richard did the whole thing. It was amazing. I was like, “Are you supposed to be doing this?!?” He did the whole mold himself, which was insane. Did he give you the whole speech before they started the mold of like “This is going to deprive your senses, you might go a little crazy in there”? I was like “What is going to happen!?!” It’s like Altered States or something!
Quint: I was very surprised to find the whole experience very relaxing. I didn’t freak out at all.
Armie Hammer: It’s zen. You only hear your breathing and it’s like calm…
Quint: Well, we should talk a little about the movie or they’re going to be upset that I’m bogarting all time talking about New Zealand and gourmet donuts.
Armie Hammer: Hey, man. We’re just having fun!
Quint: I got five questions with Fincher about this movie and we talked a little about your role… both of them. He said something like “Armie was the last guy that we cast because we had to find the double for the facial replacement ” and I’m just like “Oh shit, the cat’s out of the bag on that one!” I guess if you are Fincher then you can do whatever you want, but to me I think that people are going to see the movie, they are going to love the movie, and then like a week later they are going to hear about how your characters were pulled off.
Armie Hammer: Yeah.
Quint: Then that’s going to be a big focus. I think a lot of people are going to be kind of freaked out by it. My group was. We do this a hundred times. We’ve been in every VFX and SFX shop in the world, not one time did any of the cinema hardened guys in there think that there were any less than two people.
Armie Hammer: Yeah. It’s good. I totally get Fincher’s reluctance to talk about this beforehand. You don’t want people to be distracted and walk into this movie going “I’m going to find the seem on the neck” or “Yeah, the shoulders are different there.” He doesn’t want people walking in and being distracted by that, which I think is great. If people do walk out of there going “That was two guys,” then you know what? That’s the biggest compliment to me I think I could probably get.
Quint: You totally earn it. What’s really interesting to me is that you are at that point where you are not super well-known, but you deliver this fantastic performance. I don’t think you could have pulled off the same character a year from now or two years from now. Without blowing smoke, I think you are going to get much bigger. This was the first thing that I ever really saw you in, so I think that that really helped the effect. Do you know what I mean?
Armie Hammer: Definitely.
Quint: You see Ed Norton in LEAVES OF GRASS or something and you are like “There’s a trick there.”
Armie Hammer: Or to even pick someone out who’s even bigger is Nic Cage in ADAPTATION, but that was still so well done. That was amazing and then Jeremy Irons in DEAD RINGERS as well. We were obviously less creepy twins about it, but the same kind of thing and even Lindsey Lohan in PARENT TRAP. Even though that was twelve years ago, the twin technology in that still looks good and you can still watch it and say “That’s twelve years ago? That’s amazing? Wow, it really looks like two people,” so I think the twin thing is interesting any time it’s done right and it’s terrible when it’s done wrong.
Quint: (laughs) Do you watch SOUTH PARK?
Armie Hammer: Yeah.
Quint: Do you know whenever they had the alternate universe ones? They added the split screen in the animation, where there would be a line on the wall and then the lines in the wall wouldn’t match in the background.
Armie Hammer: Yeah, exactly! Just like bad.
Quint: You have to either really embrace it or be the best at it, that’s really the only way you can do it, but in terms of performance I think that it’s really interesting that both brothers have a very distinct personality. I think that’s great. I don’t know how true that is to the actual Winklevosses…
Armie Hammer: Very.
Quint: Just in terms of complete dramatic story telling, I love that you have one that’s kind of like “No, whatever let’s just live our lives. Look at us, we’re Olympians.” Then you have the other one saying “Fuck this punk, we should take him for everything he’s got.”
Armie Hammer: Good. I’m glad you thought that they were two distinct personalities. We really wanted to be careful about that. We didn’t want them to… I for sure didn’t want to present a caricature of these guys where you look at them as the big tall jocks who are picking on the nerd. If you look at their upbringing, they are both are born at the exact same place, at he exact same time almost, they both come extremely aristocratic blue-blooded families. They have been afforded every opportunity growing up and you can see how a lot of people would sit in the audience and go “These guys are douchbags.”
We didn’t want that to happen. These are real guys. These are real people who deserve to have their story told and at the same time these are Olympic athletes who could probably beat me up, so I want to tread lightly on that subject. (Laughs)
But yeah, you have Cameron who has a little bit more of that old world man to him. He believes in the sense of chivalry and he believes that you should be a gentleman and you should behave yourself and conduct yourself as such, like it’s inappropriate, like “It’s wrong. We will conclude this like gentlemen. We will shake hands. Our word is our bond.” Then you have Tyler who is a little bit more of the modern man, like he’s a little bit more litigious. He will sue somebody. He will beat the shit out of somebody if they steal something from him. He’s like “Fuck that guy!”
So you have these two guys who, ultimately because they are twins and it’s fascinating because this happens a lot with twins. Even if they are different, they still have to function as one unit, so you have to incorporate both of these two extreme guys into one sort of team, so it was an interesting process and Josh (Pence) and I spent a lot of time prior to production like reading about twin psychology, like studying about how these guys should communicate. “Do they look at each other when they speak? Do they not have to make eye contact, because they know when they are talking to each other? Do they touch each other? What’s their interpersonal relationship like?” So, we spent a lot of time trying to figure all of that out and I’m glad it came out.
Quint: Josh is actually credited with the second role, which is great and that says to me he was more than just a stand in for your face.
Armie Hammer: He was great. He and I really did all of the work together. Any time I was on set, he was on set and what we would do is I would play the Cameron part first and we would shoot it until Finch was happy, which would be no less than twenty takes, probably somewhere right around sixty and he’d go “Okay switch them.” So then we would go and change clothes and then you and I would switch seats and then I would play the Tyler part and then I would basically turn to Josh and I’d go “What did you do on that one line there?” He’s like “I cleared my throat and I leaned back.” I was like “Oh, that’s good! I’m going to take that.” It was really like the two of us, so if it was up to me to do that on my own, I don’t think it would have gone as well.
Quint: So, is that how you shot even the scenes that you were in together? You had essentially a clean plate or was it…
Armie Hammer: Some of it. One of the advantages of doing facial replacement, as opposed to split screen is the twins can interact. They could touch each other. Cameron could hand Tyler a drink where if it was like clean plate or all just split screen, it just wouldn’t work as well.
Quint: You would have to CG the cup all the way or at least the transition or something.
Armie Hammer: Exactly, like all of a sudden it looks weird, there’s no gravity in it and all of that stuff. So it was cool, man. It was an interesting process and to have such a great role in a Fincher project is insane. It’s like Christmas and then to have that great of a role in Fincher project that Aaron Sorkin wrote. I mean you just like… It’s like “Are you kidding me?”
Quint: It’s must have felt like you won the lottery.
Armie Hammer: When I got the call, I was just like (quiet) “What?” Then I was just like (bellows excitement) and started like running around my apartment in circles. It was nuts and then also to be involved in something that’s like so high tech. It’s cutting edge filmmaking. This is the same technology that Fincher sort of came up with for BENJAMIN BUTTON, but the next generation that he adapted to be ready for this.
Quint: What’s amazing about this is that that was part of the identity of BENJAMIN BUTTON.
Armie Hammer: You knew it.
Quint: Yeah, as you went in knowing it, but this is a chance for the effect to be hidden, which not a lot of people get. It’s actually very rare when that happens.
Armie Hammer: I’m glad you said that. That’s how I feel about it, too. With BENJAMIN BUTTON you are right, you see “That’s funny. Oh, how did they put Brad Pitt’s face on that little man? How funny.” But then with this one I think that’s exactly why he doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want this to be a device in a story at all.
Quint: How was working with Fincher on the technical stuff versus the character stuff? Was it the exact same feeling or did you notice any sort of change in how he directed?
Armie Hammer: That guy’s constant. He’s solid. He doesn’t change. Like regardless of the situation and regardless of whatever is going on, he is Fincher and he is in control. You have been around him, you get the sense of like he can pretty much handle anything that gets thrown at him. But that was, I think, the most rewarding part of this, because I have always known and venerated Fincher as a visual director, like that’s his style. He tells great narratives, but it’s not like that’s the driving force of a lot of his stories, like BUTTON and stuff like that.
It’s very much about the visual aspect of what you are looking at, the beautiful story unfolding and that is like an amazing thing about Fincher, but then the fact that he’s able to so perfectly speak to actors at the same time. He’s not one of these directors who is like “I put the camera here and I rotate it over here and it’s going to look so good, but you just do your acting thing.” He’s not afraid of it, but at the same time he’s not an actor, so he’s not going to sit there and be like “Your character… maybe he needs to have a purple hue to the feel. You know what I’m saying. Yeah, you know.”
He will walk up to you and he knows exactly what to say to get exactly the performance that he wants out of you and he will tell you something different, then he will walk over and whisper to Jesse (Eisenberg) and he will tell Jesse something different. Then he will walk over and whisper to Andrew (Garfield) something different than what he will whisper to Josh or anyone. He can concur the visual aspects of a lot of things that he’s directing, but at the same time deal with actors, which is amazing and I like… I will never expect that in another director. I think I should just consider myself fortunate that I got that experience, because I think you sacrifice one for the other I think a little bit.
Quint: Cool, so what’s next on your plate? Do you know what you are moving onto after this?
Armie Hammer: My plate is pretty full, because I just got married, so I’m in the process of creating a life together with my wife for the two of us, so de-bachelor padding my condo. She’s like “Leather couches, I like them. They’re comfy. They got to go.” So it’s like “There’s a kitchen now” and there’s like food in the kitchen as opposed to just beer.
Quint: Beer and Ramen Noodles.
Armie Hammer: Exactly! I actually had Ramen Noodles and she was like “What are you, unemployed?” I’m like “Sometimes…” (Laughs)
Quint: “Hey, it’s easy. Give me a break.”
Armie Hammer: Yeah, exactly. “Hot water. Done.” Little mayo… little Ranch… whatever… So, I’m liking the process of getting married and creating a life as a spouse, so that’s good. There are a couple of tentative projects lined up, nothing concrete that I’d want to jinx by talking about, but things are good, man. I owe it almost all to this movie. This has been such an incredible opportunity for me in terms of like a door opener, like JUSTICE LEAGUE was back in the day, except this time we actually got to make the movie! (laughs)
Quint: Do you think any of that stuff is ever going to come out?
Armie Hammer: I wish it would.
Quint: The project is dead, right?
Armie Hammer: I think so, yeah.
Quint: I’m fascinated by that stuff, the “almost happened,” the “What if” stuff and just the idea of George Miller doing a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie still… I think it’s going to go down as one of the saddest “This didn’t happen” things ever.
Armie Hammer: And dude I saw it all. Like I saw the prevised fight sequences. I saw the entire storyboarded film that he had in a room ten times the size of this room with storyboards floor to ceiling, so you walked around the entire room and read the movie like a comic book. What he did… He created something that was so magnificent and put so much work into it, the fact that it never got a chance to be seen by daylight or appreciated by those who really would appreciate this more than anything else… I mean he was bringing in the psychology of these characters more than anyone else ever had.
We had psychiatrists with us in our rehearsal process to be like “Why this?” He was like “Well you see, with a delusional character like this, like the Batman, who thinks in this such a way, like a paranoid schizophrenic like this, this would be the motivating factor.” You bring so much more to these characters, because it’s not just “Well in this frame you are going to jump on top of this car and you are going to throw your Batarang.” It’s like “Why is everyone doing what they are doing, but in George Miller’s true style.” He was going so in-depth in this.
We had a brain surgeon, a psychiatrist, a Joseph Campbell expert, and all of these people in every single table meeting we had for a month and a half and then all of the characters were also training as their characters, so The Flash, Adam Brody, was training as The Flash with rubber bands, so he’d be fast and twitchy. Aquaman, Santiago Cabrera, was swimming a lot and Miller would send him to go swim with Dolphins in Northern California for hours so he would be used to being around sea creatures. Batman, being the only human of the Justice League and having to really prove himself there, he had to be the consummate martial artist, as well as the ultimate detective, so he was playing psychological games with all of us.
He would leave me out of things, like intentionally, but I wouldn’t know this until months later when I would just get the feeling of like “What is going on? Why is everybody?” Because he wanted me to constantly be getting into that paranoid mind frame of The Batman.
Quint: Yeah, “you’re not really in the group.”
Armie Hammer: Exactly and he wanted to create that in everybody. For instance, DJ Catrona who was playing Superman; he brought DJ down a month early and showed him the ropes, introduced him to everybody, made him have fun with everybody and all of that, so that when everybody would go down there they would be like “Well what do we do now, DJ?” So they would look up to him like people look up to Superman in The Justice League. It was amazing.
Quint: That’s awesome. I’d love to talk to you… I could talk to you for two hours about this stuff, but obviously they are not going to let me.
[Reps walk in to wrap up the interview.]
Quint: Cool, well enjoy your donuts.
Armie Hammer: Yeah, definitely. “Gourdoughs!”
I’m in the process of compiling materials to do a nice, in-depth piece on George Miller’s attempt at Justice League, a project that’s still shrouded in mystery to this day. If you know anything about it, feel free to email me. I’d love hear as much about this project as possible.
Thanks to Mr. Hammer for being such a fun guy to talk to. His enthusiasm was off the charts and he came across as a genuinely nice guy stoked to be where he is in his life.
Also, keep an eye out today as I’ll have two more Social Network interviews hitting… one with Mr. Jesse Eisenberg and one with the unfairly talented writer Aaron Sorkin!
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