Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet tell a touching story of gay romance in Call Me By Your Name. The Oscar-tipped actors tell Laura Harding about facing their fears and striking the perfect balance.
In The Social Network, Armie Hammer utters the immortal line: “I’m 6ft 5in, 220 (lbs) and there’s two of me.”
The phrase, declared in a flexing display of his physical supremacy, comes as he takes on the dual role of preppy twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and it capitalises on his almost impossibly perfect, athletic frame.
That physique, immaculately sculpted, is used to maximum effect in David Fincher’s story about the founding of Facebook and is the centre of attention again in Hammer’s new, but very different film, the romance Call Me By Your Name, which could catapult both Hammer and his co-star Timothee Chalamet into the Oscar conversation.
Hammer plays the object of desire to the precocious son of a university professor, who is living with the academic and his family for a summer in northern Italy.
The camera lusts after Hammer’s Oliver as Elio, played by Chalamet, does too, lingering on his torso and relishing in a long shot of him dancing freely to Love My Way by The Psychedelic Furs.
The role, in an adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel of the same name, is a distinct change in direction for Hammer, who is best known for his suave turns in The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Nocturnal Animals.
It required an emotional vulnerability he hasn’t shown before and that was an intimidating prospect, he says.
“Not in the sense of this huge insurmountable undertaking, but in the sense where it seemed so small and so subtle that the smaller the targets, the easier to miss.”
In fact it required a level of honesty he was not sure he could provide as an actor.
“There is no fanfare, there is no green screen, there are no monsters, there is nothing to distract from this raw and open vulnerability and honesty of two characters who expose themselves to another person in an emotional capacity.
“It’s so beautifully received and then reciprocated and the entire movie would live and die depending on these little moments and if they weren’t honest and genuine then it would just never work and I just didn’t know that I could be that honest as a performer, I didn’t know that I could do that,” he admits.
“It made me nervous to be that vulnerable and honest on film in an acting capacity.”
What changed his mind was talking to the film’s director Luca Guadagnino, who is responsible for I Am Love and A Bigger Splash.
Hammer says: “I had several great conversations with Luca about the nature of fear and desire and how they are very part and parcel, and then he challenged me and said ‘If you say you want to live your life as an artist, don’t you want to take movies that challenge you? Don’t you want to take movies that force you to grow? And I couldn’t be more thankful that I took his advice.”
Chalamet adds: “There is no Luca Guadagnino film that exists in his filmography that doesn’t have characters that are exposing themselves emotionally and wearing their hearts on their sleeves.”
But it’s important it never descends into sentimentality and mawkishness, he says.
“On another project that is maybe entirely your responsibility as an actor. There was a tremendous freedom on this one that Luca, who is such an amazing director, I almost felt like I didn’t have to worry about that.
For all its idyllic romance, the film has not been without detractors, with some criticising the fact the romance takes place between a 17-year-old and a 24-year-old.
Asked about the criticism, Hammer said: “The only people I’ve come across who ever have anything negative to say about the movie are people who haven’t actually seen it so I don’t really care.
“It reminds you of that great quote where a person can be smart but people are always stupid.”
But the film has been largely well received since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and many have tipped both Hammer and Chalamet for awards nominations.
It’s also had a profound effect on some members of its audiences.
“One person said they saw it and went home and came out to their parents,” Hammer says.
Call Me By Your Name is out now.