HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Armie Hammer attends the premiere of Columbia Pictures’ “Bad Boys For Life” at TCL Chinese Theatre on January 14, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images,)
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Armie Hammer on “Rebecca”: An Interesting Balancing Act

In the new film Rebecca, Golden Globe-nominated Armie Hammer plays Maxim De Winter, a man best described as romantic, rich, prudish, sinister, and full of secrets. As the great-grandson of tycoon Armand Hammer, the 34-year-old Santa Monica born actor could logically have developed in a similar fashion. Instead, he has steered his personal path with independence, humility, and a wicked sense of humor.

Armie Hammer and Lily James in Rebecca (2020)



Hammer broke from family tradition when he dropped out of school in eleventh grade to pursue an acting career, a decision that caused a rift with his parents. Their resentment dissipated when their son quickly secured casting in such shows as Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl, and Desperate Housewives, before landing the dual role of the Winklevoss twins in David Fincher’s acclaimed The Social Network. That assignment became a springboard to impressive roles in such films as J. Edgar, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Birth of a Nation, and Call Me By Your Name which soon followed.

Now the father of two steps out in a reinterpretation of one of cinema’s classic films, one which took home the Oscar in 1940. The current adaptation of the best-selling novel has Ben Wheatley stepping into Alfred Hitchcock’s directing role and co-stars Lily James.

Were the novel or previous film a factor in you signing on to this 2020 adaptation?

Both were interesting and both were fantastic pieces of art. But the book was more important for me. Hitchcock made an adaptation of the book and veered a little from the original source material and put his own spin on it. We are doing a bit of the same by modernizing the book but also staying true more to the original source material. I didn’t watch the original film beforehand. I tried to steer clear because I didn’t want to be influenced by Sir Laurence Olivier’s performance. I read the book a few times, literally reading the whole thing then going back to the beginning and reading it again. The book was super helpful because it gave me more information.

You introduce us to this character Maxim, who from the outside looks polished and put together. But as the film progresses, we realize that he has secrets and things he doesn’t want to talk about. As you put together a character like that, how easy is it to convey mystery?

It is an interesting balancing act. You have to give away nothing but not be flat. He has to be something hopefully dynamic where it looks like you are trying to give away nothing as opposed to having nothing going on. It’s a fun challenge. It’s all about where you hold things to your body, how you move, and also staying authentic to how people acted at the time. Especially with the upper-class aristocracy, you would never show that something was wrong or you had a weakness. By the way, that sucks and it wreaks havoc on Maxim. If this guy knew how to healthily communicate with people or how to be emotionally mature and convey how he was feeling, the movie would be so much shorter. It would end up being this really interesting conversation between these two like My Dinner with Andre.

You have another film coming out this year, Death on the Nile. In both films, you are dressed in killer period costumes. Do they help enable you to access a character? Do they make you evoke a different time?

Yes. The clearest example is right now in these times, you can be wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt that might have Cheetos dust on it or you can be wearing a nice suit. When you wear that suit, it feels like you are wearing a suit of armor. It’s a facade. It is the same thing with these period clothes. When you put on pants that have suspenders and a shirt that has a thing and another thing over it and then you have all the buttons, when you get dressed to go on set, it makes you feel like those men who actually had to do that back in the 1920s or ‘40s. Going back to what we talked about before, the facade of Maxim is that this man has his life so put together, beautiful home, beautiful car, and beautiful clothes, so he must be happy. It is a real interesting thing right now because we are going through that exact same dilemma with social media. When you look at someone’s social media. You are looking at the curated best version of themselves that they want you to see. What you are not seeing, is them waking up in a bad mood. Them waking up with bad breath. No one is perfect. And when you think someone is perfect like Maxim, you are only setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. He might be someone who turns out to have murdered his pregnant wife. You never know (laugh).