In Call Me by Your Name, Armie Hammer’s performance as Oliver weaponizes his star persona, allowing us to misread his character in the same way that Elio does. This is the sixth piece in our Special Issue on Call Me by Your Name. Read the rest of the issue here.
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Armie Hammer has spent his entire career playing the object of our desire. Leave it to the ‘proper’ actors to go deep; Hammer shall play the pretty face, with his blue-eyed, golden-haired, six-foot-five, all-American good looks. His star appeal is almost too obvious, as if he’d been hand-crafted by the Hollywood machine to embody everything it represents: dashing looks, easy charm, and casual comfort in his own skin.
From the beginning of his career, studios have leapt at the chance to cast him as all the classic archetypes: western hero, Russian spy, literally Prince Charming. Even his critically-acclaimed breakout performance — as the arrogant, preppy, Harvard-educated Winklevoss twins in The Social Network — perpetuated the idea of Hammer as an extrovert with extraordinary self-assurance. Role after role after role has taught us unequivocally who Armie Hammer is supposed to be: a matinée idol, impossibly polished, masculine to a fault.
Luca Guadagnino is the first director to not only recognise that perception, but weaponize it. In Call Me by Your Name, 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is taken aback to discover that, underneath a varnished surface, Hammer’s Oliver is a man with fear, pain, and desires of his own. In casting Hammer, Guadagnino allows us to go on the same complex journey as Elio: we are entranced and infatuated by Hammer’s image, and therefore just as disarmed as Elio is to discover the complex man (and gifted actor) hiding underneath his intimidating, statuesque beauty. As unfathomable as it might seem given his leading-man looks, Hammer has the talent, the bravery, and the will to strip away every trace of that persona and expose his soul on screen.