Armie Hammer, it seems, can’t open his mouth to talk about Call Me By Your Name without some ridiculous newspapers making a story about it. As the UK and US release dates creep ever nearer, the promotional trail has picked up and every day brings a new tale… “This movie is, for some people, a really incendiary topic,” he explains. “There are so many quotes that are so easy to take out of context. Whether it be me saying that I was hesitant to take this role because I didn’t know if I would actually be able to perform this. As an actor, I didn’t know if I could make myself that raw, open and exposed. Because this is so much about the subtlety. And that can easily be taken into, ‘He was hesitant to take a gay role.’ This is not the first time I’ve done this!” he sighs.
Well, if they were educated on publications such as ourselves, they’d know that this is at least the third time that he’s ‘played gay’. “Yeah!” he agrees. “Whatever, if it was my 50th time. You know, it’s all just crazy. But at the end of the day, people have to make clickbait. I get it, I understand the nature of the beast…” Let’s go back to days before age gaps, and straight actors, and peaches – back to Armie’s first steps towards 80s Italy.
“I met with Luca at his house and had tea with him and we had wonderful conversations. Then I left and didn’t hear from him for three years,” he laughs, “then three years later Brandon, my agent, calls me and say’s, ‘Luca’s doing a new movie,’ and I said, ‘I’m in!’ and he goes, ‘OK, I would read it first, but OK, for sure…’
“I was blown away at how beautiful this story was. Just this story of two human beings falling in love in the most raw, honest way. It was just incredible, I don’t think I’d ever read a script like this. So after having a series of conversations with Luca about how scared I was to approach a project like this, he helped me understand that fear and desire are normally very part and parcel. The fact that I want to be an artist means that I will need to take things to challenge me and push me. That’s the whole point of this journey, to evolve. To change, to grow.”
He explains, quite openly, that he didn’t think he was a good enough actor to play Oliver. “This is what they talk about in acting class, this is the dream. I’m incredibly self-doubting and a borderline self-loathing person, so I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m a good enough actor to be this raw on camera’. Like, I don’t know if I’ll do a good job.”
Fortunately ‘several great conversations with Luca’ later and we have the Oliver you’d never be able to imagine this movie without. Some of those conversations focused on quite specific parts of the script that Armie didn’t get…
“I didn’t understand, ‘Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine,’” he reveals. “I’ve never done that. I’ve never participated in that. These two people share this one thing. They want so badly to be one with the other person. That’s why he wants to eat the peach, he wants him inside of him. It’s like there’s this need and urge to be one, hearts to heart – like one being. We’re soul mates, we are one. I think it all comes out of that. Of course, it’s art so it’s a subjective medium, so it’s up for interpretation, but that’s sort of how I came to understand it.” Ah yes, the peach. It’s mentioned everywhere – this magazine included – despite the film being so much bigger that that.
“It’s so much bigger!” he exclaims. “And then also when you see that scene, it’s so fluid, and natural and organic. It’s not a massive set piece in the movie, it almost comes and goes so naturally.”
So to speak…
Armie laughs again. “It’s all part and parcel with the way Luca did the whole thing, where no scene is meant to be, ‘This is a scene that has nudity in it, so it’s more precious.’ No, it’s all just everyone being honest and being there and being present and generous. And Luca pushing all of us as we did it, which was great.”
The intimate scenes are quite raw – there’s one where Elio grabs Oliver quite firmly in the crotch.
“It’s all acting,” he says, dismissing the notion that it could be uncomfortable. “And if we’re going to be fair, I think women have been groped on film for a long time and no one ever asks them how they do it, or how they get away with it,” he reasons. “In these moments, what it felt like was a completely organic and natural part of what these two characters were going through. It wasn’t like I was thinking about as Armie in the situation, it’s sort of like trying to lose yourself in that situation.”
That said, when we interviewed Timothée, he said that Armie gave him stubble rash… Armie laughs hard. “Yeah right! I don’t know, I was shaving pretty closely! I hope I didn’t, but hey man, anything’s possible, I guess!” Still in good spirits, he chuckles again when asked if Timothée’s a good kisser.
“We never actually kissed outside of rehearsals and making the movie, so I couldn’t tell you what Timmy actually kisses like,” he cleverly replies with a smile. “But I can tell you that Elio as a kisser is so much about sort of unbridled and borderline unexperienced passion. Not Timmy, but it’s very much Elio. I’m sure Timmy is a better kisser than Elio!” We float the notion that his off-screen relationship with co-star Timothée could, if we were going to be lazy about it, be a bit of a bromance.
“It was fantastic,” he grins. “I would come home from work and I would be bike riding around a little tiny town just like the one we were talking about shooting the movie in. In fact, the exact one. And then I’d ride to go and get dinner with Timmy. We’d go and have a fantastic time. We’d go back to his place or my place, we’d watch documentaries or we’d listen to music or we would work on our scenes for the next day. We would spend all of our time together, just having an amazing time. It just felt like the amazing summer that we’ve depicted on screen. It was idyllic.”
At 31, he’s several years older than Oliver’s intended age of 24 yet the relationship – which is well within the law of the country it’s set in – has inevitably drawn criticism. Armie himself famously called out actor James Woods for doing just that, reminding Woods that he’d dated a 19-year-old when he was 60. Ouch. We remind Armie of that little-known film about a summer relationship between a 17-year-old and 24-year-old – Dirty Dancing.
“Yeah!” he laughs. “Yeah, exactly! Nobody mentioned that or Lolita, or anything like that… By the way, I blame most of the problems in the world on social media!”
It’s from social media, and word of mouth, that Call Me By Your Name has been given life – with an ardent fan base before it’s even been released. “It’s pretty intense,” Armie considers. “Very few people have anything but the most positive things to say, so it’s really hard to have a problem with that. I think also it does make me a little bit apprehensive because expectations can be the root of all suffering. If we spend so much time building this up, people are going to literally expect the most perfect movie of all time, which is impossible. It makes me excited, but it also makes me nervous at the same time…”