Armie Hammer is no stranger to double trouble. The actor’s big break came when he seamlessly played both of the Winklevoss twins (the Winklevii) in David Fincher’s Facebook portrait The Social Network. He’s since stolen a few scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio in J Edgar, and now Hammer has paired up with Johnny Depp, as the two square off in Gore Verbinski’s remake of The Lone Ranger.
Sitting down with TheVine, the affable Hammer enthuses about playing Cowboys and Indians with Depp, jokes about kicking the shit out of his scene-stealing horse, Silver, and learns a little about the Australian quality of taking the piss out of yourself…
Getting paid to play Cowboys and Indians – and with Johnny Depp no less. So is that it? Are you done?
Yeah. As far as I’m concerned I could never make another movie again and be totally happy.
It’s over. That’s it.
Well yeah, the pinnacle has been reached. What am I going to do after this?
The Lone Ranger and Tonto are the archetypal odd couple, so how did you two go about reinventing the archetypes for yourselves, and also for a new generation?
We spent a lot of time thinking about and working on the character and the relationship these two guys have. And one of the most important things for us was getting to like each other, and, you know, appreciating each other, and then really being able to work that. To go from, “I hate you!” to, “You know I think we really make a good team together.”
So does that mean off screen there was some bonding going on? What where the boys’ activities?
Oh, you know, the ush [sic]. Be both love music, we both play the guitar, so all that kind of stuff.
There’s such a rich history to The Lone Ranger – 80 years and counting – so at what stage did it come on your radar?
Maybe when I was eight, seven, somewhere around there. My dad grew up watching the show, so it was a big part of his childhood. So when it would come on TV – which wasn’t very frequently – he would say, “Armie, get in here! Watch this!” And there’s me watching it going, “Why is he wearing a baby blue vest? I don’t get it! What’s going on here?”
And I don’t think it’s any spoiler to say that your horse Silver was quite the character in this film.
So were you ok with letting Silver steal so many scenes?
Yeah, yeah, cause I still knew at the end of the day I got to kick the shit out of him when I wanted to! [Laughs]
Plus it’s your name on the poster.
Yeah. I think he got paid in oats and carrots too. So he really got ripped off, he just doesn’t know it.
Speaking of stunts, what really struck me about the film is that it felt like silent cinema in those set pieces. It almost felt like Buster Keaton…
Interesting. Yeah, yeah.
So is that something you were aware of with the physical comedy?
Some of it. Some of it we talked about. There’s [sic] some great old movies, like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: that was one of the examples that we watched and appreciated. And it’s almost similar to the character of The Lone Ranger, especially when you see [James Stewart] at the end - walking down the street in his apron - not ready, but knowing he doesn’t have a choice but to do this, that’s kind of how the Lone Ranger gets into it.
Acting by its nature is a transformative experience – but it seems to me that you’re up for pushing that physical transformation to the limit: doubling yourself in The Social Network, or aging yourself in J Edgar. Do you look for that that extra challenge?
Not really. No. I kind of just look to see…first of all, I’m not trying to choose these things. I didn’t go, “I’d like to play the Lone Ranger!” I heard that Gore [Verbinski] was making the movie, Johnny [Depp] was going to be in it and Jerry [Bruckheimer] was producing, Disney was the studio behind it, and it sounds like one of those things, like “This is a dream job.” A dream opportunity, and you’ve just got to chase those kinds of things.
Fair enough. Just say “yes”.
And after Mirror Mirror, did you ever think you’d have to look at another crazy headpiece, and then you saw Johnny Depp’s one here?
Yeah. [Laughs] Well put! No, I didn’t consider it.
Because those head pieces Tarsem Singh created [for Mirror Mirror] were extraordinary!
Totally. And Eiko [Ishioka] created all the costumes, and she was just incredible.
And what interests me about your performance here is that you can play the handsome, straight-laced, dignified man, but you can also – for want of a better term – take the piss out of yourself. Is that something you like to find in a character?
Yeah yeah. Nobody likes somebody who takes themselves too seriously. Like that guy’s not fun to talk to!
It’s a very Australian quality, actually, to take the piss out of yourself.
Oh it is? Well I feel like I’m a local. And I want to live here, I mean, this place is great. I love it.
You’ve got to be able to be self-deprecating. And that seems to be something new that you’ve brought to the Lone Ranger…
Well yeah. The old show came out of necessity. There was the Korean War conflict going on, so America just needed an easy hero that they could watch; someone who they would know would make the right decision in a crazy-ass world. And you can’t do that anymore, you’ve got to make them human, you’ve got to give them dimensions. So that’s what we tried to do.
Then playing against you is Johnny Depp – another actor who loves to transform himself, and very much physically in this role.
Is that fun to observe?
Oh yeah it’s so much fun to watch. It’s also really funny because we dealt with each other…for ten months, he was always in the make up and I was always in the hat and mask, and that was just the deal. So every time since that we’ve seen each other it’s been like, “Hey! You look so different! Man it’s good to see you.”
So what was the wrap party like? Did all the make up come off?
Yeah yeah, we had several wrap parties, they were great.
As you mentioned, this is of course Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer reuniting. So if one was the Lone Ranger and one was Tonto, who do you choose?
I don’t think you could. Their relationship is so symbiotic, because no one can handle large-scale movies like Gore can, and no one can make large-scale movies like Jerry can. So it’s just kind of the perfect partnership.
So you wouldn’t say one was more The Lone Ranger and one was more Tonto?
You can just stay on the fence there.
Because I don’t know which qualities you’d attribute to which, like, Gore carries a pistol with him everywhere, so maybe that makes him the Lone Ranger…
Wait, for reals?
I’m so gullible, but hey, they can do that in America, can’t they?
[Laughs] In some places! Yeah.
Maybe in Texas…which reminds me, the locations were just extraordinary in the film. How long were you on location?
We were probably on location for five or six months.
And are you just pinching yourself looking at your surroundings?
No! I didn’t want to wake up. I was like, “If I’m dreaming, don’t you dare pinch me!” I want to stay here forever.
Published on TheVine Australian release date: 4 July 2013 To hear The Spoiler Guys podcast, click HERE.
Freelance writer, award winning film critic and shameless history nerd. The Plot Thickens has become an archive for my published scratchings - for publications including Limelight Magazine, The Guardian Australia, The Vine, SBS Film, The Big Issue, Mornings on 702 ABC Sydney as well as the Critics' Forum on Richard Glover's Drive. I also produce and host The Spoiler Guys podcast with Marc Fennell and Giles Hardie.
So, welcome to my brand of cinephilia: everything from Antonioni to Zoolander.