Armie Hammer Discusses ‘Final Portrait’ and What He Loves About Film
Coming off his Golden Globe nominated performance in “Call Me By Your Name,” Armie Hammer returns to theaters with “Final Portrait,” In this period drama, Hammer plays American author James Lord who is invited to sit for Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. Though aware of the honor of posing for the great sculptor and painter, Lord is not aware of what exactly that commitment will entail as he spends an unexpected amount of time sitting, watching and anticipating an end while canceling and rescheduling one flight home after another. Recently, Mr. Hammer sat down with Entertainment Voice to discuss his experiences on the film.
“Acting is putting yourself in someone’s shoes and letting it go from there.” Hammer explained that he was privy to a wealth of information in preparation for the role, including Lord’s original letters and journals. “He was such a prolific writer.”
“ He understood it was a huge honor for an artist on the level of Giacometti to ask to paint him. They don’t paint people they aren’t interested in. We’re in the “get it now” selfie time – two seconds – boom – we’re done. The fact is James Lord was deemed worthy by Giacometti to be painted. This was a serious commitment in time for the artist.”
Hammer said that the intention of director Stanley Tucci and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Danny Cohen was to use the camera as the eye of Giacometti. Using the camera in this way forced the audience to do the same. “You are sitting for a portrait. How do you walk that razor’s edge of not being able to move but also emoting so the audience feels what you are going through?”
“James Lord’s purpose was to just sit and watch.”
Hammer then shared the story of the early Russian director Lev Kuleshov who as an experiment intercut a variety of scenes with a static close-up of an actor. The audience experienced different emotional reactions depending on the juxtaposition, even though the actor’s expression never changed. “We relied a little on that.”
“What I love about this film is that it allowed me to see the ubiquity of the artistic process. Whatever your medium is, there is that artistic process for something that exists inside your head. And you are trying to get it out in one way or another and it never feels like you are done.”
For Hammer, working with Geoffrey Rush who played Alberto Giacometti was a highlight of the film.
“Geoffrey Rush is an amazing talent. I was given the privilege and honor of just sitting and watching Geoffrey do his thing. He is the hardest working actor I have ever worked with in my life.”
“We would work all day and at the end of the day I would go home and I’d just be exhausted. And my phone would ring and I’d pick it up and say hello and he’d go ‘It’s Geoffrey. What are you doing?’ And I’d say, ‘Just got home. Take a shower. Have a beer. Go to bed.’ And he’d say, ‘Why don’t you come over and we’ll talk about the scenes for tomorrow.’ And you want to say, ‘Oh, man. I just want to go to bed.’ But Geoffrey Rush just called you and said do you want to rehearse? Yes. I love it. Let’s do it. So you’d go over to his place and you’d work for several hours going over every line and everything that happens in those scenes. And you’d go, ‘We’re getting picked up in six hours. Man, can we sleep a little bit?”
“It’s amazing to see someone of that level of talent still putting that much work into it. It’s really refreshing.”
“It was a master class in character acting.”
Ever since growing up on a small Caribbean island, Hammer always knew he wanted to be involved with movies. “For me, sitting in a theater and to be taken somewhere – on the deck of the Titanic or a Western – it was a magical experience to sit and watch a film.”
His parents were less than supportive when he announced he wanted to be an actor. “I don’t blame them. It’s a weird business,” explains Hammer who is married and has two children of his own. “You see things children shouldn’t see and you experience rejection. A lot of people don’t last.”
“I dropped out of high school and sort of got into every single acting class and conservatory that would have me. I spent years doing that when I decided to devote myself to success.” Hammer spent a long time doing small roles in television before “The Social Network” gave him his first break. “Seven years of grinding it out. I found the harder I work; the luckier I get.”
All the dues Armie Hammer paid for his success has not made him cynical. He continues to be enthusiastic about the magic of film and his future in it.
“I love film. I love watching movies. I try to watch a movie every day.” He is equally excited to share that love of film with his own children.
“The last movie I watched with my kids was “Coco” two nights ago. I’m excited about giving my kids a film education.
Coming from their talented father that could be quite an education.
“Final Portrait” opens on March 23 in select theaters.