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"There would be takes that we did where I was under the impression we were shooting a rehearsal," admits 'J. Edgar' co-star Armie Hammer about Clint Eastwood's famously brisk directorial style, a statement that flies in the face -- just a tad -- of what was said at the 'J. Edgar' press conference in Los Angeles last week. "I've got this reputation of shooting one take, and it's a wonderful reputation to have, but it's hard to live up to," said Eastwood. "If you did, it'd be kind of shoddy, I think." Then again, Eastwood wasn't in the room when Moviefone spoke to Armie Hammer.
In 'J. Edgar,' Hammer plays Clyde Tolson, J. Edgar Hoover's erstwhile second-in-command who, at least according to the film, also shared a romantic relationship with Hoover until the day he died. Moviefone spoke to Hammer about Eastwood's one-take reputation -- especially when compared to David Fincher, who Hammer just worked with on 'The Social Network' -- the fact that the real-life Hoover thought Hammer's great-grandfather was a spy, his preparation for 'The Lone Ranger,' why there are two Snow White movies in the works, and if people think that he has a real-life twin brother.
I always find it funny the words that auto fill-in when I do research on someone on Google.
The second one that fills in for you is "shirtless."
Oh, God. Jeeze.
It could be worse? I mean, I wouldn't mind that, I don't think?
Well, I mean, dude, you're better off. Trust me.
I do find it fascinating that you went from a David Fincher movie to a Clint Eastwood movie, considering their directorial styles.
As polar opposite as you can get. Absolutely.
Is there any exaggeration there? Is Eastwood really like, "cut, print, let's move on"?
There would be takes that we did where I was under the impression we were shooting a rehearsal. Or that the cameras weren't even on ... and that's what we used. Then, the flip side of that coin, getting to take 60 with Fincher and hearing him go, "No, I don't like it. Delete them all. OK, start over -- take one."
Really? There were times that you really didn't think the cameras were on?
Oh, yeah, definitely. At one point he was like, "OK, cut, print." And I was like, "Whoa, whoa, Clint, I had my sides in my hands, I thought we were just rehearsing that."
Were there any scenes you wanted to do again and Clint wouldn't let you?
Um... initially, when we first started, there were times I was like, "Please, can we do one more. I think I can do it better. Please, please, please." But, then, eventually, I fell into it -- just trusting Clint as much as everybody else trusted Clint. And I think it really paid off in spades.
And I'm guessing after 'The Social Network' you never thought that you would ever ask, "Please, please, can we do one more?"
[Laughs] But, you know what's funny? I got used to it. The sort of way that Fincher works -- the grueling amount of takes. And because it was my first experience doing a big movie, that was what I was sort of acclimated to. So when we started doing ['J. Edgar'], I was like, "I don't think we're working hard enough." Like, "It doesn't feel like we're drained. How come I'm going home when the sun's still up? What's going on?"
See, that's interesting. So, coming from the Fincher mindset, did you just assume you would get at least a couple takes to work some stuff out with your character and have it figured out by take two or three?
We didn't have that opportunity.
Right. But was it really that big of a shock? Did you ever say, "Wait, we're really not doing that again?"
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. I mean, it was only a shock for the first day. Because, like I said, you get used to it and then, all of a sudden, you start to really appreciate it. It just becomes effortless filmmaking. You know, he's been doing it for so long, he's been able to strip all of the noise and extraneous riff-raff and crap out of the filmmaking process. What you have is a boiled down, simplified, elemental version of filmmaking. And it's amazing to be a part of it.
What's your favorite Clint Eastwood movie?
My favorite Eastwood movie? Oof. 'The Outlaw Josie Wales'... Do you mean that he's directed or stared in?
Either or, or both. The floor is yours.
It would probably be -- I mean, 'Unforgiven' is just epic. And 'Josie Wales,' and, of course, 'Million Dollar Baby' is probably my most favorite recent one he's done. But I also love 'Gran Torino.' I don't know. Probably 'Unforgiven.'
What did you know about Hoover before signing on for this film?
I didn't know much. I knew sort of the stories that got passed around the family -- I mean, he really hated Armand [Hammer]. He didn't trust him. He thought he was a spy. So I grew up hearing all of that. So when I finally read the script it was more instead of, "Wow, this is crazy," it was more of, "My God, it's true!"
For your character, Clyde Tolson, researching seems like a much more difficult task. There doesn't seem to be a lot out there.
It was the easiest thing in the world for me because I took the lazy way out and hired a professional researcher.
I didn't know you could do that.
It's the same lady that I work with on every one of my projects. I told her, "Find me everything you can," and she did. I probably had over 6000 pages of research on Clyde Tolson, at least. Including every excerpt from a book that mentioned him even once. Everything. Every picture of him ever taken, including, but not limited to, pictures of him sleeping that J. Edgar took.
I know you're probably being asked a lot about the makeup. But that looks like a lot of makeup.
Well, I mean, it's not a little makeup, I'll tell you that.
Was that difficult?
Um... yes and no. It's difficult, but it helps, at the same time. It's difficult because you have a quarter inch of latex glued to your face with professional strength adhesive for 12, 13, 14 hours out of the day. And, effectively, you're putting on a mask, which will limit the amount of emoting that you can do with your face. So, to get that all across, you have to sit in the mirror and go, "OK, if I smile, I have to actually try and close my eyes and pull my cheeks back and I have to do all of this stuff," that you don't think about when you're not wearing a huge mask on your face.
Has a stranger ever asked you where your twin brother is?
Yes. That has happened to me. And it's, like, the biggest compliment that I can get. I mean, I'd rather someone come up and say that than anything else. Because then it's like, "Ah, we tricked you! We got ya!"
Do you ever here from those guys? The actual Winklevoss twins?
No. No, I never really heard from them. I met them once or twice through the course of making the movie. I mean, they're so drastically different than who I am and what I want to be that it's like, I almost just would rather hang out with my normal friends.
So, 'The Lone Ranger' is on again?
Yeah, we're on, dude. We're riding off into the sunset.
That's an interesting role. How do you prepare to play The Lone Ranger?
Well, my researcher is prepping again. She's looking up Texas Ranger lore and Texas history and locations that are in the movie that I want to know about. What the general population would know in the day -- how informed were they? How did they get their news? What sort of education would this guy have? All of those things. So, really, a lot of stuff. I'm excited about getting into it.
You might want to stay away from the 1981 movie 'The Legend of the Lone Ranger.'
[Laughs] Yeah, right! That was the real lame one. Yeah, yeah.
Why are there two Snow White movies coming out next year?
There are two Snow White movies coming out for the same reason that you remember back in the day there was 'Armageddon' and then 'Deep Impact.' You know, 'Andromeda Strain' and then 'Outbreak.' Like, all of those things. It's common because basically studios have no imagination in making the decisions. They go, "Oh, they just had success with that movie, so we'll do a movie like that."
The pictures look nice.
Those pictures aren't even recut. Like, those are just pictures that some guy took on stage. Wait until you see. I've seen little things that after Tarsem [Singh] has done his Tarsem magic on it, those pictures look drastically different. Don't think that's what it's going to look like. It's going to look so much cooler.
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[Photo: Warner Bros.]