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Exclusive Interview with Armie Hammer on 'The Social Network'

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Armin Hammer photo from The Social Network

Armie Hammer and Max Minghella in 'The Social Network.'

© Columbia Pictures
The Social Network, the story of the creation of Facebook, is a riveting drama full of back-stabbing and intrigue. Directed by David Fincher from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network explores the fascinating beginnings of the website launched by then Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his one-time best friend - and Facebook's first CFO - Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield). Sorkin's script traces the start-up of the company and the subsequent legal action taken by Saverin after being denied what he believed was his share of the company. Zuckerberg's fellow Harvard students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss also sued the Facebook creator, alleging he took their idea for a dating website and turned it into Facebook. Their story also plays out in The Social Network with Armie Hammer, who is not a twin, taking on the task of playing the wealthy, 6'5" Olympic rowers (along with help from actor Josh Pence).

In our exclusive interview for the Columbia Pictures film, Hammer explained how he came to be cast as twins. "I think initially they were looking for twins. The story that I've been told is that they were having a meeting and Sorkin turned to Fincher and said, 'Okay, here's what we need to do. We need to call in all of the 6'5" twins who look like they went to Harvard, who seem like they're educated, who can row, and who are great actors.' And Fincher turned to him and goes, 'Oh, you want to bring all of them in,' and basically they realized that there were none. I think they found one pair of twins who could row, who were maybe 5'11" or something like that. And they were like, 'You guys aren't tall enough.'"

Hammer added, "There were just a lot of complications. And then initially when we signed on, Josh Pence and I, when we both booked the movie, we didn't know what they were going to do. We thought maybe they'd do fraternal twins. And then they ended up deciding that these guys are identical twins and such identical twins that it just wouldn't work to make them fraternal."

Armie Hammer The Social Network Interview

How difficult was it to capture the personalities of the twins?

Armie Hammer: "It was extra work, but it was great. It was not getting the chance to play one role in a David Fincher film written by Aaron Sorkin but two roles in a David Fincher film written by Aaron Sorkin. It was amazing. Once we sort of understood the twins and figured them out, then it was a breeze, you know? The twins are so well-written and they're so distinct on paper that bringing that to life was...I mean I wish I could say it was more difficult than it was. We just had a great crew and a great system in place."

How did you and Josh Pence figure out the physicality of the characters?

Armie Hammer: "Well we spent a lot of time talking about that, Josh and I. We spent a lot of time talking about the twins psychology. We spent a lot of time talking about how these guys should function. Do they look at each other when they talk to each other? Do they not have to because they know they're talking to each other? Do they touch each other when they're talking? And then in terms of personal body language, we thought Cameron being the honorable gentlemen, he would probably be the one to pay attention more to who he was speaking to and give them his full attention, and probably sit up straight in the chair. Whereas Tyler might cross his arms or slouch a little bit. You know, and then coming up with different physicality for them both, and then once we knew the physicality, as soon as you start to shoot a scene and you feel yourself slouching, you know that you've found it and then you just stick with that and you can go with it."

Did it feel a little schizophrenic taking on the part of twins?

Armie Hammer: "Yes. There were nights that went late where we'd been jumping back and forth where I not only forgot which character I was but what my real name was, where I lived, and what planet I was currently on. And you're going to think I'm kidding, but those were actually the takes that David Fincher kept."

Is it true David Fincher did 70 or 80 takes per scene?

Armie Hammer: "Oh yeah, oh sure."

How does doing a scene that many times affect you?

Armie Hammer: "Positively, only positively. I mean, yes it's more tiring to do that many takes, but as an actor there's a real sense of comfort which comes from that. There's a real sense of security that you get from knowing that your director and your captain of this ship is such a perfectionist that he's not going to move on until he gets exactly the performance he needs and exactly the performance he wants. And he'll do whatever it takes to get that out of you, which is amazing. So, yes, it is more work but the ultimate final product benefits so much from it that it's really... I mean I would like to direct one day, ultimately that would be my goal, and I would hope that I could one day be in the same position as Fincher where I could do that many takes without the studio firing me." [laughing]

But after 50 times saying the same line over and over again, how do you still keep it fresh and put emotion behind it?

Armie Hammer: "You have to find a way. You really have to figure that out on your own. It's really each actor's individual journey, but at the same time they don't want you to lace the thing with emotion. I mean especially when you're given a script that's as tight and as polished as Sorkin's script, it would be easy for you to look at these lines and say, 'Oh, these lines are so good, I'm going to knock this out of the park!' And then, you know, overact the entire scene which would essentially ruin it, because the words do the work for you so you don't have to. And I think one of the things that they were going for was getting it to the point where reciting those lines almost felt like spitting out our phone number, something that we could do without thinking, because that's how people really talk in real life."

That said, did you change any of Sorkin's lines? Did you change any of your dialogue at all?

Armie Hammer: "Oh heck no. Oh heck no! There were definitely times when I would sit in my trailer thinking, 'How would I change this line? Maybe the twins would respond like this to this.' And I'd scratch out his line and write my line next to it, walk away for a second, come back and look at it and go, 'Oh my gosh, I am not a writer! This is terrible. Can we please change this back to what he wrote?'"

Did you ever meet with the real Winklevoss twins?

Armie Hammer: "I did. I did, which was crazy. I met with them afterwards, which I'm so glad I did, which made meeting them strange because I'd just spent the last eight months trying to think like these guys. So, to actually meet them was so surreal. And I'm glad I didn't meet them before we started filming because I probably would have walked away from it doing a bad imitation of these guys, instead of bringing to the life the character that Sorkin wrote."

After meeting them, how close is your portrayal and Sorkin's script to capturing the real Winklevoss twins?

Armie Hammer: "I think that our version is the Hollywood version of the Winklevoss twins. These guys are much like what we say in the movie they are like, but at the same time obvious things had to be done in order to create a movie, you know?"

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