This thriller will be new-ish ground for the ‘Call Me By Your Name’ actor.
Armie Hammer has proven himself to be a great ensemble player. The Social Network, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Free Fire showcase the actor as a vital ingredient when paired with the right people. But with a new untitled thriller from Annapurna Pictures being fast-tracked to production, Hammer’s solo star could be on the rise.
Variety recently reported that Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) and Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) will join Hammer in undisclosed roles in the thriller by Under the Shadow director Babak Anvari. Anvari will also pen the script, and the premise is simple: Hammer will play a New Orleans bartender who picks up a phone left behind at his establishment only to have some “disturbing and inexplicable events” follow, causing his life to fall apart. But if there’s one thing we know about Anvari’s work via Under the Shadow, a film about a mother and daughter who are haunted by unknown forces in 1980s Tehran, it’s that a well-contextualized plot could definitely be pared-down yet still deliver on the chills and intrigue. Under the Shadow was released to much acclaim and was selected as the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards.
Despite him playing twins so convincingly in The Social Network that many viewers thought he really had one, Hammer’s career as an almost-leading man experienced a number of fits and starts after failed projects like The Lone Ranger and Mirror Mirror. For whatever reason, the man who looks like a real-life Disney prince — almost scarily so — couldn’t make it as the swashbuckling hero. Instead, Hammer showcases a talent for being kinetic when allowed to poke fun at himself. To this day, he still seems primed to embrace the caricature of the rich white man, and delightfully so (see: Sorry to Bother You).
That said, Hammer hasn’t really had a solo opportunity to exercise his acting chops, at least not with a competent script. The Anvari project is technically not his first psychological thriller, but it would probably be the first one that’s, frankly speaking, good. The last time Hammer led a film entirely on his own was in Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro’s war film Mine, in which he portrays a lone US Marine sniper who has no choice by to remain stuck in the North African desert after stepping on a landmine. Hammer’s performance is fine despite the film’s messy tone, but it’s by no means memorable.
A reigniting of Hammer’s dramatic career came with Call Me By Your Name when the world was properly reintroduced a more serious, but infinitely more passionate side of him on screen. Oliver is one of the few characters he’s played that reawakens a sense of leading man potential. Hammer’s Vulture profile from November 2017 characterizes the experience working with Luca Guadagnino as “terrifying” in its commitment to portraying realness. It may have been the type of connection between a particular actor and director, but since the source material of Call Me By Your Name is equally affecting in its honesty, the entire process of making that movie must have had Hammer “spooked.”
Oliver in Call Me By Your Name is, in many ways, constantly petrified on screen — of his identity, of a burgeoning relationship, and of leaving it behind. It would be interesting to see that transposed into an actual horror or thriller film, especially knowing how Anvari blends grounded fears with supernatural ones in his directorial debut. Under the Shadow takes the terrors of restrictions and combines them with horror movie conventions in a display of fiction versus reality, and it’s about demonstrating the power of honesty in a genre that is filled with gimmicks and tricks.
So fear is imperative for Hammer especially, on screen and off. He was never a stranger to big-name directors, but since Call Me By Your Name Hammer’s career has been marked by a sensitivity and empathy to social consciousness. The Annapurna thriller — quickly greenlit due to his involvement; his potential — could, as a result, be the perfect next challenge for him.
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