'J. Edgar' star intrigued by mysteries behind FBI legend
Hammer plays pivotal role of Hoover's companion Tolson in Eastwood film
When it comes to his thinking about how he got his role in "J. Edgar," Armie Hammer considers himself to be a very lucky man. After all, it's not often where you star in a Best Picture Oscar nominee like "The Social Network" and have your next director -- and an iconic director at that with Clint Eastwood -- be oblivious to it.
In a way, you could almost say that Eastwood missed Hammer twice, considering he played two roles in the film -- that of twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
"On the second day of shooting he said to me, 'Hey, good job on that scene and by the way, I've been meaning to check out your movie 'The Social Network.' And I was like, 'You hadn't seen it? What am I doing here?'" Hammer recalled, laughing, during a recent interview. "He said, 'I liked your audition tape' and I was like, 'OK, sure!'"
In "J. Edgar," opening Friday in theaters nationwide, Eastwood presents J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) in epic fashion, as he chronicles the legendary G-Man's life and career through his almost 50 years building and asserting control over the FBI. Revered yet feared, Hoover in his reign through eight presidencies and three wars not only bent rules to keep America safe, but kept deep secrets to exert power and influence over authority over leading figures.
Not surprisingly, Hoover's personal life was as secret as his professional one, and the only man privy to both of them was Tolson. Not only was Tolson Hoover's No. 2 man and his closest confidant in the FBI; away from the bureau he was his constant companion for most of his life -- leading to the speculation of whether Hoover and Tolson's relationship was beyond platonic.
The interesting thing is, while the mystery surrounding Hoover's life required due diligence on behalf of DiCaprio, Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, even less is known about Tolson. In fact, Hammer even hired a private researcher to help him dig up all he could about the man.
"I went all J. Edgar Hoover on Clyde Tolson," Hammer said. "He's an incredibly complex and complicated character. He was more comfortable with himself and self-aware, and out, for the lack of a better term, than J. Edgar was."
Although history doesn't exactly confirm or deny the nature of Hoover and Tolson's relationship, for the purposes of the film and the script, Hammer played Tolson with the presumption that two were, in all likelihood, much more than close friends.
"He was very conflicted. He was living in a time that we now will never understand," Hammer said. "It was a time when you couldn't be yourself, especially in terms of being a homosexual. Today, if you come out of the closet -- especially if you live somewhere where people are a little more liberally-minded, you're celebrated. But imagine if people would have done that back then, it would have been very different in a lot of different ways."
Even he didn't know the full extent of Tolson's and Hoover's relationship, Hammer felt that in order to embody the character, he had step into Tolson's shoes and walk a decisive path.
"As an actor, I was given the opportunity to take some artistic licenses. I can say, 'I'm going to decide this and this is going to be what I think' and that was great," Hammer, 25, said. "I'm not claiming to conclusively know anything. I don't think anyone does. The people who say, 'No, they were strictly friends' don't know any more than the people who say, 'There was probably more to it.'"
Hammer did say, however, that in his research he found indications that "certainly pointed fingers at things."
"Hoover took a bunch of pictures of Clyde while he was sleeping," Hammer said. "That's a very interesting thing to be doing to a friend, to take pictures while he's sleeping.' It's one of things where we made conclusions, but more by connecting dots."
No matter how history blurs the lines between Hoover and Tolson's relationship, and no matter whether people today figure the pair to be heterosexual or homosexual, Hammer, who is straight, said the bottom line is that we all should be at a place in this point in time where it simply shouldn't matter whether or not if a person is gay.
"(After I took the role) people said, 'Did you worry about the gay thing? And I was like, 'Who cares?'" Hammer said. "That should be the new attitude."
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