December 31, 2010 / 7:06 PM / in 7 years

"Social Network" spells Hammer time for actor Armie

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They look so much alike in Oscar-hopeful film “The Social Network,” they could be one man, and in fact, they are. But what the Winklevoss twins share with the actor who plays them has less to do with looks and more with their privileged background.

<p>Actors Armie Hammer (L) and Max Minghella are shown in a scene from the film "The Social Network," in this undated publicity photograph. 24 year-old Armie Hammer, the great grandson of oil tycoon and philanthropist Armand Hammer, portrays both Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Howard Winklevoss in the film. REUTERS/Merrick Morton/ 2009 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. /Handout</p>

The actor, 24 year-old Armie Hammer, is the great grandson of oil tycoon and philanthropist Armand Hammer. He was blessed with good looks and a prominent family tree, like the Winklevoss’. But the similarities seem to stop there.

While the Winkelvoss twins, as portrayed in the movie, stuck to family traditions, attended Harvard University and became Olympic rowers. Hammer quit school, said hello to Hollywood and angered his family -- if only temporarily.

“I dropped out of high school and I dropped out of college because the movie industry was the only thing I wanted to be in,” Hammer told Reuters.

“I definitely got a speech that said, ‘You will be the first Hammer man to not graduate college, to not get a degree,'” he said. “But I didn’t have any interest in that.”

Hammer’s passion for acting has clearly come through in “Social Network,” because amid all the awards and box office buzz for the movie that traces the origins of Facebook, one consistent message circulating among Hollywood insiders is that Hammer is enjoying a breakthrough performance.

Industry players, the media, and audiences have been scratching their heads at just how one man played the two roles of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, who claimed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea when he founded the website and, in the process, became a billionaire.

Hammer said a typical day would involve him shooting a scene playing Cameron Winklevoss with a body double, Josh Pence, standing-in as Tyler.

After director David Fincher was satisfied with the main scene, Hammer would change costume, hairstyles and makeup and be transformed into Tyler to perform the scene again, alone. This time, the camera focused only on his face and in editing, his head would be digitally superimposed on Pence’s body.

OVERCOMING TRADITION

In the movie, Cameron is portrayed as initially not wanting to press a legal claim against Zuckerberg out of deference to Harvard tradition, while Tyler is less enamored of that notion. They argue, but eventually Tyler sides with Cameron. Of the twins, Hammer’s favorite to play was Cameron.

“I appreciated Cameron’s sense of chivalry and that he wanted to be a gentleman,” Hammer said. “I think that’s becoming more obsolete in the 21st century. But it was fun to play Tyler and fly off the handle.”

Hammer said he was so involved in his dual roles that he truly believed Zuckerberg “stole from us,” but now that he has distanced himself, he believes all the key players in real life probably did wrong things and no one person is to blame.

Time, distance and success also have given Hammer and his parents a different perspective on his decision to become an actor. While he spent his first year in Hollywood without landing any work, his next few years brought guest roles on shows like “Veronica Mars” and “Desperate Housewives.”

In 2007, he earned a big break when he was cast as crime fighting superhero Batman in the DC Comic book adaptation, “Justice League,” but before the movie began filming, it was halted due to Hollywood’s screenwriter strike.

But Hammer believes “everything happens for a reason,” and he may be right. Soon after that job ended, he won the role of evangelist Billy Graham in the 2008 independent film “Billy: The Early Years,” and only four weeks before shooting began on “Social Network” he got a call from Fincher.

The director, it seemed, could not find a pair of tall, identical twins for the Winklevoss roles. So, he began looking for a technology fix and opened auditions to individuals.

Now, Hammer is better known in Hollywood for “Social Network” than his family’s name. He married TV journalist Elizabeth Chambers this year, and is planning their future.

“I‘m very proud of my heritage but I would like to establish my own family, my own kids and my own legacy,” he said. “I hope it has nothing to do with a last name but everything to do with the person.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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