But sometimes it still seems like there are two Armies. There’s Armie, the Hollywood golden boy, whose breakout role — as the litigation-happy Facebook also-rans — garnered serious Oscar talk. Whose screen-idol good looks draw regular comparisons to Old Hollywood icons like Gary Cooper. Whose casting in the Prince Charming role in the Julia Roberts–led Snow White adaptation, Mirror Mirror, elicited a collective reaction of, “Duh.” Who, as Clyde Tolson in J. Edgar, went toe-to-toe (and lip-to-lip) with Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar Hoover, with Hammer playing the right-hand man and rumored lover of the FBI chief.
And then there’s Armie, the dedicated small-business owner, who’s concerned about the shortage of inventory due to an exceptionally high number of custom orders this weekend. Who, in the midst of telling a story from his childhood, stops to detail the ingredients of the bakery’s Monster cookie: “They were very supportive parents, but at the same time, they knew — so these are gluten-free. No refined sugar in them, a third of the butter you put in normal cookies. It’s oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate. And the only thing in there that’s not all-natural are the M&Ms.”
On the Lone Ranger: “I ended up doing so much of my own stunts, which was really fun.”
Armie was always supposed to be in business, though his family probably never imagined butter content playing such a significant role in his endeavors. Then again, Armie’s done a lot that his family never saw coming. He was born into privilege, the great-grandson of Occidental Petroleum tycoon and philanthropist Armand Hammer. His dad did things like run a film-production house and open a Christian school and radio station in the Cayman Islands. That’s where Armie, barefoot and long-haired, spent his formative years, getting around by dirt bike and cutting down mangos when he got hungry. It’s also where he fell in love with movies.
“We were living on an island, and that’s where most people think, ‘That’s where I want to escape to,’ ” he says. “But when you’re there all the time, you think, ‘I want to go somewhere else.’ So movies were the thing for me. It allowed me to go on a trip in my head for two hours and just be, like, ‘I’m on an asteroid!’ ”
But more than just watching them, Armie wanted to act in them, to direct them. He got the idea from a dream he had when he was 11, in which he played Macaulay Culkin’s role in Home Alone. Before long, he was elevating childhood playtime with his buddies from simple make-believe sessions to mini movie shoots.
“I always had a camera, and I’d tell my friends, ‘Alright, you’re this kind of guy, and you’re this kind of guy. Go!’ And they’d be, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I’d be, like, ‘Just talk to each other! Like your characters!’ ” he remembers, shaking his head. “Nobody ever appreciated my directorial genius.”
His acting ambitions weren’t received much better, either. When the family moved back to Los Angeles, where Armie had been born, the then-13-year-old pushed his parents to let him go on auditions. Save for one casting call for a Shake ’N Bake commercial, he was told no. Any screen work, they said, would have to wait until he was an adult.
“My dad wanted us to do what he did,” he says, “which is go to college, go to graduate school, get an MBA, go work for the family, start at the bottom, work your way up. And then do it again with your sons.”
No question, Armie loved to learn. Still does. It shows, too: At 26, he’s just as likely to drop the Socratic paradox into conversation as he is to quote a line from the Will Ferrell NASCAR flick, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Learning was never the problem; school was. He got teased — for his name; for his hair; for being too short, and then, after his late growth spurt, too tall — and hopped around from private school to private school. Finally, during his junior year, he dropped out.