Armie Hammer: talks up a Storm about Cars 3
The original Cars movie has always held a special place in Armie Hammer's heart.
In fact, the now 30-year-old actor probably knows the plot and dialogue of the 2006 Pixar movie better than most of today's teens. That's because he watched it over and over while living in Barcelona a decade ago.
"I was 19. It was my first time working internationally and I was in this little apartment with this little DVD player and the only DVD I had which would work in that region was Cars," he says down the phoneline from his home in Santa Monica, California. "I would invariably get home from work and put Cars in. I'd be cooking dinner while having it on the TV, stop and watch for a minute, go back about my business, stop and watch for a minuter, go back about my business. Basically, for a month-and-a-half, I watched it every single day."
So it was perhaps no surprise that when Pixar came calling him offering him a role in the latest Cars movie off their production line – Cars 3 – he jumped at the chance.
"My agent, as is his job, said, 'well let's talk about the role'. And I said, 'I don't care dude, I'm in the movie. Let's do this'."
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Naturally another factor was Pixar's continued run of box office success and critical acclaim, says Hammer.
"There has yet to be a studio or production company with the same sort of batting average," he enthuses. "And when you actually get the job with Pixar. they say, 'now you can come up to the campus [at California's Emeryville]' and you get to look behind the curtain– you get to see the wizard."
So what is the secret to their success then? "The thousands of people committing millions and millions of man hours to producing a fantastic film. This is a brains trust of people who, with very little effort, I'm pretty sure could land a rocket on Saturn and yet these are the geniuses making movies because they think the world needs them."
When asked what he brought to the part of Jackson Storm – a next generation car whose arrival threatens the career of the series' hero, Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen – Hammer says "not much".
"These guys are able to do so much more than I know I would ever be able to do if given unlimited time, unlimited technology and unlimited resources, so I recognised that it was my job in this to just stay out of their way and I do whatever I could to facilitate what exactly they needed from me. They are the ones with the vision and they know exactly what they are doing. Far be it from me to tell them how to do it better."
The Pixar team also made it clear that they didn't want Hammer to put on "a voice".
"It's for the same reason I think Lightning McQueen sounds exactly like Owen. Putting on a voice just adds another layer of inauthenticity. Being authentic is what they do so well – make characters that everyone can relate to."
Although he has worked on animated TV shows before, 2012 episodes of both The Simpsons and American Dad!, The Social Network and The Lone Ranger star says this was really his first "rodeo, as they say around here".
He admits he had to get used to recording by himself. "It was funny trying to work out exactly what to give them and to try to anticipate what they other characters were going to do in the scene. There was an adjustment period, but it was a lot of fun."
However, the world of car racing was something he was very familiar with. "My Dad used to race cars. He used to do a lot of dirt-track racing and stuff like that. Almost every weekend, when I was growing up in the Caymans [Islands] we would be at the racetrack."
Now, thanks to Cars 3, he's able to share his passion with his children.
"Yeah, I was able to take my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter [Harper, he also has a near-five-month-old son, Ford, with wife Elizabeth Chambers] to a premiere for the first time – mainly because I think she was slightly too young for Nocturnal Animals," he jokes. "We were in the movie and she went, 'Dada, that's your voice', and people started laughing.
"It was great getting to make a movie that my kids could be part of – not only experience, but also bump up against. One the perks of doing a Pixar job is they are not shy with the 'merch'. We got to go and see the real, life-sized cars at Disneyland and go on the rides and all that. It's a lot of fun as as parent being able to share this with my kids like that."
Of course another perk of working on a Pixar film is being able to work near home.
"Yeah, it's great and the entire time I was recording I wasn't wearing shoes and got to wear a t-shirt everyday. But then again, my life is doing this. My life is making movies and my kids' life is travelling with me, my wife's life is running her business and companies, as well as her own personal career. It's a unique way to go about it [raising a family], but you adapt. It's great – I wouldn't change it."
Cars 3 (G) opens in New Zealand cinemas on June 22.