For the vast majority of humanity, January 1, 2021—a year into the coronavirus pandemic, when most of the world remained under some form of lockdown and vaccines were not yet widely available—brought little to celebrate. Not for Armie Hammer.
The actor, great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer, had many reasons for optimism. The previous summer, Hammer and his wife of 10 years, Bird Bakery founder Elizabeth Chambers, had announced what appeared to be their amicable separation on Instagram, and over the months that followed, Hammer was photographed alongside a succession of beautiful young women.
In October, Variety reported that Hammer—first catapulted to stardom for playing the Winklevoss twins in the hit 2010 movie The Social Network—would take over for Ryan Reynolds as Jennifer Lopez’s love interest in the romantic action-comedy Shotgun Wedding. A few weeks later, he was cast as producer Al Ruddy in The Offer, a limited series about the making of The Godfather. Also on Hammer’s calendar was Gaslit, a mini-series about Watergate starring Sean Penn and Julia Roberts, in which he would play Nixon White House counsel John Dean, as well as The Minutes, on Broadway.
It was on the cusp of undertaking this professionally ambitious and artistically diverse slate of projects that Hammer issued a defiant message to the world via Twitter. “2021 is going to kneel down before me and kiss my feet because this year I’m the boss of my own year,” he declared.
Nine days later, Hammer’s name began trending on the social-media site. “On a global scale,” he told me late last year. “Punjabi newspapers. Things from Estonia. It was coming from everywhere.”
But not for the sort of reason anyone would want. An anonymous Instagram account entitled “House of Effie” was posting screenshots of what appeared to be direct messages sent by Hammer describing sexual fantasies involving rape, bodily mutilation, and, most disquietingly, cannibalism.
In a series of posts, the eponymous “Effie” claimed that she had been in a relationship with Hammer for four years, and that she was one of several women with whom the actor had had an extramarital affair. She also intimated that the activities described in his messages were more than just fantasies. “Women approached me with their affair stories as we talked, overwhelmed with grief, for days and nights without sleeping or eating, with some ending up in the ER,” Effie wrote.
In his decade-plus career, Hammer has played a wide variety of characters, from Leonardo DiCaprio’s love interest, F.B.I. assistant director Clyde Tolson, in the Clint Eastwood–directed J. Edgar, to the Lone Ranger, opposite Johnny Depp. After several attempts at reaching leading-man status met with failure at the box office (The Lone Ranger, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Hammer seemed to have found a new calling in independent cinema, winning critical acclaim alongside Timothée Chalamet in the 2017 breakout hit Call Me by Your Name. In the months following Effie’s explosive allegations, however, Hammer would be cast in a role for which no amount of rehearsal could prepare him: protagonist in a sordid tale that was equal parts Fifty Shades of Grey and The Silence of the Lambs.
On January 13, Hammer announced that he had dropped out of Shotgun Wedding. “I’m not responding to these bullshit claims but in light of the vicious and spurious online attacks against me, I cannot in good conscience now leave my children for 4 months to shoot a film in the Dominican Republic,” he said in his first and only public statement about the allegations.
If Hammer had hoped that his pulling out of a high-profile project would put an end to the matter, he was wrong. The following day, Courtney Vucekovich, a beauty-app developer who had briefly dated Hammer in the summer of 2020, opened up to the Daily Mail about how he had manipulated her into his “master-slave fetishes.” “He was really into saying he wants to break one of your ribs and eat it. Like barbecue it and eat it,” she told the British tabloid. “In terms of the BDSM [bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism] stuff, he made that pretty clear that it is something he is interested in very early on in the relationship and he referenced breaking my ribs often.” The New York Post checked in with the so-called cannibal cop, the N.Y.P.D. officer busted in 2013 for sharing his cannibalism fetishes on the Internet, so that he could “pass the torch” to Hammer.
On January 25, a 22-year-old Instagram influencer named Paige Lorenze, another woman Hammer had dated after separating from his wife, told the New York Post’s Page Six that Hammer had carved the letter A near her vagina with a knife, licked the wound, proposed “consuming her,” and told her that he wanted to eat one of her ribs. “I thought he was kidding,” Lorenze said. “It didn’t register to me this was something he was serious about until he brought it up multiple times and seeing other women come out with the same thing. And then it was like, ‘Wow, this is really scary.’” In a subsequent interview with the Daily Mail, Lorenze said that the incision was “about an inch” deep, engraved with “the whole tip of the blade.”
A lawyer for Hammer denied the allegations. “These assertions about Mr. Hammer are patently untrue,” he said in a statement issued in January 2021 to Us Weekly. “Any interactions with this person, or any partner of his, were completely consensual.” This explanation, however, was to no avail, and Hammer was forced to exit The Offer. The following week, Hammer’s talent agency, W.M.E., dropped him.
By this point, Hammer had become a punch line, his name indelibly linked with the depraved activity that National Geographic terms “the ultimate taboo.” When, at the end of January 2021, a set of human remains was discovered in Wonder Valley, California, a group of Internet sleuths tried to implicate Hammer, citing the fact that he had been working construction on a friend’s hotel project in an area near where the remains were found. The speculation became so feverish that the local police were compelled to release a statement clearing the actor of suspicion.
As Hammer took a pummeling in the press, his estranged wife, Chambers, maintained a conspicuous silence, her only comment being a terse “No. Words” written in reply to an Instagram post announcing the production of Bones and All, a cannibalism-themed horror film starring Chalamet, from Luca Guadagnino, the director of Call Me by Your Name.
On February 1, some three weeks after Hammer’s name began trending on Twitter, Chambers issued her first public statement, via Instagram. Accompanying a photograph of a beach in the Cayman Islands, where she was residing with the couple’s two young children, Chambers professed to be “shocked, heartbroken, and devastated” at what the world had discovered about her husband. “Heartbreak aside, I am listening, and will continue to listen and educate myself on these delicate matters. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know.” Later that month, Page Six reported that Hammer and Chambers had sold their $5 million Los Angeles home after slashing the price by $800,000, and that Hammer had moved out “in the dead of night.”
On March 18, 2021, the Los Angeles Police Department announced an investigation into Hammer for sexual assault. And on the same day, the well-known feminist lawyer Gloria Allred hosted a live-streamed press conference in which she announced that she had taken on Effie as a client. In a pre-recorded statement, Effie made a series of disturbing allegations. “On April 24, 2017, Armie Hammer violently raped me for over four hours in Los Angeles, during which he repeatedly slapped my head against a wall, bruising my face,” she said through tears.
“He also committed other acts of violence against me to which I did not consent,” she went on. “For example, he beat my feet with a crop so they would hurt with every step I took for the next week. During those four hours I tried to get away but he wouldn’t let me. I thought that he was going to kill me.” For years, Effie said, she “lived in fear” of Hammer, and while she had “tried so hard to justify his actions” at the time, she had since “come to understand that the immense mental hold he had over me was very damaging on many levels.”
Effie’s charges intensified the case against Hammer. No longer was he a guy with creepy (if legal) sexual fetishes. Now he was a rapist, the perpetrator of unspeakable acts of violence. Soon, Hammer was booted from Billion Dollar Spy, the last film on his slate.
Following Effie’s explosive allegations, Hammer would be cast in a role for which no amount of rehearsal could prepare him: protagonist in a sordid tale that was equal parts Fifty Shades of Grey and The Silence of the Lambs.
Still, the onslaught of accusations continued. At the end of April, an artist named Julia Morrison published a series of private conversations she claimed to have had with Hammer over Instagram in 2020, in which he talked about wanting to make each of his sexual partners into his “own personal little slave” and “having someone prove their love and devotion [by] tying them up in a public place at night and making their body free use.” Morrison minted the conversations as “the first #MeToo NFT,” pledging to donate a portion of the proceeds to women’s charities. “I chose this exchange to signify the relationship between extreme wealth, privilege, predation, and abuse of power,” Morrison wrote in her artist’s statement. “Eat the rich. For real.”
While Hammer’s devoted fan base tried to parry the accusations against him, there was little they could do to stem the damage to his reputation. The Zeitgeist had formed: Hammer was a violent sexual predator, a rapist with a hankering for human flesh. It didn’t help matters that a vocal portion of the Internet, epitomized by the viral 2017 BuzzFeed article “Ten Long Years of Trying to Make Armie Hammer Happen,” was primed to revel in his downfall. A Vanity Fair piece putting the allegations from his accusers within the context of his troubled familial past—“The Fall of Armie Hammer: A Family Saga of Sex, Money, Drugs, and Betrayal”—was the magazine’s most read article of 2021.
Over the past two years, Effie has used her popular Instagram account as a clearinghouse for attacks on Hammer and anyone who would associate with him. In one April 2021 post, for instance, she boasted of having pressured The Late Late Show into removing all content featuring Hammer from its YouTube channel. Last December, she lashed out at Robert Downey Jr., who reportedly paid for Hammer’s rehab. “@robertdowneyjr I pray that another man does to your daughters what Armie did to me 🙏.” Effie posted a similar message to Hammer’s lawyer Blair Berk, who has represented other celebrities accused of sexual misconduct, including Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp. Asked by a follower about her “biggest fear,” Effie responded, “That A[rmie] or his family will eventually retaliate and kill me.”
As for Hammer, whenever his name surfaces in the press today, it’s as an object of voyeurism, ridicule, or both. Last summer, photographs posted on TMZ of Hammer selling time-shares in the Caymans provided fodder for a fresh round of Schadenfreude: the disgraced actor, a man born to great wealth, reduced to consorting with the plebs. In October, Us Weekly reported that American Express had filed suit against the actor—whose net worth the previous year was estimated at $10 million—for $67,000 in unpaid credit-card debt.
Other than Dakota Johnson, his co-star in the 2019 movie Wounds, who decried his becoming a victim of “cancel culture” (comments which drew immediate backlash online), none of the many people with whom he’s worked in the industry defended him. And even Johnson has effectively recanted, making Hammer the butt of a joke about cannibalism while presenting the International Icon award to Luca Guadagnino at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. When Disney released a series of individual-character posters to promote Kenneth Branagh’s 2022 Death on the Nile remake, Hammer’s was conspicuously missing.
The saga of Armie Hammer reads like the logline of a #MeToo horror story: rich and famous actor, scion of a family steeped in privilege, physically abuses weak and vulnerable women to satiate his sadomasochistic sexual desires, up to and including torture, branding, and cannibalism. It’s a tale as twisted as the brood from which Hammer descends, a clan notorious for its greed, corruption, and sense of entitlement. It would make a captivating film, though a great deal of dramatic license would be necessary. For the most arresting aspect of the narrative that has formed about Armie Hammer, and the swiftness with which it has shaped events, is how little scrutiny these shocking allegations have received.
“I Don’t Like Who I’m Becoming”
In October 2016, Hammer received a Facebook message from a young Bulgarian woman named Effie asking him to endorse a charity supporting children with special needs. (Hammer has an autistic cousin.) After his attempts at gleaning more information from her about the organization were met with meandering responses, Hammer says, he told Effie that he would have to desist communicating with her because “having casual conversations with a girl online would make my life really difficult.” To this, he says, Effie responded, “I used to work in a dungeon, and I totally understand how discretion works.” (An inquiry sent to the charity for which Effie claimed to volunteer was not answered.)
Hammer compares his reaction to hearing this odd bit of biographical information to a submerged beach ball exploding upward. “Human behavior is like a beach ball,” he explains. “Your beach ball is who you are. It’s how much you like to drink, how much you like to smoke, how much you like to have sex, how much you need to sleep at night.”
“And you can take your beach ball and push it underwater and hold it there,” he says, “either for a religious institution or for another person or for whatever, and you can hold that beach ball down there for a while. But eventually that beach ball is going to slip. And that beach ball does not gently rise to the surface. It shoots way up in the air.” When Effie told him that she used to work in a sex club, Hammer says, “my beach ball slipped, and it just shot way up into the air. It probably wasn’t a week later that I had been messaging [her] a lot, like throughout the day, and it got extremely explicit.”
The pair met in Los Angeles and began what he describes as a torrid affair. According to Hammer, what Effie would later describe as rape was a “scene” that the two planned out meticulously in advance via conversations over Facebook Messenger. Hammer claims that these messages, which he had since deleted, would exonerate him, and that his lawyers have tried to subpoena them from Meta to no avail. “If I still had these messages, I would have been able to put this to bed in .5 seconds,” he says. “This alleged rape was a scene that was her idea. She planned all of the details out, all the way down to what Starbucks I would see her at, how I would follow her home, how her front door would be open and unlocked and I would come in, and we would engage in what is called a ‘consensual non-consent scene,’ CNC.” Hammer says that, while he and Effie had sex multiple times, “we only had one, scheduled CNC event,” and that Effie introduced him to the practice.
The issue of sexual consent has become more prominent in recent years as a result of the #MeToo movement. It’s even more complicated in B.D.S.M. relationships, where dominance, power, and the feigning of forced activity are intrinsic to the experience and part of the thrill. Hammer claims that in each of his sexual encounters, and at every stage, consent was asked for and received. “Every single thing was discussed beforehand,” he says. “I have never thrust this on someone unexpectedly. Never.”
“That’s a very important part of the B.D.S.M. world,” he continues. “The consent. Because you’re doing things that are pushing envelopes. You’re doing things that are beyond the [realm of] ‘Let’s have missionary sex with the lights off.’ You have to have that trust. You have to have that vulnerability with someone. You have to have that aspect of ‘I am willingly giving my control over to this person,’” he says, adding, “You know, the sub [the submissive partner] is the one who actually has all the power. Always. They’re the ones who can say ‘stop’ at any moment. They’re the ones who set the boundaries.”
According to Hammer, his affair with Effie lasted until the summer of 2017. Hammer says that while he never considered the relationship to be anything other than sexual in nature, Effie harbored hopes of his leaving Chambers for her. “I think she just realized that my marriage was always going to be in the way of us being together,” he says, “and so she called me one day and said, ‘I’m going to tell your wife.’” Hammer pleaded with Effie to reconsider, and after arguing back and forth, she decided to wait 24 hours so that he could warn Chambers in advance.
“I don’t like who I’m becoming,” Hammer confessed to his wife. “I’m fucked up every single day, all day. I’m miserable, I’m unhappy, and I’m having an affair. And I don’t know how to stop any of these things, and I can’t do this alone. I need your help.” Chambers, he said, “took it really poorly, which is fair.” And things only got worse, according to Hammer, when Effie forwarded Chambers some of the salacious messages he had sent to her over the previous year.
That Hammer was able to hide his addictions from the world, his industry colleagues, and even his closest friends is a perverse testament to his skills as an actor. “Armie was super-functional, high-performative,” says his childhood friend Nick Delli Santi, who works in real estate, “in what has turned out to be the lowest of lowest moments that we weren’t even really aware of.”
A Dark Episode
“If someone came up to me and gave me a magic lamp and said, ‘There’s a genie in here, but it only gives you one wish. If you rub this lamp, the genie will come out and take you back two years in the past, and you could undo all of this,’ I wouldn’t do it,” Hammer told me. We were in Los Angeles, where he was caring for his ailing father, Michael. For an erstwhile movie star who had lost his wealth, his reputation, and his career in a matter of weeks, Hammer seemed remarkably at peace.
That sense of equanimity is due largely to his entering rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, at the end of May 2021. “I’m now grateful for everything that’s happened to me, because, as it says in the ‘Twelve and Twelve’ [Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the guidebook of Alcoholics Anonymous], pain is the touchstone of spiritual progress,” Hammer says. “I’m now a healthier, happier, more balanced person. I’m able to be there for my kids in a way I never was. I’m able to be there for my dad as he’s dying in a way that I would have never been able to be. I’m truly grateful for my life and my recovery and everything. I would not go back and undo everything that’s happened to me.” (Michael Hammer died on November 20, three weeks after my interview with his son.)
Hammer realizes how strange it must sound for him to say that he wouldn’t trade his current existence as an unemployed object of international ridicule for the ostensibly charmed life he once led. But as he sees it, without the changes forced by his very public humiliation, he would still be stuck in an unhappy marriage, leading an out-of-control lifestyle rife with drug abuse, alcoholism, and sex addiction. He would still be seeking out relationships with women that, while intensely emotional and sexually gratifying, were ultimately harmful to both parties. And, most importantly, he would not be the father that his children need him to be.
To explain the origins of his interest in B.D.S.M., Hammer returns to a dark episode from his childhood, a subject he has never discussed publicly. At the age of 13, Hammer says, a youth pastor at the church his family attended sexually abused him for a period lasting nearly a year. “What that did for me was it introduced sexuality into my life in a way that it was completely out of my control,” he recalls. “I was powerless in the situation. I had no agency in the situation. My interests then went to: I want to have control in the situation, sexually.”
Hammer has discussed his interest in rough sex before, telling Playboy a decade ago that, before marrying Chambers, “I liked the grabbing of the neck and the hair and all that. But then you get married and your sexual appetites change. And I mean that for the better—it’s not like I’m suffering in any way. But you can’t really pull your wife’s hair. It gets to a point where you say, ‘I respect you too much to do these things that I kind of want to do.” (Hammer later professed to having been drunk during this interview.) A hint that the married actor’s sexual interests still strayed from the vanilla came in 2017, when it was reported that he followed a number of Twitter accounts devoted to shibari, a Japanese style of erotic bondage involving ropes.
But it was only through the therapy that he entered after the scandal broke that Hammer drew the connection between his adult interest in B.D.S.M. and his childhood trauma. At the time the abuse was happening, Hammer told his parents that the pastor made him vaguely uncomfortable, without getting into details. “This is a man of God” is how Hammer characterizes their reaction. “How dare you say these kinds of things? He wants to give you attention, and that’s nice.” Hammer’s mother, Dru Ann Mobley, is a staunch Christian; in an interview with Dr. Oz, Paige Lorenze said that Mobley told her that Hammer had “demonic behaviors” and that “the devil was trying to take him.”
At the time, Hammer says, he told only two people about the abuse: an older friend (who has since died) and his godmother, Candace Garvey (who corroborated his account).
According to Hammer, the sexual abuse he endured as a young boy “set a dangerous precedent in my life.” As a result of that experience, Hammer says that his “sexual interests became about being in control, because being out of control was very dangerous for me and very uncomfortable.” Hammer insists that this notion of “being in control” does not manifest as a compulsion to be violent with women; he’s adamant that he never engaged in non-consensual sex with any of his partners. Nor, he says, does he derive pleasure from the idea of it.
“The whole point of this is mutual pleasure,” he explains of the sexual practices that have inspired so much lurid fascination and mockery. “If you’re engaged in some sort of sexual act with someone and they’re not enjoying themselves, for me, I’m not enjoying myself. When two people are engaged in something, especially an intense scene, the symbiosis of it is what makes it magical. If one person’s not enjoying it and you feel that energy, maybe there are people who enjoy that, but that’s not me. I get so much pleasure giving someone pleasure.”
Hammer met Chambers when he was 19 and married her three years later, which meant that he had few opportunities to explore this aspect of his sexuality. “Had I had more aggressive sex [before meeting Chambers]? Yeah,” he acknowledges. “Had I spanked people, or anything [at the] surface of B.D.S.M.? Yes. But I had never got to planning out and executing ‘scenes,’ as they’re called.”
An Imbalance of Power
Nearly two years after the then 24-year-old woman known as “Effie”—since identified as Efrosina Angelova—alleged that Armie Hammer had raped her, new evidence has emerged that demands greater attention.
First there are her own conflicting statements about the nature of their sexual relationship. In the fall of 2017, after Hammer disclosed that he had had an affair to his wife, Angelova and Chambers began engaging in D.M. conversations over Instagram. In these conversations, obtained exclusively by AIR MAIL, Angelova says in one apologetic message, “I was pretty much chasing him.” She further told Chambers that “he kept saying he was married and couldn’t do this and how he’s never cheated in so many years of marriage and would feel absolutely terrible if he started and I kept pursuing him. He kept blocking me. So I kept trying and I shouldn’t have.”
On January 8, 2021, two days before going public with her initial accusations, Angelova shared a D.M. to an Instagram follower that stated the sex she had with Hammer was “consensual,” that he was “such an amazing Daddy,” and that he “is not dangerous. He didn’t rape anyone.” The following day, asked by another follower if she had “legal representation,” she responded, “I’m not saying he raped me, no need for legal rep.” (Angelova did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and blocked me on Instagram after I sent her a detailed list of questions.)
Then there is the question of whether Hammer would have been physically capable of performing the acts of which Effie accused him. In early January 2017, Hammer seriously injured his pectoral muscle while lifting weights. The injury, which required emergency surgery and left Hammer in a sling for about a month, was sufficiently serious as to make him fear for the future of his career.
One of the doctors who treated Hammer tells me that “the rehabilitation from an injury like this would be measured … realistically probably in the realm of four to six months.” Medical records provided by Hammer indicate that he attended physical-therapy sessions on April 26 and 28 of 2017, two and four days after he allegedly committed a violent rape that lasted for more than four continuous hours. It would not be until the following June that he was able to start lifting weights again.
Though Hammer ended the sexual aspect of their relationship in the summer of 2017, he says he maintained on-and-off communication with her via text for the next three years. “Sometimes I would make plans to see her but then panic about getting caught and then ghost her,” he says. “That happened a few times over the course of us talking. And it infuriated her. I think it’s important that I own that. It’s a shitty thing to do.”
Angelova, though she later wrote on Instagram that she had wanted “to move to Antarctica to escape him,” appeared not to have moved on. In October 2017, six months after the alleged rape, she followed Hammer to the London premiere of Call Me by Your Name. In video taken that day from the red carpet, she can be seen standing behind Hammer in the crowd. The following September, Angelova took a road trip through Italy and stopped in Crema, the picturesque village where the film was shot. While there, she tracked down Guadagnino and posed with the director for a selfie.
In December 2018, Hammer requested that the security team at a luxury hotel in London bar her from the premises while he was conducting a publicity tour for On the Basis of Sex, the biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in which he played the late Supreme Court justice’s husband. The following spring, Angelova traveled to the Cannes Film Festival, where she met up with a group of other Hammer fans expecting to see the actor, and she tracked him down in Nice, where he was shooting the film Rebecca.
Without the changes in his personal life forced by his very public professional humiliation, he would still be stuck in an unhappy marriage, leading an out-of-control lifestyle rife with drug abuse, alcoholism, and sex addiction.
When Angelova first made her accusations, Hammer’s lawyer Andrew Brettler contacted multiple media outlets with text messages she had sent to his client. (The exchanges that she posted to Instagram showed only messages from Hammer.) Dated July 18, 2020—more than three years after the alleged rape—the sexually explicit messages show Angelova telling Hammer, “I’m craving you.” Only the Daily Mail chose to publish them, and in heavily redacted form. The unexpurgated exchange is below:
Reportedly, almost two years after accusing Hammer of rape in a televised press conference watched by millions around the world, Angelova has yet to sign an affidavit swearing to her allegations, which may have been one of the reasons why Gloria Allred dropped her as a client last fall. (Allred declined to comment for this story.) According to Hammer, Angelova never initiated legal proceedings against him.
When it comes to the other women who have accused Hammer of impropriety (none of whom have filed criminal charges against him), things are more complicated.
“He quickly grooms you in the relationship,” Courtney Vucekovich told Page Six, employing the term commonly used to describe how child sexual predators manipulate their underage victims. “He kind of captivates you and while being charming, he’s grooming you for these things that are darker and heavier and consuming.” Describing “a bondage scenario that I was not comfortable with” to Vanity Fair, she explained that while trying to persuade her to participate, Hammer acted “cold and angry” until she “eventually consented and really regretted doing so.” When I ask Hammer about the incident to which Vucekovich referred, a bondage scene involving ropes, he tells me, “We did that multiple times, and she never once objected.” (Vucekovich declined to be interviewed for this story.)
As for Hammer’s supposed cannibal fetish, Vucekovich appears to have been a willing participant in the sexting. Today, sheared of sensationalistic headlines, and viewed in their full context, the messages are merely cringe-inducing:
Paige Lorenze, the Instagram influencer who accused Hammer of using a knife to carve the letter A near her vagina without waiting for her verbal consent, told the Daily Mail that the cut was “about an inch” deep. According to Hammer, he asked for and received Lorenze’s permission to use a knife to lightly trace his initial on her skin. While there may have been a small trickle of blood, he claims that all he left was a scrape.
Lorenze has also offered a differing account of her relationship with Hammer. In a December 28, 2020, podcast appearance—a few weeks after breaking up with Hammer and less than a month before she made her allegations—Lorenze called Hammer “really great.” (Lorenze would not speak to AIR MAIL on the record for this story.)
In his relationships with Vucekovich and Lorenze, Hammer acknowledges that “the power dynamics were off” and that he should have been more cognizant of how his fame complicated the increasingly thorny question of consent. “I would have these younger women in their mid-20s, and I’m in my 30s. I was a successful actor at the time. They could have been happy to just be with me and would have said yes to things that maybe they wouldn’t have said yes to on their own. That’s an imbalance of power in the situation.”
When I ask Nick Delli Santi to describe his friend’s ability to woo younger women, he corrects me. “Not even young women. It’s grown men. It’s anybody,” he says. “The Armie charm and appeal—it’s real, and I’ve witnessed it myself. He remembers every name of anybody he’s worked with. Obviously, cast is one thing, but crew is another. He remembers that their kid was going to college. He makes you feel very special.”
“I had a very intense and extreme lifestyle,” Hammer says, “and I would scoop up these women, bring them into it—into this whirlwind of travel and sex and drugs and big emotions flying around—and then as soon as I was done, I’d just drop them off and move on to the next woman, leaving that woman feeling abandoned or used.” Asked if it’s fair to say that he was emotionally abusive to his accusers, he replies, “One million percent.”
To syndicated sex-and-relationships columnist Dan Savage, such encounters illustrate “the severe complications of being rich, famous and kinky. You can’t put that on Tinder, because TMZ’s gonna come find you. It’s like kinky famous people today are where gay famous people were a generation or two ago. Rock Hudson couldn’t be publicly gay even well into the 1980s.” The situation Savage describes is made even more complex when those kinks involve B.D.S.M., with its attendant domination over others. “Just getting consent—getting a yes—and ticking that box isn’t enough, as someone might consent to your kinks not because they’re appealing to them, but because they’re attracted to fame and power,” he says.
“If you discard them in two months—and that was your plan all along,” Savage continues, “they will look back on that sexual activity that they consented to and feel very violated. Genuinely violated and, even worse, they may feel complicit in their own violation, because they said yes. This doesn’t get Armie Hammer off the hook. We weren’t there. Was Armie Hammer knowingly leveraging his power and fame in these relationships to get consent? I’m not sure anyone who isn’t Hammer can know that for sure. Hammer might not even know it for sure.”
Some of Hammer’s friends warned him that being a famous actor with a penchant for B.D.S.M. dating younger, infatuated women might bring trouble. “I remember a friend of ours suggested to him that he get NDAs and consent forms” from the women he dated, says Hammer’s longtime personal trainer, Ryan Farhoudi. “We knew what sort of incendiary sexual behavior Armie was into.” According to Hammer’s close friend, artist Tyler Ramsey, Hammer’s drug and alcohol abuse, combined with sex addiction, made some form of public humiliation inevitable. “In many ways, it was unavoidable. He really deserved to be embarrassed,” Ramsey says.
Hammer does not expect or want to be absolved of blame. “I’m here to own my mistakes, take accountability for the fact that I was an asshole, that I was selfish, that I used people to make me feel better, and when I was done, moved on. And treated people more poorly than they should have been treated.”
Almost two years after accusing Hammer of rape, Efrosina Angelova has reportedly refused to sign an affidavit swearing to her allegations, which may have been one of the reasons why Gloria Allred dropped her as a client.
Julia Morrison, the artist who minted her Instagram exchange with Hammer as an NFT in order “to reclaim autonomy and truth for all survivors of sexual assault, humiliation, degradation, and abuse,” acknowledges that she never actually met Hammer (which stopped neither the New York Post nor New York magazine from referring to her, respectively, as an “ex” and a “former girlfriend”). Nonetheless, Morrison asserted in her artist statement that “I am certain that he would have hurt me” because “he is a predator, plain and simple.”
Regarding the authenticity of the messages, Morrison stated that “there’s not a single word that’s been exchanged that’s been deleted.” That assertion might be literally true in the sense that the conversation she publicized was not altered. But what she included in her NFT was only a portion of a much longer sexually explicit exchange, obtained by Air Mail, in which Morrison told Hammer, “i really want to be tied up,” and, “i an [sic] going to become your sex slave.” She also messaged him a picture from the Instagram account @godzdntdie of a Barbie doll bound with twine, hanging from a rear-view mirror.
Morrison features prominently in a three-part documentary, House of Hammer, which appeared on Discovery+ last year. The docuseries purports to explain the former star’s maltreatment of women as something of a genetic by-product, traceable throughout multiple generations of Hammer men behaving badly. “We are trying to link present-day actions of Armie Hammer back to a lineage of this dynastic family and how they operate through power and privilege,” the film’s co-director Julian Hobbs told the Los Angeles Times. In one scene, House of Hammer showed a photo, provided by Vucekovich, supposedly illustrating a bite mark Hammer had left on her body. Shortly after the series debuted, the image was revealed to have been a photograph of a tattoo found on Pinterest. (It has since been removed from the show.)
House of Hammer relies heavily upon the testimony of another figure who has shaped the mainstream-media narrative about Armie Hammer: his estranged aunt, Casey. According to Hammer, he has not seen his late father’s sister in some 15 years, nor can he recall having spent any time alone with her at any point in his life. That’s because Casey fell out with Michael Hammer in the early 1990s, when the death of their grandfather Armand sparked an ugly battle among his grandchildren over his estate. (In her 2015 memoir, she accused her father, Julian, of having sexually abused her, a memory that she says she recovered in adulthood with the help of her therapist.)
This long absence from her nephew’s life has not stopped Casey from posing as an authority on him and “the victims that he’s left in his path.” Or from potentially profiting from the scandal; as she herself told Vanity Fair, “I’m going to walk into WME [William Morris Entertainment] and I’m going to tell them, ‘You got rid of the bad Hammer. Now how about you take the good one.’”
A Psycho-Legal Evaluation
Finally, there is the part played by Hammer’s estranged wife, Elizabeth Chambers. Last September, Chambers sat down for an interview with E! in which she struck a conciliatory note about her ex. Hammer, she said, was “in a really great place” with his recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. He was trying to be “the best father, the best person he can be.” Hammer, she said, “has been focused on his healing,” and she was “here to support that process.” (According to Hammer, although Chambers filed for divorce in the summer of 2020, she has yet to sign their divorce agreement.)
The day after the E! interview aired, Angelova posted screenshots of messages Chambers allegedly sent her that appear to show Chambers coordinating with Angelova to attack Hammer. “I so appreciate everything you’re doing and you are truly leading what I hope will be a revolution, but everything needs to be legal for it to have any weight,” Chambers wrote. “We just need statements and charges pressed. I have an idea when you have a moment to jump on a call.” (Chambers did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.)
Chambers expressed the hope that Angelova’s campaign would help her win custody of the couple’s two children. “I really need custody of my precious children. Do you think you could make a declaration this week? It will all be private.” In a further communication, Chambers allegedly told Angelova that she could help put Hammer in jail. “He’s hurting ppl here. Needs to be locked up.” Angelova also published a message in which Chambers sent her Gloria Allred’s e-mail address.
Last fall, CNN reported that Chambers had used a friend’s e-mail account to pose as the friend while contacting media outlets, alleging, among other things, that Hammer had abandoned his children in the Cayman Islands to pursue an affair with Lily James, his co-star in Rebecca. The friend also shared a screenshot of a text message with Page Six, in which Chambers instructed her to “get back to commenting and sending tips.” According to the friend, who asked to remain anonymous, though she initially wanted to “support [Chambers] while she was going through a difficult divorce,” the effort “went too far.”
In the early months of 2021, Chambers requested that Hammer undergo a psycho-legal evaluation administered by three psychologists in the Cayman Islands. According to the 142-page report, a copy of which was obtained by Air Mail, Chambers alleged that Hammer was “grooming girls as young as 15,” was a “psychopath,” and that “the FBI is involved in matters concerning Mr. Hammer. There [are] apparently murder investigations”—presumably a reference to the debunked Wonder Valley human-remains story—“and she stated that 17 girls have come forward with rape allegations against Mr. Hammer and that Mr. Hammer has been raping girls for over 5 years. She noted that Mr. Hammer has put in writing that he wants to kill his children.”
Both Chambers and Hammer were asked to provide collateral sources to be interviewed for the report. Hammer offered the names of family members and longtime friends. Chambers referred the women who had by that point publicly accused Hammer of misconduct, the couple’s childcare providers, and the author of the Vanity Fair story then still in the works. While Lorenze and Vucekovich declined to be interviewed, Angelova had much to say. Hammer, she alleged, “had raped girls and left them for dead and stuck objects into male victims.”
She further claimed “that girls are disappearing, and she does not know what happened to them and she is petrified.” According to Angelova, “there is in the region of 100+ people that Mr. Hammer had coerced into sexual acts.” She also “reported that she cannot commit suicide because she needs to assist these people. She reported that she knows five girls who are going to commit suicide.”
Another source offered by Chambers, a man from Bogotá, Colombia, named Daniel (whose last name Air Mail has withheld), told the psychologists that he had been sexually violated by Hammer. According to this man, Hammer told him that “guys could endure more pain” and that “pain grows people.” Hammer, he further alleged, “cut him with paper and glass and then sucked his blood,” and “inserted a condom wrapper into him.” Daniel told the evaluators that he first met Hammer in New York, but when asked for the specific location Daniel replied “that he would need to discuss with his attorney whether he could provide such detail.” Hammer denies having ever met Daniel, and adds that he has never had sex with a man.
While the psychologists noted that Chambers “can be described [as] a good and solid mother” and that her worry “about what their children will be seeing and learning of Mr Hammer on social media” was a “valid concern,” they also found it “concerning that most of the collateral sources provided by Ms Chambers were [women] who have allegedly been raped by Mr Hammer. This casts a doubt over the intentions of Ms Chambers as she seems wrapped up in this narrative.”
As to Hammer’s mental state and fitness to be a father, the psychologists were persuaded that he posed no threat to his children or anyone else. “There is a cluster of Mr Hammer’s behavior,” they wrote, “that can be explained by the symptomology of being a survivor of child sexual abuse.” They further determined that “some of Mr Hammer’s attitudes and behaviour towards sex may be compulsive, but not out of control,” and that “concerns about Mr Hammer being a perpetrator of sexual violence are unfounded.” Additionally, “the impression may have been formed that Mr Hammer is sexually deviant and inclined to sexual violence due to the practice of BDSM. BDSM is no longer regarded as abnormal or a sexual deviance because it had been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.... Mr Hammer has certain preferences of BDSM practices which are fetishes and not crimes.”
Ultimately, they endorsed Hammer’s request for partial custody. “Based on Mr Hammer’s clinical psychometric profile, interviews, observation data and collateral information he does not pose a risk to his children,” they wrote. “His psychometric profile does not present psychopathology. There is also no data indicating that Mr Hammer may be a perpetrator of sexual violence nor any paedophilic tendencies.”
A Cloud of Suspicion
In the summer of 2020, when everything was collapsing around him, Hammer says that he attempted suicide while quarantining in the Cayman Islands. “I just walked out into the ocean and swam out as far as I could and hoped that either I drowned, or was hit by a boat, or eaten by a shark,” he recalls. “Then I realized that my kids were still on shore, and that I couldn’t do that to my kids.” He continued to battle suicidal thoughts throughout the early months of 2021 and credits this with his decision to enter rehab later that year.
Hammer estimates that, between legal fees and acting jobs he was fired from, he lost somewhere between $14 million and $16 million in 2021 alone. “My financial status is I am not only broke; I am massively in debt.” That might sound perplexing coming from a man whose grandfather was once listed on the Forbes 400. But from the outset of his career, Hammer says, he has not relied on his family’s prodigious wealth. While he acknowledges that he “did get a loan from my family to pay for some legal fees,” Hammer says he has neither asked for nor received further financial support from them. “There was a point in all of this where I had to have a friend help me buy groceries,” he says.
It was last summer, facing the dire reality that he had been “completely canceled and blackballed,” that Hammer explored the possibility of a different line of work. “I said, ‘Maybe I’ll go sell time-shares down in the Cayman Islands.’” Hammer visited the office of a resort where his friend worked, and watched him pitch to customers. “Someone took a video of it, sent it to TMZ, and it blew up. I ended up getting sucked into an immigration investigation because I didn’t have a work permit, even though I wasn’t on salary, I wasn’t making money, I wasn’t on payroll.”
“What can I do?” he says. “It’s, like, you don’t want me to act, but then you’re not going to let me have a normal life, either?”
Angelova had much to say. Hammer, she alleged, “had raped girls and left them for dead and stuck objects into male victims.” She further claimed “that girls are disappearing.”
The response from many seems to be, Who cares? Hammer, after all, embodies many characteristics of the #MeToo-era villain: a rich, white, handsome guy from a controversial family who used his privilege to take advantage of impressionable younger women. Hammer has been tried, convicted, and sentenced in the court of public opinion. But his purported wrongdoing has not been adjudicated in any court of law. Hammer has lived under a cloud of official suspicion for two years without being charged while the investigation into his alleged criminality—an investigation in which the accuser reportedly refuses even to cooperate—continues on indefinitely. (A request for comment on the status of the investigation sent to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office was not answered.)
The saga of Armie Hammer poses a question: How can those who have mistreated other people re-enter society as productive citizens, if they are permitted to re-enter at all? We have such a system, a woefully imperfect one, for criminals. What we don’t have is a system, let alone agreed-upon rules and expectations, for someone like Armie Hammer, who has not been charged with any crime—but is, by his own admission, guilty of being an “asshole.”
The Hammer case also raises questions about the media. Virtually without exception, the press has treated the accusations from Hammer’s professed victims, no matter how fantastical, with utter credulity. As recently as last October, for instance, a story in New York magazine claimed that Hammer stands accused of “possible cannibalism.”
One prominent Hollywood figure has decided to speak out unreservedly in Hammer’s defense. “I found him to be so polite and so well mannered and so nice and so funny and so real,” says Howard Rosenman, the veteran producer of Call Me by Your Name. “And don’t forget, I spent time with him a lot, both in Crema and on the road, when we were on the Oscar trail. So all of [the allegations are] just pure bullshit, and yes, he deserves a second chance.”
Rosenman, who is gay and has been involved in some of Hollywood’s most important gay-themed films (The Celluloid Closet, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, Milk), sympathizes with Hammer as someone whose sexuality was once considered taboo. “It’s been puritanical,” Rosenman says of the media’s prurient coverage. “The kink-shaming is just awful. I, as a gay man who had sex for many, many years with many different kinds of people, understand this better than anyone.” In a recent podcast interview, Luca Guadagnino said that he “cannot wait to work with Armie as soon as I have a great role for [him].”
At present, Hammer has found purpose in working as a sober companion for a fellow recovering addict just out of rehab. “I’m going to move in with him and live with him, get him on a healthy routine, get him into a good schedule of [recovery] meetings, take him to the gym, cook healthy food for him,” he says. “It feels like my recovery has taken a turn from me being the one who needs help staying sober to me being able to help others. Twelve steps in action.”
Hammer says he has no desire to pursue a defamation lawsuit against Angelova. “This woman has destroyed the last two years of my life,” he says. “Do I want to tie myself to this person in litigation for years to come and let her just continue to spew? I want to put all of this to bed and move on and rebuild my life. I have no interest in retribution,” he says.
While Hammer has made peace with the fact that his career as an actor may be finished, he would still relish the opportunity to return. When I ask him if he takes inspiration from his mentor Robert Downey Jr., who was arrested multiple times in the late 1990s on drug charges and spent several spells in jail, his answer turns toward the mythological: “What I would say is this: There’s examples of people who went through really difficult times and experienced what [the author] Joseph Campbell would call ‘the hero’s death.’ And the hero must die so the hero can be reborn again.
“There are examples everywhere, Robert being one of them, of people who went through those things and found redemption through a new path. And that, I feel like, is what’s missing in this cancel-culture, woke-mob business. The minute anyone does anything wrong, they’re thrown away. There’s no chance for rehabilitation. There’s no chance for redemption. Someone makes a mistake, and we throw them away like a broken disposable camera. Robert and others are examples of what it looks like for a human being to experience pain and then growth. And that aspect of it is something that I aspire to.”
Given the depth of his fall, if Hammer does make a comeback, it would qualify as one of the more dramatic in show-business history. The possibility can’t be written off entirely; there are few things Hollywood loves more than a good redemption story. But for now, Hammer says, he just wants to set the record straight. It’s a mission that he frames as a test for the industry, and for society at large, with implications reaching far beyond that of his own individual fate.
“No one will hire me. No one will insure me. I can’t get bonded for a project—nothing,” he says. “And no one will touch me because if they hire me, then they are the people who support abusers. And then they’re liable to get canceled themselves because this fire that is burning itself through town—when they throw someone like me on the fire to protect themselves, what they don’t realize is happening is all they’re doing is making the fire bigger. And that fire is now out of control and it’s going to burn everyone. And they’re just continually throwing people on it as sacrifices to protect themselves.”
Editor’s note: In his initial interview with AIR MAIL, Hammer dated his suicide-by-drowning attempt as having occurred in February 2021, but has since said that he confused the date and that it occurred in the summer of 2020.
James Kirchick is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL and the author of Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington