Their affection for one another was on full-display at the Cannes Film Festival, as they joked and bounced off each other while discussing their work in Call Me By Your Name, the new film from arthouse darling Italian director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash, the upcoming Suspiria remake); like, surprisingly, when they excitedly discussed their appreciation of Mike Tyson.
“I’m a big boxing and Mike Tyson fan,” Hammer explained. “We started talking about boxing, and I was like, ‘Dude, you’re too young to have seen all this; you have to watch these fights!’ So, we went back and pretty much watched a whole bunch of old boxing fights, as you do.”
“I had a cultural understanding of Mike Tyson,” Chalamet added. “I didn’t understand what a gifted fighter he was. And, I mean…”
” Go on, Timmy! Tell them!”
“…He’s a legend!”
Call Me By Your Name is a riveting coming-of-age drama about first love. Based on the novel by Andre Aciman, the film tells of teenager Elio, played by Chalamet (Homeland, Men, Women & Children, Interstellar). During the 1980s, Elio and his family are living in Italy, where his father’s new assistant Oliver (Hammer) is invited to stay. The two spend time together, developing a bond which becomes an irresistible attraction to one another.
In order to develop their characters’ chemistry, Chalamet and Hammer arrived in Italy four weeks before shooting. The two worked with Guadagnino to understand their characters and tighten their own bond. “We had a gift in that,” says Chalamet. “It’s certainly not like this on every production, but we just got to get out to Crema in Italy four or five weeks early, and it wasn’t so much about building a relationship as getting there naturally. I think that’s the gift of experience – they say experience is the greatest teacher.”
Once upon a time, playing a gay character would’ve been deemed controversial, with the actor’s sexuality being questioned. Now, with society becoming more progressive, there is no issue. If anything, Hammer was more apprehensive about his large frame causing mayhem during the film’s dance sequences. “Here’s the deal: being 6’5” on a dancefloor is never to your advantage because it always feels like you’re bumping into somebody, or that everyone is looking at you because you’re so tall.”
While the characters’ sexuality isn’t an issue, the age difference between the two is, with Chamalet’s Elio 17 years old and Hammer’s Oliver 24. “Nothing to us about the relationship was predatory in nature,” Hammer clarified.” It was always something that was a feeling, this spark, this unexplainable desire between these two characters that seemed to grow. And these two guys, while at different stages in their life, with Oliver being someone who may or may not have done something like this before and is conflicted about it and doesn’t know how he feels, or Elio who’s youthful and innocent and has an open-mindedness to the entire situation. It didn’t feel to us at any point, and hopefully it doesn’t feel at any point to the audience, like Oliver is this lascivious character going after Elio. It’s this mutual attraction and acceptance of what they feel for each other that is the beauty of this.”
The two are as fond of their experience as they are of each other, enjoying the rich and vibrant culture Italy offered. While being in each other’s company was great, they had to share it with others. Hammer brought his young family along, while Chalamet may have gotten into more strife.
“My Mom didn’t come out, which she was pretty pissed about,” says Chalamet. “But my best friend Will did. So, um, he liked it.”
“So, Will got Mom’s ticket?” Hammer stirred with a big laugh.
“Man, if you print that I’m going to be in so much trouble,” joked Chalamet. Whoops, sorry!
Call Me By Your Name is screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival.