PLAYBOY: You’re playing the lead in The Lone Ranger, which debuted 80 years ago, on radio. You’re 26. Were you even aware of the character when you were a kid?
HAMMER: My dad called me kemo sabe when I was a kid. I also remember hearing Lone Ranger jokes, including one that goes like this: The Lone Ranger and Tonto are riding through the desert, going over dune after dune and getting a little lost. They go over one last dune and all of a sudden there are Indian braves all around the top, completely circling them. The Lone Ranger panics, looks at Tonto and says, “Tonto, we’re surrounded! What do we do?” Tonto goes, “What do you mean by ‘we,’ white man?” and runs away.
PLAYBOY: Let’s talk Johnny Depp. He plays Tonto, and his interpretation of the role is reportedly entirely different from the 1950s television incarnation.
HAMMER: In the old TV series, Tonto was really just the Lone Ranger’s slave. The Lone Ranger would say, “Tonto, go tell people this or that,” and Tonto would say, “Me do.” In our movie Tonto is a Comanche who considers himself one of the last spirit warriors, and the Lone Ranger is at first a district attorney who has this Lockean idea of bringing about justice in the West with discussions, not guns. But then he’s ambushed and shot. Tonto nurses him back to health and explains that maybe the world doesn’t work quite the way he thinks it does. What’s funny and part of the rub between Tonto and the Lone Ranger in our movie is that even though my character is educated and believes people should treat one another justly, he still looks at Tonto as if to say, “Oh, pay him no mind; he’s just an Indian.” But then you see Tonto be like, “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” and sure as shit, Tonto’s right.
PLAYBOY: We heard Depp placed a scorpion in his mouth during the shoot. Is that true?
HAMMER: That was recreational on his part, and I still don’t understand it. We had these scorpion handlers on set for this freak-show kind of scene. Now, these scorpions were so massive that you’d barely be able to fit one in a cereal bowl. After the scene, we went to check out the dudes who handle them, and one of the handlers just opened his mouth and one of the scorpions crawled out. I was like, “Okay, I’m good!” and walked the hell away. But Johnny said, “I want to try that!” and just shoved it into his mouth. He’s a total character—a bohemian and an artist in the truest sense.
PLAYBOY: Did you find putting on the Lone Ranger mask addictive while you were filming? It was such a narcotic to Clayton Moore, the 1950s TV actor who played him, that after the show ended he fought lawsuits that attempted to deny him the right to wear it for personal appearances.
HAMMER: Let’s just say I kept one. [chuckles] And that my wife loves it.
PLAYBOY: You’re a guy who has gone on record saying he’s obsessed with tying knots and who often carries a rope and a knot guide with him wherever he goes. Now we’re hearing about a mask. Is there anything we need to know about your sex life?
HAMMER: Well, if you’re married to a feminist [journalist, restaurateur and actress Elizabeth Chambers] as I am, then it’s…. I don’t know how much we can put here without my parents being embarrassed, but I used to like to be a dominant lover. 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.”
PLAYBOY: And how does she respond?
HAMMER: The two us will literally break out laughing in the middle of it, finish up and be like, “Well, that was oddly fun!” So it becomes a new kind of thing that’s less about “I want to dominate you” and more about both of us having a really good time. It’s just a different style.
PLAYBOY: Where does your obsession with tying knots come from?
HAMMER: Maybe it’s a man’s version of knitting. It’s fascinating because you can pick up a piece of rope and know that if you do this, then this, then A, B, C, you’ll get X every time. There are no variables in rope tying. It’s all logic, and it’s incredibly useful.
PLAYBOY: Should we assume those rumors about you playing the lead in the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey are all false?
HAMMER: No one actually offered me the movie, but while I was working on Lone Ranger my agent brought it up, and I said “Nope.” I mean, come on—it’s just mommy porn. I’m not going to sit on top of the laundry machine in spin cycle reading about putting a ball gag in someone’s mouth. That doesn’t do it for me.
PLAYBOY: You became famous playing the super-rich, super-entitled Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, the movie about the birth of Facebook. One of your great-grandfathers was Armand Hammer, the illustrious oil baron, philanthropist and art collector. How did you not become a Winklevii type?
HAMMER: My mom made sure I went to regular schools and not the ones parents send their kids to in L.A. to train them to become douchebags. The whole time my brothers and I were growing up, her thing was, “You’re no different or more special than anybody else.”