PLAYBOY: What do you remember about your great-grandfather?
HAMMER: He had a plane, and I remember running up and down its aisle. He was a really eclectic, funny dude. On his plane he’d have a giant bowl of caviar, a giant bowl of lobster and then a humongous bowl of Kentucky Fried Chicken. And he could give a shit about the caviar or the lobster; he wanted to eat that fried chicken. That was his happy place. I think that’s probably where I get my love for McDonald’s.
PLAYBOY: You love the yellow arches?
HAMMER: I have the most guilty, abusive relationship with McDonald’s. Left to my own devices I’d probably eat four Big Macs a week. My wife, Elizabeth, says, “You can’t fill your body with that crap—they put eyeballs in it!” And I go, “Sounds good!”
PLAYBOY: You own a restaurant, Bird Bakery, with your wife in her hometown of San Antonio. How do you keep yourself in shape when it’s time to film?
HAMMER: For a male actor the trick is to enjoy life so you know you’re always about two weeks away from being “beach ready.” I mean, do you know how often those people have to think, What if I eat? It’s a lot, and I don’t want to think about myself as often as it is necessary to think about yourself in order to keep a six-pack all the time. I’d rather enjoy meals, order bottles of red wine and eat crème brûlée at the end of dinner. Then when they call you for a photo shoot, you just go, “Okay, time to hit the treadmill.”
PLAYBOY: Lately horse meat has been finding its way into foreign hamburgers——
HAMMER: Which will make me a stallion, so I’ll take it! You know, in places like France eating horse is totally acceptable. Elizabeth says, “You cannot say that—you’re the Lone Ranger!” [laughs] But horse meat is apparently delicious and nutritious. It’s funny: When we were eating at a burger joint with the cowboys in Lone Ranger, I point-blank asked, “Did you ever eat a horse?” And every one of them said, “Oh hell yeah, man—that’s good eatin’!”
PLAYBOY: What else did the cowboys teach you?
HAMMER: When we showed up at cowboy camp they said, “Here’s your saddle and your bedroll.” I said, “Seems kind of thin for a bedroll.” The guy got in my face and screamed, “You’re a fuckin’ ranger, man! You lay down and cover up your ass. Are we clear?”
PLAYBOY: So it was a rough shoot?
HAMMER: They beat the shit out of us, dude. We filmed in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, among other places, and when we started it was cold enough to get shut down by blizzards. Then there were windstorms, then sandstorms, then electrical storms. In New Mexico they laid five miles of train track so we’d have our own rail to shoot on, and Johnny and I spent weeks just running on top of trains. One day it got to 120 degrees, and I was wearing this wool suit, leather gloves, leather mask and hat for 14 hours of daylight. I got so skinny they had to put new holes in my belts.
PLAYBOY: Give us an example of young Armie as a middle schooler.
HAMMER: I almost got kicked out of eighth grade for selling Playboy. Me and this guy had a ring where we’d bring magazines packaged with a bottle of lotion to school—brilliant business plan, wasn’t it?—and sell them to the kids for $20. Then I got called into a teacher’s office. He said, “I’ve heard you’re bringing in these nudie magazines.” I said, “Nope, not me.” He went, “So you wouldn’t mind if we checked your locker?” Which he then went and did. We’d stashed the actual magazines in bushes by the school, but there was a ton of lotion in the locker. All he could say was, “Why do you have so much lotion?” I said, “I get dry hands.” [laughs] They couldn’t prove I was selling the magazines, so I got away with it. Fun!
PLAYBOY: You’re six-foot-five, yet you drove up for this interview on a Vespa. What’s a king-size dude doing on such a pint-size bike?
HAMMER: The usual joke is that I’m compensating for my huge penis. We’ll skip that one, though, and say it’s for ease of commute. I’m obsessed with Vespas—there’s just no faster way to get around Los Angeles.
PLAYBOY: You and your wife once bought each other guns for Christmas. Are you a big gun lover?
HAMMER: I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a gun lover—I’m a gun appreciator. I appreciate their function, the way they’ve evolved and the mechanics of them. I’m not sure I think anybody should be able to just walk into a gun store and walk out with a gun, but statistically, if you look at places where people are the most armed, there’s less crime. I’m by no means advocating a completely armed society, but at the same time, I appreciate the recreation of guns. Going out and skeet shooting can be a fun, adrenalized time. My wife and I were supposed to go skeet shooting on our first date, but it started to rain so we ended up going to a bunch of art galleries and then a porno store instead.
PLAYBOY: In 2011’s J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood, you play Clyde Tolson, the associate director of the FBI, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar Hoover. No one knows for certain, but the two were so inseparable that many assumed they were lovers. The movie hints that the answer is yes. Where do you stand?
HAMMER: On set I’d always say, “Clint, what do you think? Did they ever bang?” And he’d go [in a heavy Eastwood whisper], “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” Then I’d ask Leo, “So what do you think? Did they ever do it?” And he’d go [takes a deep breath], “I don’t know…maybe.” But I was like, “Oh yeah, they did it for sure!” That was my standpoint, 100 percent. Like maybe one night they had a few too many martinis and all of a sudden [mimes passing out and waking up], “Oh! What did we just do? Oh my God, that felt so good! And so bad! I hate you, I love you, get away from me, get over here!” One of those things, you know?
PLAYBOY: Where do you stand on marriage equality?
HAMMER: I don’t think anybody should be telling anybody else who they should marry or not marry. That’s my official standpoint. This is social evolution, and the thing with evolution, whether you look at it in terms of a plant or a species or a mind-set, is it will always take time. But you just want to say, “The debate’s over, folks. Get used to it.”