The rumors started as jokes. In January 2021, an anonymous Instagram account posted messages that actor Armie Hammer, 36, the then-unstoppable star of Call Me By Your Name (2017), Operation U.N.C.L.E (2016) and The Lone Ranger (2010), had allegedly sent. These messages had been sent to different women; in them, the actor seemed to exhibit a wide range of sexual fetishes related to cannibalism, bondage and violence. “I am 100% a cannibal…. Fuck. That’s scary to admit. I’ve never admitted that before. I’ve cut the heart out of a living animal before and eaten it while still warm,” one read. “If I fucked you into a vegetative state, I’d keep you, feed you, and keep fucking you,” promised another. At first, the text messages were seen as bizarre texts of questionable authenticity. Some defended Hammer against what appeared to be kink shaming (mocking someone for their unusual sexual preferences), on the assumption that he was being humiliated for having expressed intimate fantasies that were not necessarily linked to real criminal behavior.
Events took another turn on January 14, when the actor’s former girlfriend Courtney Vucekovich told the gossip website Page Six about her “not only weird and gross, but emotionally abusive” experiences with Hammer (the article’s headline was “He wanted to barbecue and eat me”). Vucekovich alleged that she had not consented to the sadomasochistic practices in which they engaged.
Vucekovich explained it this way: “He kind of captivates you and while being charming, he’s grooming you for these things that are darker and heavier and consuming. When I say consuming, I mean mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, just everything.” She went on to note that “he did some things with me that I wasn’t comfortable with. For God knows what reason, he convinced me that these things were OK and he put me in some dangerous situations where I was not OK, where he was heavily drinking, and I wasn’t drinking that way and it scared me. I didn’t feel comfortable.” As a result, Vucekovich said, she’d suffered panic attacks and needed therapy after her relationship with Hammer. Her statements highlighted the actor’s “obsessive” character and manipulative nature.
After seeing Hammer’s text messages, another woman, Paige Lorenze, also decided to go on the record about the star, whom she knew well. She saw a pattern of behavior mentioned in the messages that resembled what she said the star had done with her. “The scariest part of it is that I did love him in a way. I would’ve let him kind of do anything. He had a certain hold over me,” she told E! News.
Through his representatives, Hammer has categorically denied the veracity of the messages. Nonetheless, the scandal has forced the actor out of all the projects in which he’d planned to participate. Filmed in 2019 and released in 2022 after numerous postponements, Death on the Nile was the last film in which he appeared; he was conspicuously absent from efforts to promote the film, including the movie poster. When he was last spotted, Hammer was working as a timeshare salesman near a hotel in the Cayman Islands, where his children and ex-wife also live. According to Variety, the actor also completed a stint at a rehab facility to treat his various addictions.
During all this time, Hammer has been keeping a low profile, perhaps hoping that the storm will die down soon. However, the premiere of House of Hammer – the three-part docuseries about his family’s history that premieres this Friday, September 2 on Discovery+ – is poised to thwart that strategy.
The documentary features the accounts of several of the star’s alleged victims, and they provide previously unpublished documents, including voice messages (“My bet was going to involve showing up at your place, completely tying you up and incapacitating you, and then being able to do whatever I wanted in every single hole in your body until I was done with you,” Armie says in one message). The actor’s aunt, Casey Hammer, is also participating in the show. She severed ties with her relatives years ago and, in 2015, published an explosive autobiography, Surviving My Birthright. In her book, she alleged that her father, Julian Hammer (Armie’s grandfather), had sexually abused her and other family members when she was a child, a revelation that she’s expected to discuss further in the docuseries.
“The accusations of rape and abuse brought against Armie Hammer in the last few years are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Hammer family. With House of Hammer, we witness truly disturbing details and sinister secrets that money and power couldn’t hide forever,” promises Jason Sarlanis, Discovery+ president of crime and investigative content.
Five generations of power, privilege and violence
When Armie Hammer took off in Hollywood with his portrayal of the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network (2010), he was already a wealthy man. The actor comes from a family of millionaire oil tycoons, Soviet maneuverers and art dealers. His great-great-grandfather, Dr. Julius Hammer, was a Russian immigrant to the United States. He was sentenced to between three and 12 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter after performing an abortion on a Russian diplomat’s wife in 1919. The jury found that Julius had left his patient to “die like a dog.” To cover up the crime, he blamed her death on the Spanish flu pandemic raging at the time.
With Julius in prison, his son Armand Hammer took control of his company, Allied Drug & Chemical; perhaps, as Edward Jay Epstein’s 1996 book Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer contends, this occurred with the support of Lenin and Stalin. In the unauthorized biography, Epstein quotes one of Armand’s former wives, who claims that Armand was really responsible for the abortion that ended in murder and landed his father in prison. Julius merely took the blame.
Armand increased the family fortune through the Occidental Petroleum oil company, which he ran from 1957 until his death. According to Epstein, Armand laundered money, used his role as an art dealer to finance Soviet espionage and facilitated illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s campaign, which, “in all likelihood, went to pay for the Watergate cover-up.” The biographer notes that Armand forced one of his mistresses to change her name and wear disguises after his wife found out about the affair. The mistress also agreed to “extremely humiliating” sexual requests based on his promise to take care of her family. In the end, though, he left her out of his will. As Armand’s ex-wife pointed out, “[it] causes him no pain to see the sufferings of others.”
Armand had a son, Julian, Armie’s grandfather. Because of his “unstable behavior,” Julian did not inherit control of the oil empire. Besides his daughter Casey’s accusations of sexual abuse, in 1955, early in the morning on his 26th birthday, he was accused of murdering a man in his home over an alleged gambling debt. He never did any jail time; the judge found that Julian had acted in self-defense.
Michael Hammer – Armie’s father, Julian’s son and the heir to Armand’s business – further built the family fortune. He settled his family in the Cayman Islands and renounced his US citizenship. Michael concentrated on his strict Christian religion while also selling forged Rothko and Pollock paintings, a scandal that led to the closure of his art gallery in 2011. According to a 2021 Vanity Fair report that quoted Michael’s close friends, the businessman owns a “sex throne” – a huge chair with a hole in the seat, a cage and a hook.
Despite Armie Hammer’s disappearance from public life, the police are no longer investigating him. In December 2021, the probe into the initial rape accusation ended because of insufficient evidence.