Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson sat down for a chat for Variety’s Actors on Actors. For more, click here.
Dakota Johnson has become the muse for Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino. In this year’s remake of the horror thriller “Suspiria,” their second collaboration after “A Bigger Splash,” Johnson plays a dancer who enrolls in a company from hell.
Armie Hammer is also a student of the Guadagnino filmmaking school. In 2018, Hammer pulls double duty as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s husband, Martin, in “On the Basis of Sex” and as a coke-snorting businessman in “Sorry to Bother You.”
Armie Hammer: You definitely put yourself out there in a big way in “A Bigger Splash” and “Suspiria.” But “Suspiria,” as I was watching it, felt like you were in a vulnerable place. How did Luca convince you?
Dakota Johnson: He said, “Have you seen ‘Suspiria’?” And I said, “No.” He said, “I want to make ‘Suspiria’ with you and Tilda [Swinton].” And then I watched the original, and I was like so in. I still had this f–king meltdown four days before filming. I was in tears in his office, like, “I’m a fraud. I can’t do this.” It was awful, but we joke about it.
Hammer: What was the actual vibe on set?
Johnson: We shot the dance academy in an abandoned hotel on a mountain in the north of Italy. On the top of this hotel there were these telephone poles, so the building was vibrating with electricity and everyone would go around shocking each other. I would have to wash my hands to get it out of me.
Hammer: You play a dancer. And you move like a dancer. How long did you spend training?
Johnson: So I’m definitely not a professionally trained dancer. I started working with this woman, Mary Helen Bowers, who trained Natalie Portman for “Black Swan,” on muscle structure and changing the way my body looked. We’d shoot for half a day on those dance sequences, because you can’t move your body more than that. And also, it was so cold and the floor was really hard like cement.
Hammer: Did anybody get injured?
Johnson: I got injured. I threw my back out. My feet would bleed. You know, the usual. Your characters are basically the polar opposite of each other. In “Sorry to Bother You,” you’re the biggest douchebag in the world.
Hammer: I love the idea of playing a crazy character. Nobody ever asked me to play crazy characters.
Johnson: What about that monster line of cocaine you did?
Hammer: I don’t know exactly what it was. It was like B12 or something. But they had a hose that went down my shirt into my hand, and then I had the wrapped-up hundred-dollar bill with the hose that went into that. So I didn’t even have to snort anything. It would just suck it all up.
Johnson: So it was like a vacuum? I’ve always wondered how they do that in movies. Let’s talk about “On the Basis of Sex.” What made you want to make that film?
Hammer: I read the script that Mimi Leder, the director, sent to my agent and thought, “This is a superhero movie about a woman who changed the world without needing powers or a cape. She just used her brain.” I liked the idea of my daughter being able to actually watch one of my movies.
Johnson: You don’t think she’s going to like “Call Me by Your Name”?
Hammer: Probably not. “Daddy, what are you doing?” Do you think sex in the movies is dead?
Johnson: Yeah, because I killed it. I think movies are meant to tell both completely unrealistic and completely realistic stories. I think Luca fully embraces the humanity of it. And I think that’s what I love about him and the way he sees relationships. And also, I think in studio films, of course, you’re covered up because sex and nudity make people uncomfortable because people in America, specifically, have been sexually oppressed for so long. So maybe it’s a testament to being a European filmmaker.
Hammer: Each of us has made studio films, and we’ve walked away with a particular taste in our mouth. How do you feel the difference is between working on a studio film versus an independent film?
Johnson: I’ve kind of developed this mind-set about it where it’s all in how you decide it’s going to be. I think the process with studio films, there are so many cooks in the kitchen, and there are so many creative quotas that you hit.
Hammer: For me, sometimes on big studio movies, you feel like a little tiny cog in a big machine. And they’re just like, “Yeah, yeah, just say your lines.”
Johnson: It’s like artistic prostitution.
Watch the full interview below: