In early 2021, Armie Hammer’s world began to unravel. The actor with a seemingly perfect life had recently announced a divorce with his wife of 10 years with whom he shares two young children – and then explosive social media posts regarding Hammer’s sexual proclivities spiraled into a media firestorm. Hammer was swiftly dropped from a number of projects and his agency, WME. The unverified texts allegedly sent by Hammer depicted him telling women he wanted to bite them and tie them up. “I am 100% a cannibal,” one of the alleged text messages from Hammer read. “I want to eat you.”
As the story progressed, numerous women claimed Hammer was abusive, controlling and coercive. One woman accused him of rape. The actor was named the main suspect in an ongoing sexual assault investigation by the LAPD.
“I think he used BDSM as a smokescreen ultimately to hurt women and to inflict pain on women, which is the scariest part,” one of Hammer’s former sexual partners, Paige Lorenze, said in a previous interview. She also claimed that the actor carved an “A” into her skin with a knife. She, along with the other women accusing Hammer, believe that the actor is not kinky; he is abusive.
Hammer has denied all accusations against him. His attorney has stated that every sexual encounter has been “consensual, discussed and agreed upon in advance, and mutually participatory.”
But now, a new docuseries is bringing the Hammer allegations back into the spotlight. “House of Hammer” from Discovery+ puts the camera on Hammer’s female accusers, who now come forward to share the abuse they claim to have endured.
Two of the series’ main subjects are Julia Morrison, who virtually communicated with Hammer on social media, and Courtney Vucekovich, one of Hammer’s ex-girlfriends who says the actor convinced her to engage in a BDSM sexual activities, but she felt uncomfortable. “I would love to be able to paint a picture of the red flags that I saw and what happened in order for me to get in the mindset where I was almost fully controlled by somebody,” Vucekovich says in the series. “I had lost my entire sense of self. You’re his, completely.”
Vucekovich says that Hammer “love bombed” her with constant communication, affection and quality time. “When we were together, it felt good, but when we’re apart, I had just like this pit in my stomach,” Vucekovich explains on-camera. In the series, she shows an image of a bite mark she alleges is from Hammer. She says he would leave hand marks on her body, tracked her location on her phone and once took her to a supply store to buy rope.
At one point, Vucekovich brings up an incident that she is too emotional to share on-screen: “There was one thing that happened to me. I don’t even like to think about it,” she says. “I think it’s something you speak about before it’s done, and we didn’t speak about this. It was something that has never been done to me, and it is something that is very degrading, very belittling.” Welling up with tears as she looks into the camera, she stops as she says, “I don’t want to put it out there.”
Vucekovich is one of the women who was contacted by Hammer on Instagram with whom he began constant communication, before ultimately meeting in-person and beginning a sexual relationship. All of the women who have spoken out against Hammer over the past one and a half years have expressed a similar pattern of communication, control and coercion.
But many of Hammer’s others exes who have publicly accused him, including Lorenze, do not appear in “House of Hammer.”
Vucekovich is not surprised that the Hammer scandal blew up in a public forum. In 2021, when she started to see messages surface on social media, she believed it all to be true, given how reckless he was texting women as a famous actor. “I knew something about him would come up with him in the future because I know how careless he is,” Vucekovich says. “I know how he texts and he just leaves trails of all this madness everywhere.”
Talos Films, the production company behind “House of Hammer,” wanted to go beyond the splashy front-page coverage that had labeled the actor as a cannibal, and hoped to give a voice to the women. Directors Elli Hakami and Julian P. Hobbs tell Variety that they hope the series will help to educate viewers on the definition of consent.
“I think the goal of the series is to inform individuals on the warning signs,” says Hakami.
“With every project that we do, we’re hoping to capture that zeitgeist moment, but with this one, in particular, I think we have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to those cultural conversations about toxic relationships, institutional abuse of power and privilege and the complexities around the meaning of consent,” says Jason Sarlanis, president of crime and investigative content for linear and streaming at Warner Bros. Discovery. “That’s one of the great things we hope this documentary does to bring that that conversation in the forefront.”
The filmmakers say that the women who came forward described Hammer having a “Prince Charming” public persona, but he was actually a “much darker character.”
“Almost like a character he would play in the movie, except now, it’s not a movie. It’s actually happening to them. And it’s happening in private,” Hobbs says. “This is the narrative of what happened in those private spaces in these encounters.” The director continues, “We’re not here to pass a legal judgment – rather, we think this should be played out before the public, and I think the public will make a decision about whether this type of behavior is acceptable in any form.”
Hakami says she identified a pattern among the women they interviewed. “Many of the women said, ‘I had hand marks and bite marks and bruises on me, and I was interpreting that as love, and that it was okay.’” The director continues, “Clearly, they were hurt. And they were clearly in a scenario that what that wasn’t comfortable to them and left them scarred.”
The filmmakers say they asked Hammer to sit for an on-camera interview, but he declined to participate.
Variety has reached out to Hammer’s attorney, who declined to comment on “House of Hammer.” But in previous statements, the actor has denied any and all allegations through his lawyer, and has maintained that all interactions with sexual partners were consensual.
“I think if you watch ‘House of Hammer,’ it would be highly untenable to take that line,” Hobbs says of the actor maintaining his innocence. “I would call that the old-fashioned ‘blaming the victim.’”
Aside from examining allegations against the actor, the producing team also wanted to dig into the twisted Hammer family dynasty, which they describe as similar to the “real life ‘Succession.’”
The “Call Me By Your Name” and “The Social Network” star is the great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer. He is not the only controversy-laden member of his notable family. In 1920, the actor’s great-great grandfather, Julius Hammer, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter after a jury found him guilty when the wife of a Russian diplomat to whom he gave an abortion died. In 1955, Julian Hammer, the son of Armand Hammer, killed a man inside his Los Angeles home over a gambling debt, but claimed self-defense and the charges were dismissed.
The three-part series, which is out Friday, was made in partnership with Armie Hammer’s aunt, Casey Hammer, a consultant on the series, who published a book in 2015, titled “Surviving My Birthright,” in which she alleged that her father, Julian, sexually abused her when she was a child.
“When all of this came out about Armie, I was not shocked,” says Casey Hammer in the series. “His behavior, it’s deep-rooted.”
She adds, “What Armie is experiencing came from, I’m convinced, maybe even further back than my grandfather. You just don’t wake up and become this dark controller, abuser. There has to be a seed that’s planted.”
By showcasing the Hammer family drama, the filmmakers aim to draw a dotted line between the actor’s alleged behavior and that of those before him. Hobbs, one of the doc’s directors says, “It was that dimension of fleshing it out beyond just the immediate Armie Hammer story, and really looking at five generations of the Hammer dynasty. We wanted to put it into a larger context of how these family dynamics have played out over generations.”
“There was such a pattern to this,” Hakami says of the way men in the Hammer family treated women. “It happened over and over and over again. It was really shocking to me just how kind of formulaic it seemed.”
Over the past few years, the #MeToo movement has empowered women to come forward and speak up against abuse. Yet still, going up against powerful individuals is daunting with many survivors fearing professional repercussions or retaliation.
The filmmakers claim that members of the Hammer family tried to shut down the production multiple times, but do not go into specifics. They say they contacted all key figures, either to request an interview or to inform them of the project.
“These women, they’re up against real stakes here. And they’re doing it specifically so that the people that come after them will have it slightly easier,” says Hakami. “The women who have spoken out have illustrated that maybe you’re not sitting in a seat that is as powerful with the amount of resources as the person who you’re speaking out about, but it doesn’t mean that you have to sit in silence.”
Hobbs says that another layer of the Hammer situation playing out in the public eye is that the actor’s accusers have faced intense criticism and threats from Hammer’s fans, known as the “Charmies,” who have stood up loudly for the actor ever since the messages began to surface on social media in early 2021.
“The Charmies have weaponized this entire thing to attack anyone who steps forward and has anything negative to say about Armie Hammer,” Hobbs says, stating that some accusers who they spoke with said they had to change their addresses, phone numbers or remove their social media accounts. “There is still a group of people who want to keep this story silent.”
While many of the accusations are a case of “he-said-she-said,” given that most interactions happened behind closed doors between two people, the directors say they were “rigorous in vetting” with meticulous research, archival review and legal sign-offs every step of the way in their filmmaking process.
Given the nature of the allegations, defenders of Hammer have said that detractors are kink-shaming the actor. In the film, a BDSM educator appears as an expert to weigh in on the complexities around consent in the world of BDSM. “If both individuals are not aware of what’s about to happen and haven’t given consent before the scene happens, then that is not a healthy BDSM relationship and that moves into the world of abuse,” Hakami relays.
Gloria Allred, the famed attorney and women’s rights activist who represents the woman who accused Hammer of rape, also sits down for an interview in “House of Hammer.” Her client, known as Effie, was the woman behind the anonymous “House of Effie” Instagram account that initially published screenshots of alleged texts with the actor, which made the entire situation known to the world. Effie’s complaint is what launched the LAPD investigation into Hammer.
Effie does not appear in “House of Hammer,” but her story is prevalent. Her Instagram account and messages sent between her and Hammer are frequently shown, and footage of her in tears during 2021 press conference with Allred is part of the docuseries. But on Friday, in an article published Friday by the LA Times, Effie says she does not support the docuseries.
“The way they’ve been exploiting my trauma is disgusting,” she told the publication. “When I keep screaming ‘no’ and they keep going, saying they don’t need my permission, they remind me of Armie.” Effie tells the LA Times that she was not aware that Allred would be participating in the project.
On screen, Allred introduces herself as the attorney who represents Effie, and says she represents victims because they need support when fighting against powerful men and shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves alone.
“Even in BDSM relationships, consent is still at the heart of it,” Allred says on-screen. “It doesn’t mean that anyone can do anything to anyone during a sexual relationship. If she withdraws her consent, and he continues, that’s crime. It’s as simple as that.
“Kinky is not against the law. Rape is,” Allred says.