Armie Hammer & Naomi Watts Interview For Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’
During his lifetime, J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) would rise to be the most powerful man in America. As head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years, he would stop at nothing to protect his country. Through 8 presidents and 3 wars, Hoover waged battle against threats both real and perceived, often bending the rules to keep his countrymen safe. Hoover was a man who placed great value on secrets – particularly those of others – and was not afraid to use that information to exert authority over the leading figures in the nation.
Understanding that knowledge is power and fear poses opportunity, he used both to gain unprecedented influence and to build a reputation that was both formidable and untouchable. He was as guarded in his private life as he was in his public one, allowing only a small and protective inner circle into his confidence. His closest colleague, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), was also his constant companion. His secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomie Watts), who was perhaps most privy to Hoover’s designs, remained loyal to the end…and beyond. As seen through the eyes of Hoover himself, ‘J. Edgar’ explores the personal and public life and relationships of a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it during a life devoted to his own idea of justice, often swayed by the darker side of power. Directed by Clint Eastwood, ‘J. Edgar’ also stars Judi Dench, Josh Lucas and Ken Howard. The film is released in cinemas November 9th in the US and January 20th in the UK. Check out my interview with Leonardo DiCaprio for the film here.
What was it like to work with Clint Eastwood?
Armie Hammer: He’s as cool as you think he is, he’s nicer than you think he is, he’s tougher than you think he is, he is an icon of a human being – they broke the mould after that guy for sure (laughs)! The way he works, the fact that he’s stripped filmmaking of all of the noise, all the extraneous riff-raff, all the crap, he’s reduced it to the point of, “Put the camera there, you guys stand there….go! Ok, put the camera there, you guys stand there….go!” No nonsense, it just made the days fly, it was all about the work, everybody was there to facilitate everybody getting their job done because he’s ready to move on so quickly that if one persons not….you get called out, you have to be ready. That made everybody so focused, it was a great environment to be in.
Naomi Watts: Working with Clint Eastwood, it had been a personal dream for me for a long time. I’ve always thought that film is a directors medium, and you want to be in the work place with great directors. They’re our teachers, it’s all about their vision, so you really have to team up with the right people – he’s definitely one of them! It’s great he’s so no nonsense, you just go in there and get it done. I wish I had more days on the set, it was great.
How did you research Helen Gandy, this trusted confidant and secretary?
Naomi Watts: A lot was there in the script, but they sent me this great package, massive package of endless DVD’s, a lot of documentaries, a lot of stuff on the FBI, a lot of stuff on J. Edgar Hoover himself. I used a lot of books, the internet, a lot of stuff on Youtube….I was always trying to find more information about Helen Gandy but the very nature of her job was to be in the background of this mans life. There was a couple of photographs, not much at all. It was about piecing it all together. I did manage to find the transcript of her testimony in the Library of Congress through a friend that works in government – that was actually one of the most telling pieces of information that I found, because it just reiterated what was already in the script; her level of commitment, her absolute need to service her country, her sense of duty, and even way after he passed away and her career was finished she still kept her word.
She really stuck by him, like you said, even after he passed…
Naomi Watts: Yeah, that was really my big question, “How? How do you do that? Is that really because you’re just serving your country or does she have a place in her heart for him?” I don’t know….in the end they were all my decisions to make up because there weren’t any facts available about her personal life and beliefs.
How was the research process for you Armie?
Armie Hammer: I done tonnes of research, I actually hired a researcher because I couldn’t find anything, I basically said, “Give me everything you can,” and she did, god bless her (laughs). I had more information on Clyde than I could personally find on J. Edgar Hoover – I had a ridiculous amount of information.
You both worked incredibly closely with Leonardo DiCaprio on this film, how was he to work with?
Armie Hammer: He’s so focused, so driven, so determined, he doesn’t get distracted for a second. He knew the amount of work going into this that he had to put into it, and he exceeded it, he was never not focused for a single second during the day. It was super impressive.
Naomi Watts: His work before had time and time again blown me away. He’s got great range, he’s got great charisma, he’s just wildly talented. And then being on a set with him, it just escalated my admiration for him. He takes his work very seriously, he works really really hard.
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