Why Ask Timothee Chalamet About the Armie Hammer Rape Accusations?

This is less about Chalamet's actual opinion and more about how good his PR team is.

Why Ask Timothee Chalamet About the Armie Hammer Rape Accusations?
Image:Kristy Sparow / Stringer (Getty Images)

Timothee Chalamet has offered a response of sorts to the sexual assault allegations against his Call Me By Your Name costar, Armie Hammer. But it doesn’t help answer the question of whether anyone would really benefit from his take on the topic in the first place.

In a new profile for Time, Chalamet reportedly “demurred” when Hammer was brought up. He said, “I totally get why you’re asking that, but it’s a question worthy of a larger conversation, and I don’t want to give you a partial response.”

It’s not really a surprise that Chalamet was asked to comment: While the 25-year-old actor may have entered the public’s consciousness with his minor role in 2017’s Lady Bird, it was Call Me By Your Name that catapulted him to stardom (and earned him an Academy Award nomination). In it, Hammer played Chalamet’s older and reluctant love interest, and perhaps it was the intimacy of their roles that tainted the film when, earlier this year, a slew of young women came out with horrific abuse accusations against Hammer. This included a rape allegation from a 24-year-old woman named Effie who accused Hammer of raping her for hours in 2017. Hammer and his team responded by denying the allegation, calling Effie an “attention-seeking” woman (very original!) with “kinky sexual desires.” Whether Hammer will become some kind of Hollywood pariah has yet to be seen, but suffice to say, Chalamet’s profile is rising while Hammer’s is in limbo.

So, again, it’s no surprise that, while doing press for his upcoming movie Dune, Chalamet was asked about the allegations against his former co-star. He’ll almost certainly be asked about it again when press for The French Dispatch continues through the fall and into the next year. But this post-2016, post-Me Too phenomenon of asking celebrities about everything from rape to mental health to police brutality, as if the public will glean anything from it beyond a canned PR response or, on occasion, a real foot-in-mouth situation, feels increasingly pointless. It reads more like an attempt to get a gotcha quote from a celebrity, or an exercise in who has the PR team with the most up-to-date social justice buzzwords to dole out.

This is partly why the only surprising thing about Chalamet’s response was that it wasn’t a bit more polished. I’m not sure what “larger conversation” Chalamet believes should be held. What conversation is there to be had that hasn’t been had before, especially in the last few years of Hollywood abuses becoming major headlines?

Still, even if Chalamet crafted a more robust response—for example, giving lip service to survivors—what would that serve? Chalamet is a talented actor, but it’s hard to believe that anything he’d say on the issue would do anything to help Hammer’s alleged victims or turn the tide on our national conversation on sexual violence.

Besides, what responsibility do any of us have for the private behavior of our former co-workers? The allegations against Hammer came out nearly five years after Chalamet and Hammer filmed Call Me By Your Name. It makes a lot more sense to ask Chalamet why he worked with director Woody Allen, for example, than to ask his take on Hammer.

This isn’t to say that celebrities shouldn’t offer their opinions on tough topics. But asking them about weighty issues like #MeToo feels cheap, as though it serves the headline and not survivors. It gives celebrities a pat on the back for having a modicum of ethics. Maybe Chalamet deserves some credit for not attempting to build a brand on the abuse of others; it’s an increasingly easy way for celebrities to garner praise without doing much.

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