Armie Hammer's Downfall and More Bombshells Explored in House of Hammer

Misconduct allegations against Armie Hammer and the tumultuous history of his famous family and their dynastic wealth are detailed in the Discovery+ docuseries House of Hammer.

By Natalie Finn Sep 02, 2022 12:00 PMTags
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Armie Hammer's career wasn't for everybody.

Some saw a slow but steady rise through big-budget swing-and-misses mixed with strong supporting work in smaller but critically lauded films. Others wondered why he kept getting so many chances to be "The Guy" when he had yet to topline a hit. Then again, maybe he just hadn't found the role. And he'd been working steadily ever since making his TV debut as Student #2 on a 2005 episode of Arrested Development. 

When the actor separated from his wife of 10 years, Elizabeth Chambers, in July 2020—a sad turn of events for the parents of two, but relatively routine celebrity news—the personal stumble didn't seem to affect his hiring ability, with roles in a Jennifer Lopez rom-com and the making-of-The-Godfather series The Offer on the horizon.

Six months later, it all went away.

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The new Discovery+ docuseries House of Hammer explores the allegations of disturbing behavior from multiple women that sent Hammer's career spiraling.

The show also delves into the toxic behavior that reportedly set the tone for the storied Hammer dynasty, going back decades to patriarch and Forbes 400 member Armand Hammer (who, for the record, was not a founder of Arm & Hammer, but was on the board of directors of the conveniently named brand for several years toward the end of his life).

"I think it shines a light on multigenerational years of abuse," Armie's aunt, Casey Hammer, told E! News' Daily Pop of the three-part series, "and it's holding people accountable."


Hammer, who spent time in rehab last year, has denied allegations of sexual assault, abuse and other misconduct, maintaining that any sexual activity he engaged in with his accusers was consensual. No criminal charges have been filed against him. But with regard to an accusation of rape made by a woman named Effie in March 2021, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokesman Greg Risling told E! News on Sept. 1 that a specially assigned prosecutor is working with law enforcement as their investigation continues.

"Once law enforcement has completed their investigation and submits the case to our Office," Risling said, "we will conduct an evaluation and file criminal charges that are supported by the evidence."

E! News has reached out to Armie's attorney regarding the allegations against him but has not received any new comment. Lawyer Andrew Brettler told E! last year following the assault accusation, "From day one, Mr. Hammer has maintained that all of his interactions with [Effie]—and every other sexual partner of his for that matter—have been completely consensual, discussed and agreed upon in advance, and mutually participatory. [Effie's] attention seeking and ill-advised legal bid will only make it more difficult for real victims of sexual violence to get the justice they deserve." 

Here are some of the most startling revelations from House of Hammer:

Flashd founder Courtney Vucekovich says in episode one, "Love Bomb," that she first met Armie Hammer in a bar in Dallas in the winter of 2019. They talked for a bit and he started following her on Instagram. The still-married actor DM'd her in June 2020, Courtney said, and told her he and his wife, Elizabeth Chambers, had actually been separated for two years and he lived in New York while she stayed in Los Angeles. He would text and call every day, Courtney said.

"I had lost my entire sense of self," Courtney described their relationship. "You're his, completely."

After he and Elizabeth announced their split on July 10, 2020, Courtney said she met up with Armie in Palm Springs and they spent three weeks together. "I truly was so f--king happy," she recalled, noting she still had an uneasy feeling. One night, she said, something "degrading" happened to her that she wouldn't go into detail about, and when she returned home she broke down over it. But, she continued, she saw Armie again a week later.

She shared a photo of her arm with what she said were bite marks from Armie, which he referred to as "a badge of armor," she said.

On a drive through Sedona, Ariz., Courtney recalled Armie telling her he'd only ever tied up mannequins before and he wanted to try it with her. (The Hollywood Reporter's Seth Abramovitch said in the series that, while doing research for a 2017 profile on the actor, his rumored interest in BDSM came up on more than one occasion, but the journalist said he was shut down when he tried to question him further about it.) 

She didn't really want to, Courtney said, but she let Armie tie her up. The ropes left bruises, she alleged. "I didn't like it. It didn't feel safe…It was just horrible," she recalled. "And you're completely immobilized…I'm just closing my eyes until it ended and he just went to sleep like it was nothing."

Six days later, she recalled, he introduced Courtney to his mom.

Artist Julia Morrison read a text Hammer purportedly sent her detailing a fantasy he had, in which someone allowed him to tie her up in public to see "if they'll f--k strangers for me" as a way of proving their devotion to him. Through DMs, she said, he would compliment her modeling photos, singling out one that depicted Julia being choked, and shared his fantasies. 

"You don't think or worry about anything except being a good little pet," he allegedly wrote her. "My own personal little slave."

Toward the end of the series, she reflects, "I'm really grateful Armie and I didn't meet up."

Courtney said she ended up in treatment in the wake of her relationship with Armie, reading from a journal entry she said she wrote on Oct. 5, 2020, on her way to rehab: "Not sure why...I'm going there. All I know is I don't give a f--k what happens to me. I don't want to die, I don't think, but I'm not trying not to."

She wrote of Armie, "I surrendered to him 100 percent, gave him anything good I had left...He used me in every way humanly possible, for months, and I f--king let him. I feel absolutely numb and small and disgusting and ugly."

And while she was in rehab, she said, a friend informed her that Armie had a new girlfriend. The woman in question was Paige Lorenze—who, Courtney described, appeared to have bruises on her body in a few of her Instagram photos.

"And I knew exactly what that picture was, you know?" Courtney said. "He says, 'Wear it like a badge of honor.' My heart sank."

The series includes a clip from a February 2021 Dr. Oz interview in which Paige described how Armie would take BDSM paraphernalia, such as safety pins, shibari ropes and a paddle, everywhere with him. (She told E! News in 2021 that he introduced her to BDSM and would "have instruments and use his hands and bite me all over my body.")

She told Dr. Oz that Armie told her he wanted to find a doctor in L.A. who would remove some of her ribs—so he could smoke them and eat them. "He was obsessed with meat," she said. "I brushed it off, but I do believe that he was serious."

One night, Paige said, Armie asked her where on her body he could carve his initials. She didn't answer, she said, but he proceeded to cut a small "A" into her skin, and there's a picture of the purported wound.

When the first round of accusations about his behavior first surfaced in January 2021 and Armie subsequently exited a movie project, he told E! in a statement, "I'm not responding to these bulls--t claims, but in light of the vicious and spurious online attacks against me, I cannot, in good conscience now, leave my children for four months to shoot a film in the Dominican Republic."

E! has reached out to Armie's attorney for further comment. Last year, lawyer Andrew Brettler, maintaining that all of his client's "interactions" with his former partners were consensual and agreed upon in advance, told Vanity Fair, "The stories perpetuated on social media were designed to be salacious in an effort to harm Mr. Hammer, but that does not make them true."

Allegations against Armie went public in January 2021 when purported screengrabs of his graphic DMs were posted online. Courtney said that Paige called her soon after, first asking, "'Why didn't you tell me?'" They discovered that so many details of their respective experiences with Armie were the same, Courtney said, from the cowboy hat they both wore in pictures with him to being made to watch the movie Secretary, in which Maggie Gyllenhaal's seemingly meek title character is sparked by her BDSM enthusiast boss played by James Spader.

He played the same album for each of them, Courtney said, and called her and Paige "perfect little thing."

Casey Hammer—sister of Armie's dad, Michael Armand Hammer, and author of the 2015 memoir Surviving My Birthright—said on episode two, "Sins of the Father," that she "wasn't shocked" when the allegations against her nephew surfaced. "This behavior, it's deep-rooted."

Casey said that she witnessed her father, Julian Armand Hammer, physically abusing and otherwise terrorizing her mother, Glenna Sue. (Julian died in 1996 and Glenna Sue passed in 2010.) When her mom would attempt to leave, Casey said, family patriarch Armand Hammer (Julian's father and Armie's great-grandfather, who died in 1990) would intimidate her into staying. Armand had "frightening, scary energy," his granddaughter said.

The oil tycoon kept files on all the family members, Casey said, describing their lives as being "like a chessboard and my grandfather liked to control all the moves."

Once her parents split up, Casey said, Glenna Sue got $200 in support from Julian. Casey said her dad always had drugs and young women around him at his house, that women "were disposable in the Hammer family."

Casey alleged in her book that her father also physically and sexually abused her and reiterated the accusation in the show, crediting therapy in the 1990s with helping her recover repressed memories. She hoped her mother would tell her she was crazy, Casey recalled, "but it turns out she did know about it and what I was remembering was actually happening."

Regretting that she never confronted her dad in his lifetime, Casey said, "The generation I grew up in, it was closed-door. But it's a different time." She said she hoped Courtney "finds peace."

Edward Jay Epstein (pictured), author of the book Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer, said on House of Hammer that Armand, who was CEO of Occidental Petroleum from 1957 until his death in 1990, "controlled everyone, including women." When Armand filed for divorce from his second wife, Angela Carey Zevely, he accused her of mental cruelty—but, Edward recalled in the series, Armand was said to be the nasty one.

Talking to Edward for a New York Times profile on Armand in 1981, Angela said her ex-husband had a "cold and calculating brain" and it "causes him no pain to see the sufferings of others. In many husband would boast about the way he handled people and organizations who sought in any way to block him in his desires."

Armand sought out money for his next match, Edward said. The businessman was married to his third wife, Frances Barrett Tolman, from 1954 until her death in 1989. But, the reporter continued, Armand continued to have mistresses.

In 1955, when he was 26 years old, Casey's father, Julian, killed Bruce Whitlock, 28, during a fight over a gambling debt—and, as Edward detailed in his 1996 book, because the victim supposedly got fresh with Glenna Sue.

Edward said in episode two that Armand arranged for $50,000 to be delivered to a lawyer friend. Julian pleaded not guilty by reason of self-defense, and soon the charges against him were dropped.

"You could get away with murder," Casey said. "You could do anything. There was no accountability."

There were other familial run-ins with the law: In 1920, Armand's Russian immigrant father, Dr. Julius Hammer, was sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison for manslaughter for giving Marie Oganesoff, a Russian diplomat's wife, a botched abortion that resulted in her death.

And in 1976, Armand (who maintained his grandfather Julius was unfairly persecuted over his Communist ties) was given a suspended sentence months after pleading guilty to making $54,000 in illegal campaign contributions to President Richard Nixon and then trying to cover it up by lying to the Watergate committee. 

Armand, a major contributor to both Republicans and Democrats, was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

After his legal scandal, Armand was looking to rehabilitate his reputation on the world stage, his former political and media consultant, Neil Lyndon, shared in House of Hammer. And he did that in part by cultivating a relationship with fellow art enthusiast Prince Charles, who was newly married to Princess Diana at the time.

In 1985, Armand hosted a charity gala for the royal couple at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., which cost between $10,000 and $50,000 per person to attend.

Armand ultimately donated £40 million, or the equivalent of what today would be $250 million, to Charles' various causes, Neil said.

Clarence House has said, regarding donations to the Prince of Wales Charitable Fund, that trustees of the fund are the ones who vet donors and decide whose money to accept.

Neil (pictured) said he left the Hammer fold for good after the July 6, 1988 Piper Alpha accident, a devastating explosion of one of Occidental Petroleum's oil rig platforms in the North Sea that killed 167 people. Armand, he said, "took no interest whatsoever in the survivors or their families, the families of the dead." 

"I think he was the most satanic man of the second half of the 20th century," Neil said of his former boss. "In terms of corrupting the political process, in terms of controlling people, making them dance his tune, there is no comparison."

Casey alleged in the series that her brother Michael (Armie's father) and their own dad Julian did not get along—and that one time Julian offered his son $1 million if he'd give up his girlfriend. Whether or not money exchanged hands, the woman ended up on Julian's arm, Casey said.

Michael eventually went to work for his grandfather at Occidental Petroleum, and when he met his future wife Dru Ann Mobley, Armand approved. Casey explained that Michael ultimately surpassed Julian in Armand's eyes—and when the patriarch died at 92 in 1990, the bulk of his estate, which had dwindled from a once-estimated $180 million to $40 million, went to Michael, his only grandson.

Casey said her grandfather left her $250,000 in his will. (She was among numerous plaintiffs who sued the estate for what they felt was rightfully theirs, and she told Vanity Fair in 2021 that she ultimately settled for about $1.4 million.)

"It's not about the inheritance as much as it was about just being acknowledged," Casey said on the show. "I was completely left out."

From a letter she said was from her brother, Michael, Casey read, "Although we haven't spoken in many years, I heard the untrue and hurtful things you've recently said about our family. I can no longer remain quiet and allow you to feed your thirst for notoriety at the expense of our family and the Armand Hammer Foundation. If you choose to continue pretending that the stories you invented are the truth, I will have no choice other than to pursue every legal remedy to set the record straight. Despite all the pain your fabrications have caused, you share the blood running through my veins. You are still my family and I wish you nothing but the best."

E! News has reached out for comment from Michael. The series notes that neither he nor his now-ex-wife Dru responded to interview requests.

House of Hammer is streaming now on Discovery+

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