Inside the Downward Spiral of Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers' Seemingly Ideal Marriage

The surprise announcement that Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers were divorcing after 10 years of marriage was just the beginning.

By Natalie Finn Feb 02, 2021 9:00 PMTags
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"No. Words."

No one could blame Elizabeth Chambers for only having those seven letters to offer at first when she came across an Instagram caption that took a jab at the bizarre mess enveloping her estranged husband, Armie Hammer, who has been accused of sending graphic sexual messages, some of them fetishizing violence, to multiple women.

On Jan. 10, an anonymous account going by House of Effie on Twitter and Instagram shared screengrabs of purported past DMs from Hammer. The since-deleted posts went viral (E! News has not verified the provenance or authenticity of the messages) and countless people chimed in, including writer Jessica Ciencin Henriquez, who had spent time with the actor and asserted her opinion that the messages were real.

The online chatter quickly broadened to allegations that he'd been controlling and emotionally abusive to women in the flesh as well, and his private Instagram account was soon unearthed, a page on which he didn't seem to take pains to come off like a nice guy. 

At first, Hammer's camp didn't return requests for comment, but after a few days, he slammed the "bulls--t claims."

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Decrying the "vicious and spurious online attacks against me," he announced Jan. 13 that he was exiting the upcoming action-comedy Shotgun Wedding, which he was supposed to start filming with Jennifer Lopez in the Dominican Republic. In a statement to E! News, he said that he couldn't "in good conscience now" take off and be away from his children for four months. (Josh Duhamel has since joined the film in his place.)

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last March, Hammer and Chambers opted to ride out the indeterminate period of social distancing, remote interviews and production shutdowns in the Cayman Islands, where the kids could continue to attend school. While Hammer returned to Los Angeles after he and Chambers announced they were splitting up last July, he had since returned to Grand Cayman to be with his children for the first time in months. According to an October divorce filing requesting joint custody, he had been expecting Chambers to return to the U.S. with their 6-year-old daughter, Harper, and 3-year-old son, Ford, but she had stayed in the Caribbean.

And now, it's anyone's guess what she'll do next.

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Her "No. Words." comment last week—on a Just Jared casting story that made an unsubtle nod to the accusation that Hammer's fetishes include cannibalism—was the first anyone had heard from Chambers publicly since the story exploded. Only yesterday the 37-year-old released a more extensive statement via Instagram, not mentioning her husband by name but seemingly addressing the scandal.

"For weeks, I've been trying to process everything that has transpired," Chambers shared in a Feb. 1 post. "I am shocked, heartbroken, and devastated. Heartbreak aside, I am listening, and will continue to listen and educate myself on these delicate matters. I didn't realize how much I didn't know. I support any victim of assault or abuse and urge anyone who has experienced this pain to seek the help she or he needs to heal. At this time, I will not be commenting further on this matter. My sole focus and attention will continue to be on our children, on my work and on healing during this incredibly difficult time."

She concluded, "Thank you for all of the love and support, and thank you in advance for your continued kindness, respect, and consideration for our children and me as we find ways to move forward."

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But long before their divorce announcement, their marriage had not always been the picture-perfect union it often looked like from the outside.

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A source close to Chambers tells E! News that Hammer first confessed to his wife a couple of years ago that he had cheated on her, nor was that a one-time situation, but he was extremely apologetic and intent on trying to make it work. They started couples therapy, the source continues, and did keep on trying to save their marriage until it fell apart for good.

Chambers, however, was not aware of this other alleged side of Hammer's life or of his so-called darker interests, the source adds, and this was all a surprise to her. 

A rep for Hammer did not return a request for comment.

But "shocked, heartbroken and devastated" was how Chambers put it herself yesterday.

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Already married by the time Hammer's dual role as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network really put him on the map in 2010, he and Chambers seemingly had one of the rarer kinds of celebrity love stories—i.e. enduring and undramatic.

After meeting through a mutual friend in L.A. when Hammer was only 19 and she was 23, it took about a year before their relationship turned romantic.

"I was like, 'You have to break up with your boyfriend because we have to start dating.' Her mouth kind of fell open," Hammer recalled to Elle in 2013 of how he finally won his wife over. "I said, 'You were made for me,' and she got this look on her face like 'don't you even.' I was like, 'Wait, wait! And I was made for you. We were made to be together. So we can do this 30 years from now, when I've gotten married a couple of times and you've gotten married a couple of times, or we can start now and end up 60 years from now sitting on a porch in rocking chairs, talking about how good an adventure the whole thing was.' "

Two years later they were husband and wife—though apparently Chambers still needed some convincing to take that trip down the aisle.

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"When we finally got together, Armie really wanted to get married," she told Town & Country in 2013. "He sat me down and said, 'Look, we don't have to do this. We could just go our own ways, and then one day you'll be 40 and divorced and we'll run into each other, and we'll laugh and go out to dinner and have this same connection, and we'll wonder why we wasted all of that time. Or we could just do it now and enjoy the ride."

It's unclear if he only told her that once and they remembered it happening at different times, or if that was his rationale on both occasions.

Calling Chambers his "soul mate," Hammer explained to Elle, "I like the idea of marriage. I like the idea that I have a best friend. It's just really comforting. I remember being single and trying to date, and it was just stressful and hard. It wasn't fun. This is fun. I mean, not to be graphic," he said, reportedly lowering his voice before adding, "but you can have sex and in the middle just start laughing about something totally funny. You can't do that with someone you're dating; you're too nervous."

An admitted daredevil who spent his downtime while shooting The Lone Ranger off-roading, rock-climbing and cliff-jumping, the actor said self-deprecatingly, "My wife says I have a frontal lobe issue. Your frontal lobe controls your danger response, like, 'Whoa, I shouldn't be doing this.' But she says it's okay, because your frontal lobe doesn't fully develop until around 30, so I have until then to get all this s--t out of my system and then I need to calm down."

And then he gave a heck of an example as to how he came to that conclusion.

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While, according to Hammer, he came from a loving, stable family (Hammer, as in Arm & Hammer), he said, "Once I was on my own, I was like, Let's see how hot this candle can burn." Describing a period of debauchery that included drinking too much, taking drugs and being with women who were "bad, bad news," he recalled one woman trying to stab him during sex.

"I should so not be telling this story," he noted. "She was like, 'True love leaves scars. You don't have any.' And then she tried to stab me with a butcher knife. Of course I promptly broke up with her—seven months later."

Hammer's gauntlet of publicity leading up to the release of the wildly hyped The Lone Ranger (which ended up bombing spectacularly at the box office) also included a Playboy interview—a sit-down situation that has tripped up more than one famous man over the years.

In his case, Hammer made headlines with an eyebrow-raising description of his premarital sexual proclivities, as well as the revelation that he and Chambers, while gallery-hopping on their first date, visited a sex shop.

"I liked the grabbing of the neck and the hair and all that," he shared. "But then you get married and your sexual appetites change. And I mean that for the better—it's not like I'm suffering in any way. But you can't really pull your wife's hair. It gets to a point where you say, 'I respect you too much to do these things that I kind of want to do.'"

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Paige Lorenze recently told E! News that she consented to engaging in BSDM with Hammer when they dated last year following his split from Chambers. She described him as "really charming, really handsome, funny," and said he introduced her to his parents, but she broke it off via text in December. "I was feeling anxious and always was kind of feeling sick to my stomach," she said. "And I knew that I just needed to get out." (When she told her story to the Daily Mail, Hammer's legal team reiterated that his interactions with Lorenze, "or any partner of his," were "completely consensual in that they were fully discussed, agreed upon, and mutually participatory.")

When E! News caught up with him in the wake of his Playboy interview in 2013, Hammer quipped, "Let's just say, hindsight is 20/20. Don't drink during an interview."

And speaking of hindsight, he told British GQ in 2019, explaining why he had taken a break from social media when the attacks on his acting got too personal: "I'm not sadomasochistic enough to enjoy this."

But it sounded as though he wouldn't be able to resist social media's siren song for long: "It's very interesting to incur the wrath and the ire of the internet; the internet's attention span is very short," he mused. "My relationship with Twitter is like that fable of the frog and the scorpion: the frog gives the scorpion a lift across the river, right before the scorpion stings it. The frog goes, 'Why did you do that?' and he goes, 'Because I'm a f--king scorpion!'"

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Yet while Hammer's say-anything reputation grew in stature (though sometimes trending more family-friendly, such as when he accidentally revealed the sex of their second child on Jimmy Kimmel Live), his marriage to Chambers always seemed solid.

They counted L.A. as their home base, but they spent more time in her native Texas, where the TV host opened Bird Bakery in San Antonio in 2012, starting with inspiration from her own grandmother's recipe box and building from there. The University of Texas at Austin graduate added to her burgeoning empire in 2016, opening a second location in Dallas' trendy Highland Park neighborhood, and a Denver branch is in the works.

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As she was getting the Dallas shop ready, she shared with Montage Magazine what a typical day for her looked like, starting with her 6:20 a.m. wakeup call. "Drink my first Kombucha—I'm still breastfeeding, so missing my coffee! Make breakfast for husband and Harper. Play time with Harper—mornings are our favorite." If all went accordingly, after the kids were asleep she'd have dinner with Hammer at 9 p.m. at one of their favorite restaurants and end the meal with a Mexican hot chocolate brownie from Bird.

Her meticulously curated Instagram account showed the highlights of their globetrotting life together, such as when she joined Hammer in Italy while he filmed the 2017 romance Call Me by Your Name. "Instagram is a photographic journal, and I don't mind sharing memories and milestones," Chambers explained to Texas Monthly in 2018.

She offered up a Valentine's Day gift guide in February, they celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary May 25, and on Father's Day, weeks before their July 10 split announcement, she showed off some photos from their idyllic-looking time on Grand Cayman with Harper and Ford, writing, "Happy Father's Day to the master bedtime singer, omelette maker, steak griller, 'water pusher,' snorkel instructor, story teller and so much more. Our babies couldn't ask for a more adventurous and entertaining dad and we're lucky that you're ours. We love you."

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Even when Hammer and Chambers revealed that they were splitting up, they did so in utmost amiable fashion, posting identical joint statements on social media. "Thirteen years as best friends, soulmates, partners and then parents," they said. "It has been an incredible journey, but together, we've decided to turn the page and move on from our marriage. As we enter into this next chapter, our children and relationship as co-parents and dear friends will remain our priority.

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A source close to Chambers told E! News at the time, "They are great co-parents and get along well. There are still fond feelings between the two of them, and they're communicating happily with each other."

She still marked Hammer's birthday on Aug. 28, posting a photo of him holding Harper during a past birthday celebration and writing, "You are loved."

In the months following their split, Hammer was photographed out and about in casual surroundings with a few different women, including Rumer Willis. A source close to the newly single actor told E! News in September that he "isn't dating or in a relationship with anyone. He and his ex were together since his early 20's so he isn't looking for a relationship now."

But eventually he had to start doing press ahead of the Oct. 16 premiere of the Netflix remake of Rebecca he starred in with Lily Jamesand by the end of the summer, he sounded as if he was ready to talk. About a lot of stuff.

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"Look, I don't think you'll find anyone in the world who would ever say what I'm going through is an easy thing to go through," he told British GQ's Jonathan Heaf in an interview published Sept. 30. "It's not about whether it was your idea or not, or whether you think it's the right idea or you don't. Either way, a separation like this is a seriously seismic event in someone's life."

Keeping with the earthquake metaphor, he continued, "And there's a lot of shifting and a lot of growing pains and a lot of changes. Change is a universal constant. I mean, change is not a bad thing always, but that doesn't mean it's painless."

"Elizabeth and I are two adults making this decision and the priority is how do we do it in a way that affects our children the least?" he also told the magazine. "Or, at least, how do we help get them through this in a way that mitigates as much consternation or fear or damage on their part, you know?"

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In a video chat with Heaf for the GQ Heroes 2020 issue that was posted Oct. 28, Hammer—without mentioning the unraveling of his marriage—revealed that he had experienced "a very intense wakeup call" at a point during the pandemic that prompted him to start seeing a therapist multiple times a week (which by then had turned into once a week).

"I think like everyone else on the planet, I felt like the rug was ripped from under my feet and I felt like I could feel it happening in slow motion, like the rug was just being ripped from my feet and I was falling face-first and I was gonna smash my face on the ground," Hammer shared. "I felt like I was in a state of like, free fall almost. Like it was just, it was really difficult."

His reality "felt like it was falling apart," he continued.  "There was one specific moment where I was not in my best mental state… and in the midst of this moment that was very intense, I had a very intense moment of clarity, where I sat my head up and thought: I'm not OK."

Not having a packed schedule to take his mind off his issues, he explained, "I decided to just take whatever steps I could to make a difference and to help myself." Otherwise, he added, "I can't be the best father that I can be if I'm not the best version of myself. I can't be the best friend, I can't be the best actor, I can't be any of that if I'm not actually a good, healthy, functioning version of myself. And having the time to sit with myself in quarantine made it painfully clear that I've got some improvement to do and that's the goal, that's the journey."

During the interview, Heaf asked him about his friendship with his Call Me by Your Name co-star Timothée Chalamet, who became the next big heartthrob after the 2017 film came out (and, incidentally, was nominated for an Oscar), and whether he had ever worried about how his young pal would handle the perils of fame.

Not really, but, Hammer acknowledged, "You do worry about anyone who has to go through that sort of level of attention and scrutiny, because it's really intense. It's really hard. Most people don't realize that, if you just turn off your phone, it goes away completely and it doesn't actually deserve any emotional real estate in your life. But that's a really hard lesson to learn, especially when it's new for someone and it seems exciting. It is a very visceral thing to have that many people all of a sudden vying for your attention, or wanting to tell you that they love you."

Asked what his love-hate relationship with social media was like these days, Hammer called it "very dangerous, the same way that alcohol can be very dangerous." He explained, "I think it's like wine. I think wine is an intoxicant, much like social media is for a lot of people. And if you drink wine responsibly, you can have a wonderful relationship with wine, you can try different types of wine. You can even get a little loose on wine and have a good time. But if you go, like, full Bukowski and you're just like a wino on that stuff," he added, shaking his head, "it'll eat you alive."

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Hammer rang in 2021 back in the paradisiacal surroundings of the Caymans, sharing a group photo taken on the beach Jan. 2, writing, "Free at last! (With my kids but as a New Years resolution I will not be posting pictures of my children for their safety and for their well-being)." That seemed to be a dig at Chambers, who had just shared a pic of the children three days prior.

All was quiet for awhile.

On Jan. 10, hours before life as she knew it was about to change due to a Twitter trending topic, Chambers had shared a photo of herself sprawled across the hood of a Jeep, captioned, "Celebrating day 457 of Christmas break coming to an end with 2 hours of off-roading, which is both the babes' newest favorite hobby and oddly exhausting. Happy week, bbs."

One thing that hasn't changed since is that now, just as before, she's entirely focused on what's best for her son and daughter. 

Among the replies to her statement yesterday, Olivia Munn wrote, "One of the strongest people I know. Your kids are beyond lucky to have you." Busy Philipps and Roma Downey each commented, "Sending you love." Selma Blair added, "Thinking of you."

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While he's a star of the film Crisis, in theaters Feb. 26, as well as part of the ensemble of Death on the Nile, whose COVID-delayed release is now Sept. 17, sources told Variety last week that Hammer is no longer attached to The Offer, a 1970s-set drama series for Paramount Plus about the making of The Godfather. Neither side has commented on his exit from the project.

"I am proud to be a part of a hard-hitting thriller that tackles the issues that surround an industry that profits from addiction (and proud to be in this poster with #GaryOldman.)," Crisis co-star Evangeline Lilly captioned a Jan. 27 Instagram post, prompting some speculative reports that she was snubbing Hammer because the poster prominently pictured all three of them.

As he sounded off in his British GQ video chat last fall about his litany of issues with social media, he also noted that what you see is almost never what you get.

"It is not meant to edify the human spirit," he said. "There's no one really who gets a lot of good from it, and the people who think that they're getting good are really getting something fake. They're getting a façade. What happens on social media is not representative of the real world in any stretch of the imagination. You see these pictures of people, it looks like they're happy and partying. You know, 'I'm on the beach in this picture, then I'm in Greece in this picture, then I'm over here in that picture…' You think, Oh my god, this person's life is truly glamorous, but… you know."

He sighed.

"I mean," he added, "I have so many things I want to say."