"It's hard to watch": Armie Hammer's aunt on her family's "sick and twisted behavior" in new series

Casey Hammer spoke to Salon about new docuseries "House of Hammer," surviving abusive misogyny & empowering victims

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published September 2, 2022 7:00PM (EDT)

Armie Hammer attends the 'Free Fire' Closing Night Gala screening during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square on October 16, 2016 in London, England. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI)
Armie Hammer attends the 'Free Fire' Closing Night Gala screening during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square on October 16, 2016 in London, England. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI)

Casey Hammer is a force to be reckoned with. The author, designer and aunt of disgraced actor-turned-timeshare-salesman, Armie Hammer, is exposing the dark secrets — from violence and drug abuse to financial fraud and political manipulation — behind the powerful Hammer dynasty.

"I just thought, 'Here we go again, another Hammer making the headlines and getting away with whatever.'"

The shocking revelations are featured on "House of Hammer," the new Discovery+ docuseries that revisits the allegations of rape, abuse and yes, interest in cannibalism, brought against the "Call Me By Your Name" actor. Over the course of three episodes, viewers are introduced to the victims who came forward to share their stories along with Casey Hammer — who witnessed and experienced abuse at the hands of her immediate family members.

The combination of wealth, power, privilege and mistreatment was so prevalent, in fact, that in the docuseries it's revealed she had problems watching HBO's hit series "Succession." Not only did the show remind her of her family, but she deemed the real-life Hammers far worse than the fictional Roys.

"I grew up with very abusive, multi-generational men in the Hammer family," she told Salon in a recent Zoom interview. "And I just felt such an admiration for these women about how brave they were and I wanted to help them somehow. 'House of Hammer' shines a light on victims and abuse and holding people accountable — especially people, power, money, influence and fame. That's not easy to go up against."

The second hour of the three-part Discovery+ series details the entitlement of the Hammer family and the ugliness behind the scenes to paint a picture of the legacy that Armie Hammer inherited. The physical and emotional abuse was all part of the controlling patriarchal package in which the men called all the shots, and the women were either complicit or at least had to toe the line to survive.

Hammer, who is estranged from her family and currently lives a quiet life in San Diego, dedicates all her work to victims of abuse who felt ostracized, ashamed and alone — feelings Hammer herself once grappled with. In addition to writing a 2015 memoir, "Surviving My Birthright," and starring in "House of Hammer," Hammer hopes to empower women and children through TED talks and a series of upcoming children's books.

House of HammerCasey Hammer from "House of Hammer" (discovery+)

She spoke with Salon about her recent project, her family's troubling history and the lessons she's learnt thus far.  

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

On "House of Hammer," you share a lot of your story in front of the camera in the second episode. You are also a consultant on the series. What does that role entail?

Basically, I think it has to do with my involvement in the project. To give just a little bit of backstory, I had written a book, "Surviving My Birthright," and it started out as a journal — kind of a healing for me to make sense of my life, what had happened and what was happening. And so when I wrote the book, I self-published it seven years ago and it was more of being able to hold it as a representation of my life being validated in this sense. So it was very empowering for me in that moment. And so since then, I had controlled the narrative and it was self-published.

"My grandfather controlled the narrative ...  A good example of this is my mother, who had her cigarettes dyed to match her outfits."

Fast forward seven years — last year, I was in San Diego working at Home Depot as a kitchen designer and one of my coworkers was like, "Casey, you better get on TikTok. There's someone called The Zen Blonde blowing up your life." And I was like, tech challenged and don't do social media. So they got me on TikTok and literally, within two hours, I watched The Zen Blonde live-read my book. It was in that moment where my future and my fate were out of control, like being on a roller coaster where you just don't know what's about to happen.

House of HammerLauren Skae, aka The Zen Blonde, from "House of Hammer" (discovery+)

How did you get involved with this project? Were there any trepidations or concerns that you had when publicly coming forward with this story?

I think the universe gives you a moment where they say, "Alright, here's your choice. What are you going to do with it?" And I thought when Armie first started imploding on social media, people wanted me to comment, they reached out to me when they found out that he had an aunt. I didn't want to be a sound bite for that because that wasn't my journey. I wanted to empower women and I wanted to be an advocate for victims.

So, I stayed away from all of that. But then, the producers [of "House of Hammer"] sent me a letter talking about my book and how they wanted to tell my story and were very interested. This is what I've been waiting for. This is a positive way to get my message across. I met with them, and then from that moment on, other people started joining, people wanted to tell their story. And the victims that came forward, I mean, these are smart, intelligent, successful women that got trapped and sucked down that vacuum.  

It's hard to watch; don't get me wrong. I'm still getting triggered, like, "Oh my God, it's my life! I mean, I lived it. I know how it ends, I'm sitting here." But I still watch it and it's pretty horrific. So it'll be interesting to see why people tune in, if it's for entertainment or whatever. By the end of three hours, I guarantee their opinions will be changed and it will be something that they did not expect it.

I want to backtrack a bit and revisit the past. Where were you when the allegations made against Armie Hammer broke out and how did you react to that news?

I was working at Home Depot in San Diego, designing kitchens. My co-workers were sharing stories of Armie and what was happening and that's how I found out, it was at work. And I wasn't surprised. I just thought, "Here we go again, another Hammer making the headlines and getting away with whatever." I really didn't give a second thought to it in all honesty.

In the docuseries, you said your life was "like a chessboard" that was strictly controlled & monitored by your grandfather, Armand Hammer. Can you elaborate on that?

It was pretty terrifying, but again, that's all I knew. And not having social media back then, you thought that's just the way powerful, rich, famous families were behind closed doors. It was all kinds of abuse. It was physical, it was mental, it was you name it . . .

"Just because your family or your parents give birth to you and pretend to love you doesn't mean that they can do whatever they want to you."

My grandfather controlled the narrative, so he basically wanted us to act a certain way once we left and went out the front door. We had to be camera ready, picture ready. I mean, even though he had us followed, everything was always recorded. His goal was to win the Nobel Peace Prize. So, the last thing he could have is any family member disrespecting him or embarrassing him or saying the wrong thing.

We were always told what to do, where to go, what schools to attend. We were not given a choice in our lives at all and you just did it. Otherwise, you were threatened with lots of punishments, violence or being cut off. So at an early age, you learned how to act and you didn't speak unless you were spoken to. A good example of this is my mother, who had her cigarettes dyed to match her outfits. It was mysterious back then; people wanted to know everything about old money. My grandfather hosted royalty and presidents and movie stars. They were at all the functions every month — we would meet new people and we just kind of hung out with all those people.

Hopefully "House of Hammer" exposes that, at least in the Hammer family, there's a lot of things that go on, even to this day. Just because your family or your parents give birth to you and pretend to love you doesn't mean that they can do whatever they want to you. And so until you can share your story and find a kindred spirit who knows what you're going through, you feel so alone.

You talk a lot about the abuses you endured and witnessed over the years by the Hammer family, but one thing that surprised me about the allegations were the mentions of cannibalism and cannibalistic fantasies. Did that surprise you as well?

At this point, I don't know to be honest. I just know that from my experience, there's a lot of sick and twisted behavior in my family. And what I witnessed, I'm not surprised by anything I hear these days. I mean, it's sad and it's shocking.

"I was born and I was told I was a mistake."

But again, it's more about the victims, right? It's sad and shocking that people seem to be forgetting about them. It just shows you that maybe by shining a light on Hollywood, so to speak — because I guarantee there's probably a lot of people who aren't speaking about a lot of things that happened to them — it's important to know that you can come forward, that we've got you and hopefully, people will see a bit of themselves in this docuseries.

How has your family's mistreatment of women influenced your perception of yourself?

Oh, it's hard. I mean, I was born and I was told I was a mistake. And then I was told I was supposed to be a boy. I was also given the name "Casey," which was spelled the boy way back then. And all through school I was called "Mr. Hammer" and I'd have to raise my hand and say no, I'm a girl.

It's kind of ironic that now I'm standing before you as a girl and I'm not raising my hand anymore. I'm just speaking my truth and saying who I am. It's challenging because you don't think of it as you're a girl that you're not loved. You just think of it as "I'm not loved. What am I doing wrong? Oh, I better do more. I better be better behaved. Even though I'm really doing everything I'm supposed to be doing." You don't understand and you're constantly chasing and then, the self-sabotaging and the self-hatred.

I speak a lot about it in my book of how I work through a lot of that just to get healed. That I'm even sitting here right now, it's a testament that for whatever reason, I'm supposed to keep plugging along because you know, I'm here for a reason. And I think seeing "House of Hammer," I had a moment where you go, "OK, this is why I'm going to keep moving forward with this purpose and help empower women because I know how great it made me feel." It's like one of those things where everything you need is inside. And the minute you stop and take the moment to just love yourself for who you are, it's OK, it's good enough.

House of HammerCasey Hammer from "House of Hammer" (discovery+)

What do you hope viewers will take away from "House of Hammer"?

How brave everyone who was a part of making it happen. Because again, a year and a half ago, I was in a different place and the difference I've made in myself and others by re-traumatizing and re-triggering myself and finding out how it's okay, you can come out on the other end and be OK, that it reminds me how important this work is. If I can help a child or victim know that they're heard and that they're not alone, then all of this has been worth it. It's such a beautiful life. If you just pause for a moment and show some kindness and some support for yourself first and then you can let that bleed out to the rest of the world. That's what I'm hoping for.

"House of Hammer" is available for streaming now on discovery+. Watch the trailer below, via YouTube:

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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