Major Hollywood studios despise scandals. Opening a blockbuster film in this marketplace is hard enough, and when a scandal casts a shadow over a production, or a member of a sprawling cast, that threatens to be a massive distraction from the movie at hand. Which brings us to a piece regarding Armie Hammer, his ongoing negative publicity, and the attempts by Walt Disney to postpone having to address the issue because Hammer happens to be a male lead in the studio’s oft-delayed Agatha Christie adaptation Death on the Nile.
Variety tackles these concerns in a column that follows up news that Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile feature shifted all the way back to Quarter One of 2022 as Walt Disney studio shuffles release dates and plans for theaters to reopen. This is just the latest in a series of delays for Death on the Nile, though the previous ones were due to production issues and then COVID restrictions. Those delays, however, have put the massive murder mystery on a collision course to a publicity nightmare thanks to the headlines Armie Hammer is getting.
Hammer, as you may or may not know, is the center of an LAPD investigation regarding claims of a violent rape from 2017. He has been outed on social media as someone who might be involved in domination and sexual cannibalism, claims that are unverified and he has mostly denied. He’s engaged in a public custody battle with his ex-wife, Elizabeth Chambers, who was married to the actor for 10 years. And he has been losing professional gigs in the wake of these allegations, stepping away from the Lionsgate RomCom Shotgun Wedding with Jennifer Lopez, then being dropped from The Billion Dollar Spy, a Cold War drama with Mads Mikkelsen.
Which brings us to Death on the Nile, and Disney’s difficult situation. The studio can’t fire Armie Hammer from the movie. The movie’s done, and according to sources who spoke to Variety, he has a significant part that can’t just be removed. There’s precedent for that, as when Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey in the Ridley Scott drama All the Money in the World. The late actor actually ended up getting a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards for his work.
Other analysts suggested to Variety that Walt Disney simply bite the bullet and take the stance that hundreds of talented people worked on Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, and they’re not going to let the alleged actions of one cast member sink the whole ship. But Variety astutely notes that any press needs to be protective of Armie Hammer’s female co-stars, including Gal Gadot and Letitia Wright, because of the violent nature of the allegations leveled at the actor.
The release date buys Disney some time on Death on the Nile, and we will continue to see how the Armie Hammer story plays out. Eventually, though, Kenneth Branagh’s movie is going to see the light of day, and we’ll figure out if Hammer’s alleged actions overshadow the director’s accomplishments.