row2k Features
Rowing and 'The Social Network'
Part IV: The Actors Arrive
October 12, 2010
Dan Boyne

Josh Pence, furthest left; dots demarcate his digital face lift; Armie Hammer, second from right

While I was sorting out the final issues of boats, oars, and oarsmen in Boston, David Fincher and Bob Wagner were back in LA, trying to find a pair of actors who could play the Winklevoss twins. There were no stars who fit the bill for the simple reason that there are few actors in Hollywood who have a heavyweight oarsman's size and stature.

Robert Downey Jr.? Nope. Tom Cruise? Nope. Nicolas Cage? Please.

The real Winklevoss twins were in the UK, attending Oxford, so the directors had to settle for the next best thing—two unknowns who looked very similar to each other. There names were Armie Hammer and Josh Pence. Both were 6’5-6’6 and in great physical condition. I saw their audition tape and they looked a pair of golden boys.

Josh had rowed before, at Dartmouth; Armie had never taken a stroke. Still, with a last name like Hammer you had to figure that he was destined to pull an oar at some point in his life. It would only be a matter of time and (ahem) refinement.

The other thing Amie had going for him was that he came from an excellent gene pool. He was the great grandson of none other than Armand Hammer, the mighty oil magnate whose name graces every box of baking soda you’ve ever bought (unless you go in for generic goods).

Fincher immediately took my advice to heart and hired coach Dawn Reagan at Loyola Marymount Crew to start working with guys in Marina Del Rey, first in a double scull and then in a pair. Based on the clips I’d seen and what Dawn told me, they were coming along quite nicely.

But they had no idea of the challenge that awaited them in Boston.

To be honest, no one did. No one predicted that snow would fall during the Head of the Charles Regatta that year, either. And by the time all the equipment trucks staring arriving at Community Rowing to set up the shoot, the weather hadn’t improved much.

The first task was to have Armie and Josh meet the other oarsmen and get comfortable rowing with them. I had chosen the following line-ups:

Dutch 8:

Cox: John Haumesser
8 Brad Attaway
7 Hugo Beekman
6 Will Allen
5 Adam Holland
4. Joe Gartland
3 Eric Benson
2. Emerson Curry
1 Aleks Zosals
Harvard 8:

cox: Rob Dalton
8 Tom Owston
7 Joe Carrol
6 Jim Bailey (double for Armie)
5 Lucas Abegg(double for Josh)
4 Henry Rooselvelt
3 Teddy Schrek
2 Matt Webb
1 Tyler Williamson

The tentative pairs grouping were as follows:

  • Owston & Carol
  • Roosevelt & Schreck
  • Williamson and Webb
  • Hamilton & Barchick
  • Winkie Body Double: Abegg & Bayley

    All the guys were going through their wardrobe fittings on the top floor of CRI when Josh and Armie arrived in their limo. People gawked as they made their way through the CRI boathouse. And I mean women and men, for Armie and Josh were, as my grandmother used to say, a pair of handsome devils.

    Armie's looks were described as “otherworldly” by one movie critic, and Josh was described as having a face like a sunrise.

    I wondered what the oarsmen would make of them.

    Josh was also an international model (Calvin Klein, etc.) who had parlayed his good looks into acting. He was shy and reserved, as models could afford to be. Armie was more of a golden retriever. He was the sort of guy who barged into a room and instantly made friends with everyone, which is exactly what he did with the other oarsmen.

    It was perfect.

    In short order, Armie even had Adam Holland following him around, giving him all sorts of rowing advice in exchange for stories about the silver screen. And Josh was instantly cool with everyone, not only because he had rowed before but because of his relaxed, surfer dude energy.

    It was hard to break up the love fest, but I finally told everyone that we needed to do some rowing. I’d rigged up the two Empacher eights and I wanted to make sure that everything was good to go for the following week. Concept II had graciously provided some vintage oars and even painted them, and the Canadian Empacher rep., Bruce Brennan, had given me a deal on an eight and a pair.

    Armie had never rowed in an eight before, so I was particularly keen to see how he would do in a big boat.

    We started easy, in fours and sixes. Armie was a big guy with a great attitude. Mostly, he just wanted to impress everyone and learn anything that he could as quickly as he could. Josh, rowing behind him in the five seat, was absolutely fine. The other guys in the “Harvard” boat (many of whom had gone to Harvard) were excited, too, and offered their Hollywood teammates constant advice. I finally had to remind them to keep it down.

    When they finally started to row all eight and wind up into their first power ten, a big smile broke across Armie’s face.

    “Damn. This is fun!” he shouted. He had a genuine enthusiasm that made everyone laugh.

    Josh just gave one of his trademark grins. I felt a little badly for him, for earlier he had revealed to me that Fincher was not even going use his face in the film. Instead, using the marvels of digital technology, Armie's face would be transplanted onto Josh's in order to create the “twins” effect.

    As a consolation prize, Josh would get to play a throw away character who enters a men's bathroom just after Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin emerge from having a quickie with two Harvard coeds.

    Watch closely for this scene if you want to get a glimpse of Josh, as well as a few side angle shots when he is playing Tyler Winklevoss (and not facing the camera). In my opinion, Josh was a hell of a guy to agree to have his face removed, and I think you will see much more about him in the future.


    See and purchase Dan's books on rowing here:
  • Kelly, A father, a son, and American Quest
  • Red Rose Crew
  • Essential Sculling
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    Log in to comment
    10/12/2010  1:53:04 PM
    I don't mean to be a stickler, but the Empacher rep's name is actually Brad Brennan.

    10/12/2010  8:30:09 AM
    Did all of the actors/rowers get changed for the Henley scene? I know the girl who coxed the Harvard boat during Henley so I know that changed.

    [email protected]
    10/12/2010  9:32:07 AM
    Yes, everyone was replaced by UK oarsmen for the Henley sequence, much to the dismay of the Boston oarsmen. You will learn about this in an upcoming article, so stay tuned...


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