In The Social Network, Armie Hammer utters the immortal line: "I'm 6ft 5in, 220 (lbs) and there's two of me." The phrase, declared in a flexing display of his physical supremacy, comes as he takes on the dual role of preppy twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and it capitalises on his almost impossibly perfect, athletic frame.

That physique, immaculately sculpted, is used to maximum effect in David Fincher's story about the founding of Facebook and is the centre of attention again in Hammer's new, but very different film, the queer romance Call Me By Your Name, which could catapult both Hammer and his co-star Timothee Chalamet into the Oscar conversation.

Hammer plays the object of desire to the precocious son of a university professor, who is living with the academic and his family for a summer in northern Italy. The camera lusts after Hammer's Oliver as Elio, played by Chalamet, does too, lingering on his torso and relishing in a long shot of him dancing freely to Love My Way by The Psychedelic Furs.

The role, in an adaptation of Andre Aciman's novel of the same name, is a distinct change in direction for Hammer, who is best known for his suave turns in The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Nocturnal Animals. It required an emotional vulnerability he hasn't shown before and that was an intimidating prospect, he says. "Not in the sense of this huge insurmountable undertaking, but in the sense where it seemed so small and so subtle that the smaller the targets, the easier to miss."

In fact it required a level of honesty he was not sure he could provide as an actor. "There is no fanfare, there is no green screen, there are no monsters, there is nothing to distract from this raw and open vulnerability and honesty of two characters who expose themselves to another person in an emotional capacity.

"It's so beautifully received and then reciprocated and the entire movie would live and die depending on these little moments and if they weren't honest and genuine then it would just never work and I just didn't know that I could be that honest as a performer, I didn't know that I could do that," he admits. "It made me nervous to be that vulnerable and honest on film in an acting capacity."

What changed his mind was talking to the film's director Luca Guadagnino, who is responsible for I Am Love and A Bigger Splash. Hammer says: "I had several great conversations with Luca about the nature of fear and desire and how they are very part and parcel, and then he challenged me and said 'If you say you want to live your life as an artist, don't you want to take movies that challenge you? Don't you want to take movies that force you to grow? And I couldn't be more thankful that I took his advice."

Chalamet adds: "There is no Luca Guadagnino film that exists in his filmography that doesn't have characters that are exposing themselves emotionally and wearing their hearts on their sleeves."

But it's important it never descends into sentimentality and mawkishness, he says.

"On another project that is maybe entirely your responsibility as an actor. There was a tremendous freedom on this one that Luca, who is such an amazing director, I almost felt like I didn't have to worry about that. Without spoiling any scenes, there is a revealing of love at a certain point that plays out in one long wide shot that is about six minutes or something and the moment where it's revealed is actually very far away from the camera. On other projects that is really something on my mind but on this one I didn't have the insecurity about making it cartoon-ish or exaggerated and it's because of Luca."

It was also helped along by the fact they filmed on location in Crema in Lombardy, where they recreated some of the film's scenes in their real life collaboration.

"We were entirely living the experience," Hammer says. "When I got to Crema I met Timmy for the first time and he had been there for three weeks before I arrived so immediately we met and said hi and the whole thing and then he showed me around town on bikes and he was like 'this is a great restaurant' and 'for coffee in the morning, you want to go here', and it was incredibly analogous to the actual experience of how these two learned the town and all that stuff so it was awesome."

For all its idyllic romance, the film has not been without detractors, with some criticising the fact the romance takes place between a 17-year-old and a 24-year-old.

After conservative gay author Chad Felix Greene took objection at the age gap between the two main characters, actor James Woods responded by tweeting: "As they quietly chip away the last barriers of decency."

Asked about the criticism, Hammer said: "The only people I've come across who ever have anything negative to say about the movie are people who haven't actually seen it so I don't really care.

"It reminds you of that great quote where a person can be smart but people are always stupid."

But the film has been largely well received since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and many have tipped both Hammer and Chalamet for awards nominations. It's also had a profound effect on some members of its audiences.

"One person said they saw it and went home and came out to their parents," Hammer says. "That was actually very moving," Chalamet adds. "That is the kind of thing that is beyond my wildest dreams and it happened to me on another movie I did once where I got a little message online about somebody saying the character really affected them.

"I really had a moment where I don't know, it sounds really self-satisfied or something, but I forgot. You audition so much, you are thinking about the producers, you think about the director or whatever, and sometimes you forget 'oh man, people could be genuinely affected by this'."

  • Call Me By Your Name is out now.