Charlie and his King Arthur: Legend of the Sword co-star Djimon Hounsou and director Guy Ritchie dropped by AOL Build for an exclusive chat about the film. You can watch it below in case you missed it.
Most actors who dine in West Hollywood delis don’t talk to beret-clad strangers.?
And they’re especially not likely to be listening to one of those strangers deliver disquisitions about wine. ?
Yet, improbably, there is Charlie Hunnam — snappily dressed Brit, gritty-as-dirt Jax from “Sons of Anarchy” — at Greenblatt’s, Westside promised land of whitefish and latkes and his regular haunt. He is turned to the table behind him, eagerly receiving oenophilic wisdom from an older man in colorful headgear.??
“I came back from being outside doing this,” the British actor said a moment later, pointing to a vaping implement, “and he was drinking wine right in the middle of the day. So I asked him some questions,” Hunnam added with a wouldn’t-you-do-the-same? shrug. “He knew a lot — it was really interesting.”
Then again, Hunnam has long headed his own way. Since he started getting leading film roles in the early 2000s — in “Nicholas Nickleby,” or as the snarling ringleader in the soccer-fan drama “Green Street Hooligans” — the actor, 37, has shown a maverick streak. A working-class Brit who as a kid devoured American films and literature. A heartthrob-in-waiting who eschews heartthrob roles. A Hollywood creature who openly criticizes the Hollywood machine.
Hunnam is perhaps best known for the role he didn’t play, backing out of the Christian Grey part in the erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It was the type of 11th-hour exit one rarely sees — a genuinely unexpected bucking of the Hollywood handbook that encapsulates his quirky independence.
But starting Friday, Hunnam’s fame could take on a new dimension: He’ll be seen on the big screen (really big, given the film’s 35 mm format) as the doomed British explorer Percy Fawcett in James Gray’s low-fi jungle-adventure “The Lost City of Z.” And next month, he’ll appear as the lead in Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” a stylish big-budget take on the 5th- and 6th-century English legend.
The two will show more of the under-the-radar-actor to the world, or at least the same aspects to more of the world. At a time of glib soundbites and Twitter fronting, Hunnam offers a refreshingly different kind of personality, a candid and considered soul seemingly trapped in a Hollywood-actor body.
In “Lost City,” he plays the real-life Fawcett with a thoughtful, at times sullen, seriousness. The former artillery soldier made repeated trips to the Amazon in search of a community he believed was the remnants of El Dorado, eventually disappearing there with his son in 1925. As Hunnam conjures him from David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, Fawcett was not the swashbuckling adventurer at the start of his quest, nor the stark-raving mad Kurtzian figure as it went on — instead, he was beset by the kind of quiet preoccupation that destroys and nourishes in equal measure.
“For me, Fawcett represents the search for meaning we all have — that terrible and wonderful and ordained quest,” Hunnam said. “He wasn’t finding any answers in society; he found life wholly unsatisfying. So it was this voice asking questions: ‘What are we doing, and what is this desperate dark hole and how do I fill it?’ Most of us fill it with total nonsense — with consumerism. And he thought this quest would help quiet that voice.”
Hunnam tends to answer questions with a pause, followed by a rush of words, an attempt to get across a truth unbothered by spin, as though by simply speaking quickly and eloquently he could ward off the dreaded curse of the talking point.
He also evinces a dark view glinted — slightly — with humor.
“I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world. I really don’t. I suppose where it comes from is a deep sense of pessimism,” he said. “All the challenges we’re facing — the lack of water, overpopulation, climate change, social media.”
He waited the quickest poker-faced second to let the quip land, then continued, more gloomily: “I feel like we’re rapidly galloping toward an apocalypse — we’ve passed critical mass. I know it’s a morbid viewpoint. But I’m not melancholy. It’s just Trump or Brexit or whatever it is — what difference does it make? It’s hard to get invested in any of it.” Several times in the interview, he described feeling “existential and lost” at various life points. Continue reading
Charlie Hunnam is dancing within seconds of our introduction. “I just invented a POPSUGAR dance,” he says. “Do you want to see it?” I tell him that I absolutely do, of course, and soon he’s half bent over while punching the air with both arms, doing what can best be described as a victory dance.
When I admit that I’d kill to have his moves on video, he just laughs, taking a seat at our small table and sitting back in his chair, ready for what must feel like the millionth interview of the week.
If anybody deserves a victory dance right now, it’s Hunnam. The 37-year-old actor is in the midst of a jam-packed press circuit as the star of two of Spring’s most buzzed-about movies, King Arthur and The Lost City of Z. We meet during a press junket for the latter, a sweeping film about British explorer Percy Fawcett, and when he tells me that it’s been a busy two months, I know that’s quite the understatement.
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The Lost City of Z is based on a book by the same name from author David Grann. Set in the early 1900s, the movie follows the true story of Lieutenant Colonel Fawcett and Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), who trek to the Amazon and find evidence of a previously unknown civilization. Fawcett’s adventures, while thrilling, come at a cost, as he and his wife (Sienna Miller) both grapple with the sacrifices they’re forced to make in the pursuit of Fawcett’s dreams.
To prepare for the role, Hunnam chose to make a few sacrifices of his own. “I decided I needed to sort of suffer,” he tells me. “I was a bit worried about everything that was going to be required for me in this film, so I wanted to do everything I could to cut down on the amount of acting required so I could just feel the experience.”
That translated to cutting himself off completely. He didn’t speak to his girlfriend of 12 years, Morgana McNelis, for four months. He also didn’t send any emails, make any phone calls, or go on the internet.
“It had the desired effect. I found myself feeling intensely isolated and lonely,” he says. “On the days where I was happy with the work I was doing, it felt like a valid sacrifice, and on the days where I was really unhappy with the work I was doing, I was just struck by the folly of it all, and the tragedy of it all, you know?”
He starts to laugh a bit. “In those moments, I would just fantasize about being home, cuddled up in bed with my girlfriend and my cat.”
I ask the important question: “What’s your cat’s name?”
“George,” he says, breaking into a half-grin that’s almost shy.
That’s how our conversation continues to see-saw, shifting from heavy to light in an instant, then back again. With quiet confidence and a loud laugh, Hunnam is charming. He’s a thoughtful, comfortable conversationalist, and a great storyteller.
He gets animated when I bring up a particular moment in the movie that captured my attention, one that happens to be a shot that he suggested himself. In the first half of the film, Fawcett and his crew are traveling along the river when a tribe starts to attack them with arrows. Fawcett holds up his journal to block one of the arrows, and in a dreamlike moment, the scene briefly flashes to his family. Continue reading
Check out the latest round of press interviews of Charlie as he discussed Lost City of Z.