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