Working With Guy Ritchie
Charlie Hunnam: Any time you are going to retell a story that has been told many times before, you have to do something different and make it your own. And one of the things that Guy had been very eager to do, which I thought was wise, was to make Arthur just an everyman. You or I or anybody could just be going about their life and then all of a sudden have this grand destiny thrust upon them, and how would we react. And in the classic hero journey, always this grand destiny is presented, and there’s a reluctance to the call. And what Guy and I got most excited about in talking about this character, is where that reluctance came from. And of course if comes down to fear, a sense of inadequacy, or not being able or having the requisite skill set or experience to be able to take on this lofty challenge. That was something that was really interesting and relatable to everybody, and certainly something that I had spent a lot of time thinking about. I have always truly believed that anybody is capable of doing anything, if they just cultivate a robust enough sense of self-belief and know that the journey is going to be difficult and there is going to be failure and you just have to endure that. And rather than build a wall to protect yourself from the pain that comes with that, actually just say listen, I am going to feel the pain, I am going to learn the lesson and just keep on my journey and ultimately I will arrive at the goal. So that was sort of an interesting and I think exciting reimagining of Arthur, because traditionally he has always been the noble man on a noble journey to become a noble king, which is great, but it is not that relatable and it doesn’t give the journey as much breadth.
In terms of the dialect and stuff, I always feel, if you are going to adhere to the strict rules of period, then you want period speak, but actually people are just people and if you don’t get too labored in trying to be true to a period, then again I think it’s just a bit more accessible. And it’s also because Arthur is a bit more rough and ready and because Guy had made that choice to make him a regular man, then we needed that to be reflected in the dialect.
Guy is so infectious in his personality and he is so charismatic and I always feel that Guy’s films are deceptively personal and you wouldn’t necessarily think it because it’s not like he is exploring his deepest, innermost fears and sort of bleeding all over the screen in the way that some of those great directors do.
I got the sense, before I had ever met Guy, that I knew the characters in his films. And then when I got to know him better, I recognized a lot of the traits of those favorite characters in his films had come directly from Guy. I realized in the early weeks of the film that I was actually just doing my best Guy Ritchie impersonation. He really informs a lot of the sensibility of the characters that he brings to life.
Ritchie’s Personality and Humor
CH: He’s a rascal with a very robust sense of humor. And that really informs the whole process. I tend to have a good sense of humor and have a laugh in my real life, but I have had a tendency in the past to be very earnest and serious about my work and I think Guy recognized that. He said, here’s the mandate for the film, you and I need to have fun everyday together, because this film needs to be fun and if you and I are making each other laugh and having fun, then that is going to reflect in the film and we are going to make the audience laugh and they are going to have fun. That was liberating for me, and I must say it was wonderful. I have had much more fun on this film than I have ever had on anything I have done before. His humor defuses every tense situation on the set, it informs every decision.. Initially, his intention was to do something that was a bit of departure from his prior work, he wanted to be a bit more linear and classic and have a somber quality to this, but as soon as we started rehearsing, his creative truth took over and he realized that we needed more levity than he intended.
CH: With Guinevere, it’s a love triangle in the purest sense of the phrase. It’s one of the most dynamic and exciting parts of the Arthurian legend. We hope that if, obviously the audience decides these things, but if there is an appetite for this film, we are certainly very excited about going on and making some more of them. But what is great about that is that Guinevere is the love of Arthur’s life, and he absolutely adores her, but Lancelot is the second love of his life, sort of the brother he never had and in a way maybe, elements of a father he never had. Obviously the male dynamics to Arthur are very important. And so these two people that he loves the most, obviously come together and betray him and obviously that presents the opportunity for great drama.
Fame and How It Changed You?
CH: I was walking the streets with Guy, he, as I sort of anticipated and hoped, has become a very dear friend of mine and we love to hang out and spend time together. It’s funny, I have been asked this a lot, it seems that there is some perception that this film is going to make me a much bigger star than I am already, but you know, I never ever personally think about my life and my work in that context. Everybody has a different journey that leads them to becoming an actor and some people, and I have no judgment on this, some people are seeking fame and fortune, and that’s fine, as long as they back it up with a work ethic and also a desire to do the best work that they can do. I have never cared about fame at all, I have been, my journey was being a lonely, existential kid who grew up in a very economically depressed place, where everybody was in survival mode, and I recognized the tragedy in that, that people didn’t have the opportunity to bring forth the intention that they had, or the hope that they had for their life. And I always loved film. And as a very young boy, preoccupied with this idea that time is so precious and that we only have one life and our only responsibility is to live it as full as we can. And I identified film as the way that I wanted to spend my life. I just feel incredibly grateful and lucky to be able to work with people like James Gray and Guy Ritchie and I arrived at a place in my career where I have the opportunity to do the type of movies and the caliber of work that I have always dreamed of.
I also have a whole other theory about having to stay humble and pure in the process, because energetically in the world, I feel like the stories that want to be told, and the universe decides who are going to be the vehicles to tell those stories, and if you stay pure and true, then once in a while the universe will say, alright, it’s your turn, you can go tell this story. But I think staying humble within that is very important. I read a book years ago called “The Five Rings” and it was about a samurai in the end of the samurai tradition in Japan, and he talked a lot about the relationship that a samurai had with his sword, and how a samurai had to sacrifice everything in his life through the sword, and in return, in the moments, that five minutes a year that he had to engage in combat, the sword would return all that sacrifice, and save his life and protect him. There is something about that energetic relationship that you have to your calling in life that I think needs to remain very pure. This sounds pretentious as fuck and I am sorry, but it’s my belief. Continue reading