HollywoodReporter.com — Charlie Hunnam thought he was preparing for his upcoming role in Triple Frontier on a private beach in Hawaii where he was enjoying a little wrestling match with longtime friend Garrett Hedlund.
Instead, their horseplay was captured by the paparazzi and helped to reveal to the world that the long-gestating Triple Frontier was finally happening after years of directors and A-list talent coming and going. The entire cast was taking swimming lessons for insurance purposes, even though they knew how to swim.
“The sun was shining and we were in good spirits, so I just tackled him and had a little wrestle,” Hunnam tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But, it was not intended to be photographed and documented for the world to see.”
Triple Frontier is the story of five special forces operatives who reunite in order to eliminate and heist a South American drug lord. What could go wrong? The film began its long road to the big screen in 2010 when director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal attached themselves to the project along with Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp. The film stalled until writer-director J.C. Chandor joined the mix in 2015. From there, the cast was a revolving door of names including Will Smith, Channing Tatum, Tom Hardy, Mahershala Ali, Casey Affleck and Mark Wahlberg.
In May 2017, Netflix acquired the project from Paramount, and Chandor assembled a cast that included Ben Affleck, Hunnam, Hedland, and Pedro Pascal, but soon the project would sustain some more misfortune. Just before production in 2017, Affleck had to leave to attend to his personal health. However, Chandor was so committed to Affleck that he delayed the film another six months so his star could return; this delay also opened the door for Chandor’s A Most Violent Year lead, Oscar Isaac, to enlist as the final piece to the puzzle.
Hunnam is no stranger to stops and starts in Hollywood. In 2013, he famously exited the role of Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, a part that would have been his most high-profile role to date. Hunnam recently made amends to Fifty Shades director Sam Taylor-Johnson by way of her indie film A Million Little Pieces. Triple Frontier is also Hunnam’s first release since Papillon was met with mixed reviews and minimal box office returns in 2018.
“That film did not seem to go down too well, but Rami [Malek] and I really put our hearts into it,” says Hunnam. “I actually had dinner with him last night, and we were lamenting the failure of that film a little bit.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Hunnam also discusses his filmmaking aspirations, the influence of his former directors and his friendship with Sons of Anarchy co-star Ryan Hurst.
I’ve followed Triple Frontier’s developmental saga for many years. I finally learned it was nearing production thanks to a photograph of you tackling Garrett Hedlund on a Hawaiian beach. Can you provide some context to this team-building exercise of sorts?
[Laughs] Yeah, that was unfortunate. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I have been very, very dear friends with Garrett for about 15 years. In this film, he plays an MMA fighter, and I am a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. So, I was teaching him some Jiu-Jitsu and we were rolling a lot and fighting a lot. We just happened to be on the beach one day doing some swimming lessons, which were grossly unnecessary seeing as we’re not five years old, but I guess for some sort of insurance thing we had to do some swimming lessons. The sun was shining and we were in good spirits, so I just tackled him and had a little wrestle. But, it was not intended to be photographed and documented for the world to see.
This film is about brotherhood, something you’re familiar with thanks to Sons of Anarchy, both on and offscreen. Did part of you accept this project as a way to recapture an atmosphere that you clearly flourish under?
That’s a really interesting question and multifaceted for me. I think that I do flourish in the company of men. I’ve come to realize that the sense of tribe or community that I have with my group of friends is one of the pillars of my life. For me to be at my best, I need a group of pals around me — my sort of extended family. In sort of exploring that, I think what J.C. Chandor was exploring in this film are two of the three pillars of self-determination theory — competence and autonomy — which can be bracketed under the banner of purpose and community. Sebastian Junger wrote a really interesting book about military life called Tribe, which is a book that I really admire and have read a couple of times (and had read just prior to reading this script). It really resonated that what Sebastian Junger is exploring in Tribe is basically the same thing that J.C. is exploring, which is fundamentally how we categorize or identify some sort of deep meaning for ourselves as individuals. The idea being that purpose and community are two of the central pillars for a successful, fulfilling life.
Because you’ve acted in ensembles with many big personalities in the past, were you able to adapt to this ensemble of movie stars with relative ease?
Invariably, the way a television show goes, it ends up being more of an ensemble experience. The thing with working in television a lot is you start to learn to trust that even though there might be stretches of time where you don’t have much to do, the experience can be a little bit of a drag. Showing up to work for a couple weeks, watching other people act and not having much to do — the breadth of the experience is reduced dramatically in the edit room, from a four-month experience to a two-hour experience. Within that, those two weeks where you didn’t have anything to do is really only going to be five minutes of screen time, and then you’ll be back in the mix to have your time and your moments. I suppose I came in with that knowledge, further heartened by knowing how J.C. had handled big ensembles in the past, particularly in Margin Call where everybody had very specific and dramatic moments, from the biggest characters to the smallest. So, I felt confident that J.C. was really going to honor all of our performances in the edit room, even though Garrett and I were accustomed to doing slightly bigger roles in our work than the supporting roles we played in this. I sort of mitigated the concern about that by just understanding how the process works from past experience. Continue reading