Did you immediately decide that you wanted to torture Ron Perlman and get him to play Phyllis?
HUNNAM: Yeah, pretty much! Any time I can torture Ron, I jump at the chance. Chris O’Dowd had been cast, and then I was cast. And then, we had to find the girl, so I read with a bunch of girls. When Lizzy [Caplan] came in, she was just spectacular and it became very clear that she was the choice. And then, we had no time. We had about 10 days and we needed to cast the rest of the movie. So, we had a long conversation and Ron got brought up to play the Chris Noth role. We talked about it and talked about it and talked about it, and I said, “You know, we’ve got a shot at him. He might actually come do this.” So, we sent it to him and I said, “Listen, man, we’ve got a week to cast this movie. Please, if you’re going to read it and actually engage, could you do it tonight and let us know tomorrow ‘cause we’re really up against it.” And he said, “Yeah, I’ll read it.” I figured that I wasn’t going to hear back from him, but he called me in the morning and said, “Okay, I read the script.” I said, “What do you think of the role?,” and he said, “I don’t like it.” I said, “Okay, well, thanks for reading it,” and he said, “Wait, I want to play Phyllis.” I said, “What?! What are you talking about, man?,” and he said, “Charlie, I need you to keep this just between you and I. I have always secretly wanted to play a woman.” I said, “You’re a twisted dude, but I think the director is going to be very excited to hear that.” So, I told Jordan and he just laughed hysterically and said, “Tell him, he’s got the job,” and that was that. And then, Ron shot his entire performance in one day. He just came in and did it, and it was fun.
What was your reaction when you saw him in the make-up and wardrobe? Was it ever hard not to laugh?
HUNNAM: It was just like we won the lottery, when he stepped out of the trailer. We flip-flopped. Normally, I’m the crazy one that’s being a bit method, but he just turned into Phyllis. I said, “Whoa, man, this is just too deliciously absurd for words! I can’t believe what I’m looking at right now!” And he said, “Oh, stop it, darling! Now, walk me to set.” So, he put his arm out and we walked, arm-in-arm, to set. I thought, “This is so perverse and absurd, but I kind of love it.”
Have you always had an eye on writing and directing, at some point?
HUNNAM: I got expelled from high school, and then did my exams from home. I decided, through that experience, that I was going to expediate my plan and didn’t go to university. Instead, I went to a community college and studied the theory and history of film with the idea that I wanted to write and direct. And then, through that, I got an opportunity to act, which then just took precedence. But, it’s just been growing in me. Right before I got Sons of Anarchy, I actually quit acting for 18 months and didn’t read a single script, and I wrote a film. I felt like I needed to do something that I had control over, as an artist, and also just do something where I felt like I had some control over my life, as just a human, out in the world. Being at the mercy of the acting profession, in the early days of one’s career, is really brutal and feels like you have no control over your life, at all.
So, I actually just finished writing that screenplay and managed to sell it, and then was going to start writing something else when Sons of Anarchy landed on my desk. I just thought, “A TV show is not really anything that I’m that interested in doing.” I called my agent and was like, “Really? Why are you sending me a TV show? You’ve never sent me a TV show before, and we’ve never talked about me doing a TV show.” He said, “Just read it, bro.” So, I read it and was like, “Holy shit!” The quality of the writing was so much better than all of the films I had been reading. It was actually an original idea. A guy wanted to tell a family drama, set against the backdrop of a motorcycle club. There had been some biker exploitation movies made in the ‘70s, but they were all terrible. Never had this vastly interesting, rich world been explored before. I was like, “Wow, this is a guy who’s really trying to do something.”
What is the movie you wrote that you want to direct?
HUNNAM: I don’t want to talk about it too much because it’s so far away. But, I’m going to try to make it in two and a half years’ time, when we finish Sons, altogether. It’s going to star Tommy Flanagan, who plays Chibs on the show. He’s been one of my best friends for years. I’d known him for years, before we did Sons together. I’ve known Tommy, for years and years. It’s a film set in England, about a part of English society that’s really seldom been explored, but is one of the most colorful and interesting parts of British society. We’re just going to make it for no money at all, and go and do it. We’re just two best friends, going to make a movie. If I can actually go make it, I’ll be able to give Tommy his first ever leading role. That guy is way overdue. I think he’s one of the most talented guys out there. He’s just gonna be so beautiful, as this guy. Hopefully, we’ll get it made and march fearlessly in the direction of our dreams.