Collider.com — During this in-depth 1-on-1 chat with Collider, Hunnam tells us why he was drawn to playing Stanley, what it was like to get to know and work with O’Connell, and why he’s already looking to work with Winkler again. He also talked about the status of his Apple TV+ series Shantaram, whether he’d do another long-running TV show like Sons of Anarchy, whether he’s involved with the Pacific Rim Netflix anime series, and much more.
COLLIDER: What was it about Jungleland that drew you in? Was it the story, was it the character, was it the relationship between these brothers, or was it all of that?
CHARLIE HUNNAM: It’s a testament to Max [Winkler]’s great writing but it just felt like a fresh character, in terms of general film history. I didn’t feel like I’d seen a character like Stanley portrayed too many times but it was also specifically a very fresh character for me. Although there’s a lot of color and a heightened sensibility to the film (or at least more so on the page than the final results), it was clear that Max was really interested in exploring something specific about the way in which people, but men in particular, interact with each other. It was just very clear that, although there was the relationship with the love story between Jess Barden and Jack O’Connell’s characters, the central love story was between these two brothers and their abiding deep sense of loyalty and love that they have for each other, and their absolute inability to express it and demonstrate it, in any way that might mitigate some of the inevitable, impending catastrophe that was clearly on the horizon. I came from a very, very working-class, tough environment where men didn’t really interact with each other in a way that I found deeply satisfying. So there was something about that, that felt personal to me, and that I was interested in exploring.
When you read a script, in general, how quickly do you typically know when it’s something that you want to do and that you can bring something to, and how quickly did you know when reading this?
HUNNAM: Immediately. It’s a two-step process for me. I’ve read so many scripts, at this point, that I just know right away — really within the first few pages — if the quality of the writing is there or if you can feel that it’s gonna be thematically resonant. That immediately became clear but I wasn’t familiar with Max’s work. So the second threshold is always having faith and excitement and being inspired by the director. I went and watched his film Flower, which I thought was really, really unique and frisky. I felt he had a voice that I was excited about and the performances in Flower are very, very good. Obviously, so much of an actor’s performance is going to be predicated on the way the director handles you on set, and then handles the raw material once they get into the edit room.
So, both of those things in conjunction made it a no-brainer immediately. I read the script and watched the film, over the course of one day, and then calls and said, “I wanna meet with Max,” and told him in the room, “I wanna do this movie.” It was a pretty easy process, in that regard.
Was there a specific point where you went from being someone who was excited just to get a script to read, to being able to tell pretty quickly if it wasn’t something that you would want to do?
HUNNAM: Yeah. There have been many steps along the process to get to where I am now and I can see that there are many steps ahead of me and I would like to hopefully be able to cross several more thresholds to get to where I would optimally like to be as a performer and as part of a filmmaking team, but yeah, definitely. What I’m realizing now is how long it took for me to have the self-belief to advocate for myself and say, “I’m only gonna align myself with a certain caliber of people.”
It’s an ever-evolving scale but I feel very fortunate that I’m in the position that I’m in now, where I’m getting not only good quality material with good directors but also a diversity of roles. People are not just seeing me as a sensitive tough guy. They’re actually seeing that I have the capacity to do other things, too, which is really heartening and something that is becoming increasingly important to me. I went through a process of dealing with some personal shit that I had to go through and dealing with trauma from childhood through work. I was feeling scared and like a sensitive kid in a tough environment, and it created a lot of self-loathing, so I decided that I wanted to play all of these tough guys for a long time, to get past this trauma and this negative self-image that I’d created for myself from my childhood. I realize now that I’ve exercised those demons and don’t need to do that anymore, and I’m not really interested in doing that anymore.
As you have started to produce and write things for yourself, does that also change your perspective on how you read something or what you want to do?
HUNNAM: Yeah. It’s a bit cerebral but this year has been incredibly impactful for me. I want to preface that I, by no means, want to sound like anything that’s happened this year is a positive thing because it’s obviously been incredibly tough for everybody, but the isolation has afforded me the opportunity to sit down and do what I have come to term from the experience of doing it as my work, in a way that I’ve never really felt in the past. I’ve written, for the last seven months, 85 hours a week, and I’ve not taken a day off where I haven’t written a minimum of 12 hours a day. I wrote a six-part TV show, I wrote a film, and I’m now in the process of outlining a four-part miniseries. I’ve been really immersed in what I feel like is my career 2.0, and it really has been a deeply satisfying experience, in the clearest way I can experience it. I feel like truly, for the first time, that I’m doing my work.