How did you come to work together?
DJIMON HOUNSOU: The call came in, and my agent said, “Charlie Hunnam,” “The guy from the biker show?” “Yeah,” my agents said. “He’s nice. He’s really cool. You’ll like him!” That was it. I came and met Charlie and it was a great rapport. Some people you just meet and have an affinity for. [There’s] no ego. It was a nice rapport.
CHARLIE HUNNAM: We did something strange and wonderful. I didn’t think it was gonna work at all, but it did. Guy had this wacky idea that he wanted to take an afternoon before we started working and shoot the whole film in four hours on two or three cameras and in a room all in black. We shot the whole film, and that’s where we met. That’s where most of the cast met. It was a baptism of fire. It was such a high-energy, sort of anxiety-inducing experience.
HOUNSOU: I landed the night before and I got here and met quickly for wardrobe, and I [heard] we had a video shoot the next morning. So I was highly stressed to say the least.
HUNNAM: But we came down really well right away. As soon as I came up and shook your hand I was like, “Ah, this motherfucker’s cool.” [Laughs.]
We’ve seen many versions of the King Arthur story. This one has a contemporary sensibility. Can you talk about what we’ll be seeing that we haven’t seen before?
HOUNSOU: The one obvious thing that you’ll see more of in this story is that it’s really about the Knights of the Round Table. How all of those knights came to make the king who he is.
HUNNAM: : As you would imagine, it’s the origin story. It’s the sort of Arthur origin story, of his rise to the throne. So it’s a reinvention certainly of the periods between him being estranged from his family and reuniting with his destiny, with sort of the royal lineage. It’s a very different sort of rendering. Much grimmer and grittier, and in a certain way probably much more modern. The camaraderie feels sort of modern and easily recognizable as boys’ banter, the sort of stuff Guy does very well. But I feel like the world and the pace of the whole thing feels very period. I don’t think it feels like an uber modern rendering of it.
Was it intimidating to take on a role that has such a history to it?
HUNNAM: No, if you think about that stuff you’ll completely get head-fucked. So I just don’t think about that at all. I just try to get to know the character on my own terms. Guy and I discussed a great deal who he was and what sort of version we found, between the two of us, most exciting. But I’m very familiar with Arthurian legend. In fact, my girlfriend is called Morgana, and one of my favorite films, that actually led me to want to become an actor, was Excalibur. I watched Excalibur ad nauseum as a child. So I’m very familiar with the world. But I just decided not to go back. I’d read The Once and Future King years ago, and I’ve always loved this world. But I decided to just try to forget everything I’d ever seen, and just come in with it fresh, and not feel that pressure of having to do justice to this beloved story. It just felt like it was much healthier and more fun and more exciting and more free just to approach it as though it was a completely original story and a completely original character; and not feel beholden to any of the shit you’d seen before, you know?
Can you elaborate on Guy shooting the whole film in four hours on a stage?
HUNNAM: I think there were several elements as to why it was useful to him. First and foremost it was sort of like a table read, but where he could actually see everything edited. Sort of like an elevated table read. Just to see the pace and the tone and a little bit of the dynamics between the characters. So that was the pre-production benefit of it. As we’ve gone on and they’ve been assembling different sequences that we’ve been shooting, we’ve been able to fill in the gaps with that stuff. So from about halfway into the filming they’ve had the whole film sort of edited with those sections that we hadn’t shot yet filled in with that four-hour thing. Which has been really interesting and helpful to Guy. He’s been going back and rewatching the film quite a lot. I’m sure if you talk to him there would have been other benefits too. But they were the obvious big ones. Continue reading Charlie Hunnam & Djimon Hounsou on ‘King Arthur’s Epic Action and Guy Ritchie’s Directorial Idiosyncrasies