Forget the abs, forget the jawline, forget the massive fighting robots — Charlie Hunnam just wants to be taken seriously
Charlie Hunnam doesn’t do Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. “I am so baffled by the whole phenomenon of social media,” he says. “To me, it speaks to going the wrong direction, trying to fill up this gaping hole that we all have in us.” The English-born actor is sitting at a table in his “office,” an unfussy restaurant on the Sunset Strip. He’d arrived for our interview 10 minutes early, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and jeans, waving a familiar hello to the employees on his way in.
In the nine years since he first appeared on FX’s cult hit Sons of Anarchy, Hunnam, who turns 37 this month, has become a full-fledged Hollywood hunk. He has scruffy blond hair, pale blue eyes and abs that look like they were drawn on by somebody at Marvel Comics. But he doesn’t talk like that. “I’m not interested in what anyone had for breakfast or what they think of these shoes they’re wearing or where they’re on vacation,” he says, continuing the social media theme. “This instant ability to like, dislike and cast immediate snap judgments on things—and being encouraged to do so—proliferates into our everyday existence.”
We’re here to discuss Hunnam’s new movie, The Lost City of Z (April 14), from We Own the Night writer-director James Gray. In the film, he portrays Colonel Percy Fawcett, the real-life British explorer who ventured into the Brazilian jungle in the 1920s in search of a lost civilization. Next month, he’ll play the lead role in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It seems that Hunnam is not just an unusually well-spoken actor, but an unusually hardworking one. He shot both films within a few weeks of each other, an arduous schedule that cut him off from the outside world—including his partner, jewelry designer Morgana McNelis. During the four months he spent filming Lost City in Colombia and Ireland, he didn’t even call her on the phone—all the better to immerse himself in the role.
“I have an incredible girlfriend. We’ve been together 11 years, and she’s incredibly understanding of my obsession,” he says. “There is an enormous amount of compromise that we’ve both made. We’re not married. We don’t have kids. That’s exclusively because of my obsession to fulfill this sense of personal destiny.”
Personal destiny is an idea that’s generally applied to mythical figures—like, say, King Arthur—rather than film stars. But Hunnam has deliberately placed himself on the margins of the Hollywood scene. You won’t see tabloid reports of him partying at local hot spots. He likes to spend his time cooking, he says, watching movies or exploring nature. Even for Hunnam, though, sequestering himself in the South American jungle for months on end seemed a little extreme.
“I wasn’t trying to be overly bullish or anything,” he says, adding that the Percy Fawcett role “just took on an enormous amount of importance for me, in terms of proving to myself what I was capable of. It was an opportunity to go as deeply into the work as I’d always craved. I was not going to let anything prevent that opportunity from manifesting and being as full as it could possibly be.”
Hunnam may be even more amped up about his role in King Arthur, which ties into a childhood fantasy. As a boy, one of his favorite films was John Boorman’s Arthurian epic Excalibur. “I just watched that over and over,” he says. “I was always whittling sticks into swords and trying to engage my big brother in sword fights and stuff like that.” Ritchie’s version is an origin story, inflected with the snappy banter and visual trickery of his early gangster flicks Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. “I was really interested in King Arthur and what Guy was doing with it,” Hunnam says. “It felt like an observation or an exploration of the ego and how we tell ourselves terrible things and create demons within ourselves.” He describes working with Ritchie as “a very visceral, immediate experience.”
After being fused as Jax Teller for eight years on Sons of Anarchy, Charlie Hunnam has seen his mainstream popularity — as well as geek-friendly popularity — grow in the three years since the show ended.
Having starred in Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak, he will now cross back in history with King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword. ComicBook was able to speak with the star on the red carpet of CinemaCon to see how the new translation will be different that that of old and how Jax seeped into the filming.
“We just wanted to make sure that it was fresh and felt modern and had something to say that hadn’t been said before,” Hunnam said. “We’ve seen the version of Arthur that’s the noble man who goes on the journey to be the noble king.
“We said we wanted to do something the opposite of that; we wanted to make him a little bit of a motherfuXXer. So he starts off he’s tough; he’s streetwise; he a little bit selfish but at center of it he has a good heart.”
Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Starring Hunnam in the title role, the film is an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne. When the child Arthur’s father is murdered, Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur’s uncle, seizes the crown. Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy… whether he likes it or not.
The actor revealed just how profound of an effect Jax has had on the rest of his career, and how the character continues to influence his work.
“I’ve never had an experience of getting so close and so deeply meshed with a character before,” he said. “I felt when I finished sons that it was a real process to get back to center, and try to exorcise him out of my psyche for as much as possible. Because I’d been living with him for eight years you know, trying to bring him to life.
“I started this movie maybe three months after I finished Sons so I’m sure there’s flavors of him in there. It certainly wasn’t intentional though.”
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is directed by Guy Ritchie, from a screenplay by Joby Harold and Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, based on a story by David Dobkin and Joby Harold. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is produced by Akiva Goldsman, Joby Harold, Tory Tunnell, Steve Clark-Hall, Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram and executive produced by David Dobkin and Bruce Berman.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword opens in theaters May 12, 2017.
Charlie took the stage at the 2017 CinemaCon in Las Vegas on March 30th to promote his film Lost City of Z for the Amazon Studios Presentation. Later that night Charlie also attended the Big Screen Achievement Awards presented by CinemaCon where he accepted the Male Star of the Year award. You can view photos from those events in the gallery now.
I’d just like to say congratulations, Charlie! 2017 is definitely gonna be your year. 🙂
It’s time to set your DVR’s and reminders. Charlie is set to appear on The Late Late Show with James Corden along with the new AMC late night talk show Talking with Chris Hardwick. You can find the details and dates below!
I’ll update this post once the date for Talking with Chris Hardwick is announced.
The Late Late Show with James Corden | Wednesday, April 5th
Singer Demi Lovato; actor Charlie Hunnam; actor Rupert Friend
Talking with Chris Hardwick | Date to be announced
AMC has announced the initial lineup for the forthcoming season of Talking With Chris Hardwick. The nine guests include Connie Britton, Michelle Monaghan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Charlie Hunnam, Justin Theroux, Bryan Cranston, Elijah Wood, Damon Lindelof and the cast of Silicon Valley. There is no current information on the airing order, and additional guests will be announced soon.