GQ-Magazine.co.uk — Rebel Moon is one-time D.C. maestro Zack Snyder’s Star Wars-sized gambit to launch a new, original Snyderverse, freed from the superhero genre’s unbeatable weight of expectation. And in its first part, releasing in cinemas on Friday, Tyneside-born Charlie Hunnam — best known to legions of straight men for his grease-smeared turn as Jax Teller in biker drama Sons of Anarchy, and to the gays and girlies for teaching us what rimming is in ‘90s sitcom Queer as Folk — steps in as essentially the series’ Han Solo.
This is Kai, a swashbuckling, swoony smuggler with a devilish grin and an Irish tongue, who plays a pivotal role in the heroes’ fight against a militant band of Space Nazis. (I mentioned Star Wars, right?) When Snyder offered Hunnam the role, he was just off the back of the gruelling shoot for his Apple TV+ thriller Shantaram. More work was the last thing on his mind. “It was nine months, and I hadn’t been home at all. I was really, really committed to taking some time off,” Hunnam says. “But then I just fell madly in love with this character.”
GQ: I know you met Zack in 2005, around the time he was making 300. When did he come to you with the Rebel Moon offer?
Charlie Hunnam: It was in November, maybe December 2021. I was in Australia finishing up [Shantaram], and got an inquiry from my people that Zack was interested in me being in Rebel Moon. They asked if I would have time to quickly read the first two scripts, and if I could find time to have a Zoom with him.
I said “Yeah, of course. Listen, let’s set up the Zoom, because I know Zack a little bit, I’d love to see him again. And I’m certain I’m gonna like it.” He had identified one character that he wanted me to read for and look at. But I responded more to the character that I ended up playing. So I asked if they’d consider me for Kai.
So he didn’t eye you for Kai at first.
Who was he thinking of you for?
I’d rather not say, just out of respect to the actor who played him. You know, we both could have played each other’s roles. I’d just rather, for both of our sakes, not to have to endure comparisons.
But I just loved Kai. It felt like an opportunity to do something [exciting]. You know, an actor’s job is to be an instrument in another artist’s vision [like Zack’s], and I think to explore the areas of the human condition that trouble us or compel us to further exploration. And I really loved the thematics of [Rebel Moon].
Then, on a much more superficial level, I thought it was a chance to have fun on very little responsibility — because it’s not my film, I’m not the lead. Which gives you a lot more latitude generally to be able to play, and have fun, and go a bit off-page at times.
You turned down a role in 300. Why?
It was one of those terrible moments where I had been thoroughly unemployed for 18 to 24 months, and I was only looking to work with serious filmmakers, and trying to establish myself, but not getting any work. And then I got offered two films at the same time. 300 was the second, but Children of Men was the first. I was an enormous fan of Alfonso [Cuarón’s], I think he’d just made Y tu mamá también, which I’d seen and thought was brilliant.
So I’d taken [that] role, but everybody was already talking about Zack as though he was very, very serious filmmaker. He knew that I probably wasn’t available, but still took the hour-and-a-half meeting with me, in which he did the same thing that he did on Rebel Moon: already, in a room slightly bigger than this, he had from floor-to-ceiling the entire [plan for the] film of 300. And that meeting consisted of Zack telling me the film, walking me through scene-by-scene, shot-by-shot, what 300 was going to be.
When did you settle on Kai’s Irish accent in Rebel Moon?
I read the script, and heard a rhythm that, as I explored it more, felt right. I’ve spent a lot of time in Northern Ireland. It’s one of my favourite dialects. There were just a few different elements of Kai that I wanted to ground in cultural references that I really understood and was excited about, and that accent just seemed to suit him.
I will say, I’m aware that it’s not perfect. I have done better — and worse — dialect work over my career. I’m not in the upper echelon of actors who have the capacity to do perfect accents, though I try hard. But I like this accent so much that I will confidently say, for the first time in my career, that I absolutely nailed it, and it was perfect. But then [in test screenings] the American audience, and global audience, was struggling to understand it.
So unfortunately we had to take a real compromise, which was painful for both of us: I ADR’d every single line of the film in a more globally-friendly sound that took away a fairly high degree of the specificity of the accent that I’d worked on. I was really proud, though. I worked insanely hard on it.
I wasn’t asking you because I thought it was bad.
No, I’m clearly illustrating my own apprehension of where it landed, compared to where it was. But it’s interesting to talk about, because the artistic process is often dictated by a series of compromises. And that was my big compromise for Rebel Moon. For the rest of it, I got to do exactly what I wanted.