King Arthur: Legend of the Sword–Interview with Star Charlie Hunnam–Part 2

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Charlie Hunnam, hits theaters May 12.

Lost City of Z

I shot “King Arthur” and it was an enormous challenge for me, and then I had eight days and I had to start shooting “The Lost City of Z.” So, yeah, it was a big challenge.  Foremost of course, there was an enormous emotional psychological challenge to be able to understand the sophistication of what James Gray wanted to do with Percy Fawcett, but the initial challenge was a very lofty physical one, because I showed up looking like that, like a 185 pound street fighter, and the day after I wrapped “King Arthur” and I couldn’t justify putting one moments work into “Lost City of Z” or compromising anything because I am a very vigilant one thing at a time type of person, and so I was only concentrating on “King Arthur.” And then the night I wrapped, I didn’t go to the wrap party, I didn’t do anything, I went home, and I started reading “The Lost City of Z” and did my research.  And the next day, I had a meeting with James Gray and where he actually came to a costume fitting so he could talk while I was doing a costume fitting.  And we were talking and everything was going well and he was really impressed with my insight and the way that I was going about exploring the character, and then I took my shirt off and he went white.  And he said, we are so fucked.  What is this body man?  We cannot have Percy Fawcett looking like a UFC fighter.  And I said I know, I know, it’s a disaster, but I have a plan. And so my plan was foolproof, I starved myself for ten days.  I ate an avocado a day for ten days, and I lost 17 pounds in those ten days.  So it was an immense physical challenge.  And by the end, as I said, I had finished “King Arthur” at exactly 185 and I finished “The Lost City of Z” at exactly 145.  So I dropped 40 pounds over the course of ten weeks, which was an enormous physical challenge.  But also, I don’t know if you guys have ever had like an injury and had to still go about your life and in a way, it focuses your mind and keeps you very present and it’s exactly the same dieting like that.  It’s such discipline and focus to deny the most fundamental of instincts, which is to feed yourself.  And just to deny that, every minute of every day, creates a wonderful focus and I found it a very positive experience.

Papillon

And then I had to do it again for “Papillon” and then I finished “Papillon” at 143.  And then I just had a conversation with the director, who had wanted me to star in his film and it was about the IRA Hunger Strikes.  So I said I can’t, I can’t do it again.  Three times in a row?  I was really fearful of what it would do to my body.  So I just said, hire someone else, I am sorry, I can’t do it.

Impact on Career

I feel as though being perceived as somebody that is operating on a currency of aesthetic, as opposed to internal substance, is the thing that I have wanted to try to fight against my whole career.  And there’s a period of time that I really would make decisions based upon that.  I did “Cold Mountain” and then “Children of Man” and all these films where I tried to make myself into a character actor, I tried to make myself as ugly as possible.  And then I just realized that is the way that I look and I know that if I am trying to put as much substance into everything I do as my skill set improves and grows, then hopefully people will recognize that.  Some people will and some people won’t.  Some people are certainly just going to relegate me to being a pretty boy, but what is important is the perception that we have of ourselves and I don’t perceive myself that way.

Choice of Round Table 

Oh wow, that’s a good one!  Well, I would have to have my brothers, my three brothers there.  Listen, it’s Hollywood my brother!  I would throw Guy Ritchie in there to keep it light, and he is also good in a fight Guy, he is a black belt jujitsu, black belt karate, so he is pretty handy to have on the firm.  And then maybe we will throw in Donald Trump again, (laughter) just to keep things light and fun.

Being Germohobe

It makes me very neurotic I will say.  (laughs) I don’t have Herpes and I don’t want Herpes.  (laughter)  The struggle is real.  Yeah, I really just don’t like kissing anyone but my girlfriend, and so I have to just overcome that.  And it’s so funny, everybody, guys will usually come up and go you have the greatest job in the world, you get to kiss pretty girls for a living.  And I am thinking, if only you knew what a weird, neurotic young man I am, because that is the least favorite part of my job.  (laughter) But I mean, I am a germophobe in the sense that it pays dividends to be that way and like I said, I don’t have Herpes and that is for that reason, (laughter) but I am not sort of having a nervous breakdown or refusing to do those things because of it, and it hasn’t progressed to that level.  I mean it may well, in my later years I may get Howard Hughes on it, (laughter) but right now, we have it just under control.

Turning Down 50 Shades of Grey

Unfortunately, I didn’t turn down “50 Shades of Grey,” I accepted it and then realized for a few reasons that I wasn’t able to do it and that is where the catastrophe occurred for me, because I can certainly laugh about it now, but at the time, it was a very traumatic experience for me.  A, I take my word seriously if I say I am going to do something, I want to do it and follow through, and B, I was in an awkward position and not particularly high in the hierarchy, I am not a particularly powerful Hollywood entity.  And so to break a contract with a studio like that was potentially very dangerous for me and there could have been significant consequences for that.  Thankfully, the studio were incredibly generous towards me and understood that I was just in a very difficult period of my life, and I was going through some very hard, emotional things, and I was in conjunction with sort of being in the best period of my life creatively where I was getting all of this opportunity and I was just taking too much on and was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to do it all justice.  And so I really panicked and said okay, I have got to let something go here.  And I was attached to “50 Shades of Grey” and “Crimson Peak” with Guillermo.  And I had been attached to “Crimson Peak” for a long time and Guillermo is a friend of mine, and I just said listen, like last in, first out, I have got to honor the agreement that I have made with Guillermo, we have been talking about this for 18 months, and I have been talking about “50 Shades of Grey” for three weeks, that was the obvious choice to let go.  So it was what it was.  But it was a bitter pill for me and the studio to swallow, but I was very grateful for everyone over at Universal, because they were very, very kind to me.

Fear

Fear was a big part of it.  But it wasn’t anything to do with fame.  It was about whether or not I would A, have the time and energy to do what I wanted to do justice, because the way it was sequencing out, I was about to finish season six of Sons of Anarchy and I was going to have to, on the last day of that shoot, play a scene where I walk into a kitchen and see that the love of my life has been beaten to death, and be in a devastated, emotional murderous rage of a place.  And then five days later, I was going to start shooting “50 Shades of Grey.” So I thought there’s no way I am going to be able to do a good enough job to just, and on that level of exposure, I have started to feel like this is going to be a catastrophe, exacerbated by the fact that my interpretation of that character was slightly different than what was on the page and I knew that that was going to be a fight, but it was my vision and I was going to be uncompromising in doing that and I didn’t care what anyone had to say and once I get given a character that is my character, and I work with the director of course, but I can only do a good job if I believe what I am doing, and I had a very specific view.  And I realized that I wasn’t going to have the time to work with everybody and to try to convince them that my approach was valid.  And so yeah, I was very fear based.

Legacy of Fathers for their Sons

My father is a colossus in my life.  He was, along with my mom, the two biggest influences in my life.  I always say, my mom taught me to love and my dad taught me to fight and they are both equally important.  He was one of the greatest men that I have ever known and where I was completely inadequate in my life, he excelled.  And I always felt as though I was going to have to take a great journey to be able to fill my father’s shoes and I think that is every son’s desire, to be his father in some regard, or to be as capable as his father.  And I think in many, many ways, I have been playing my father in every character that I have ever played to one degree or another.  I thought about him a lot when I did this film and I thought about him constantly when I did “Sons of Anarchy” and so yeah, he was a giant influence in my life.

Michael Noer

I love Michael Noer. I have been following his career since he did “R.” Hit first and hit hardest.  And I was an enormous fan of his follow up film “Northwest.” And really he was the reason that I forced myself to overcome my reservations about the inevitable comparisons that we were going to have to endure and the potential folly of remaking such a beloved classic and it was the desire to work with Michael that overcame all that.  I just think he is a sensationally talented filmmaker.  His style of filmmaking was something that I always wanted to be a part of, that very sort of naturalistic fly on the wall.  He is got an anthropological approach to his filmmaking.  He comes from a world of documentary, where you can’t dictate the narrative in documentary and you have to observe and create an environment, observe and then create your narrative out of the footage you get, and I thought that that was a very exciting process to be involved in.

Roland is my pal, I love him and through the collaboration and free form style of Michael Noer’s process as we just discussed, Roland, because of his personality, became a bigger and bigger, as you can imagine, part of the process.  And he was initially playing this small role, but once it gets to the screen, it might be potentially more significant than my role in the film.  So that was always the conflict, as much as I loved him, I was like back off, this is my close-up motherfucker.

Sex Symbol

The sex symbol is here absolutely.  It’s a visual medium and girls comprise one half of the audience.  And then gay men comprise another ten percent of the audience.  So if you are appealing to 60 percent of the audience, it’s pretty handy.  I think there is an enormous benefit to it.

The fear is just that everyone wants to be taken seriously and I want people to recognize my heart and my work, not just my face.  That is the only downside to it.  And just in terms of the practicality of being an actor in Hollywood, it’s enormously helpful.  And I recognize that and am grateful that people think I am sexy.

Sexiest Man Alive?

Does it come with any other benefits or is it just a title?  I thought maybe you were passing me the baton.  No, who knows?  I suppose it’s an honor and listen, I just worked with David Beckham and I know for certain that that’s not the case.  David, that is why we messed him up so much in the film and I walked on set and I said come on, that’s ridiculous, can we just throw a few scars on his face or something?

Family Life

I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and I lived there until I was 13, and I lost the accent.  I can do it if you want, I can do the rest of the interview as a Jordy.  That’s not a great accent to try to be a movie star by the way, which is why I just sort of pushed that off to the side a little bit.  I grew up in Newcastle, had a lovely childhood, a very economically depressed place, very little opportunity for people, but I grew up in a household full of love and creativity. I had one brother to my father and my mom then. When I was 12, my mom met another man and we moved across the country.  And the last day in Newcastle, I had just started High School, I was 13, and it was Valentine’s Day, the last day I left.  And on that day, I had gotten 27 different cards from 27 different girls and a watch and a Walkman and chocolates and flowers, and so I say that like I was a stud, I was killing the game in Newcastle. And then I went to the Lake District, and everyone hated me.  And I was immature and hadn’t developed any real great people skills at that point, and so rather than try to convince them that I was actually quite likable, I just met them and their resentment.   I ended up having very few friends in my teenage years and I lived in a rural place.  And so what that meant was that I spent most of my teenage years alone.  And although at the time that was very painful, what I immensely benefitted from was that I had this period of incubation and isolation to fantasize and dream about what I wanted my life to be.

I coupled that with the fact that I retreated to film, and film became my best friend.  And those two things merged and this dream that I had about being an actor as a young boy, became the thing that kept me alive, that I just needed to make it to 17, where I could leave home and go and pursue my dream, and that is really what sustained me through those dark years.  And so again, it was brutal at the time, but I look back in hindsight and was so grateful for the period of incubation and time to dream.  Thank you Lake District, you bastards.

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