Legend brought to life
Charlie Hunnam on why saving damsels in distress is distressing
FOR self-confessed germaphobe Charlie Hunnam, having to perform sex scenes with glamorous movie stars isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “I don’t have herpes and I don’t want herpes so it makes me very neurotic,” he reveals.
“I don’t like kissing anyone but my girlfriend, and it’s something I have to overcome.
“Guys will usually come and go, ‘You have the greatest job in the world. You get to kiss pretty girls for a living’. And I’m thinking, If only you knew what a weird neurotic young man I am. That is the least favourite part of my job.”
Perhaps that’s why the Sons of Anarchy star turned down the lead role in Fifty Shades of Grey? “Nice segue. I see where you’re going,” he laughs.
Happy to clear up some misconceptions surrounding his sudden departure from the role that made a career for a fellow Brit, Jamie Dornan, he says, “I didn’t turn it down. I accepted it and then realised that I wasn’t able to do it. That is where the catastrophe occurred for me. I can laugh about it now but at the time it was very traumatic.
“I take my word seriously, so if I say I’m going to do something, I want to follow it through. I was in an awkward position, not being a particularly powerful entity in Hollywood, and breaking a contract could have had significant consequences. It was a very difficult period of time in my life.
“I was going through some very hard emotional things. At the same time, I was also committed to Crimson Peak, to which I’d been attached for a long time, and (I was attached to) Fifty Shades for only three weeks.
“So I panicked, really panicked. I had to let it go but it was a bitter pill for me to swallow.”
Now he stars in King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, directed by Guy Ritchie, who brings his own twist to the much-loved tale.
“Any time you’re going to retell a story that’s been told many times, you have to do something different and make it your own,” Hunnam says.
In this role, Hunnam reveals the kind of physique that requires many hours at the gym.
“I was doing the last season of Sons of Anarchy when I got hired for this, but in that season I had to lose an enormous amount of weight. So when I went to audition for Guy I showed up looking like a skeleton. He kept saying, ‘Are you sure you can get big?’
“There were three or four big movie stars I saw awkwardly milling about the corridors of this hotel. I said, ‘Why don’t you bring those chimpanzees in here and we’ll fight it out?’ I think that attitude is what got me the job.
“I had to look formidable. So I had to lift a lot of weights and do an enormous amount of fighting.”
As far as his sexy image, Hunnam, 37, seems to fight it rather than flaunt it.
“I don’t try to cultivate it. I was born this way and certain people seem to think I’m attractive. And it’s an asset, but I don’t put any stock in it.
“Being perceived as somebody who is operating on a currency of aesthetic (appeal) as opposed to internal substance is the thing that I have fought my whole career.
“I did Cold Mountain (2003) and Children of Men (2006) and all these films where I tried to make myself as ugly as possible. But now I realise that some people will just relegate me to being a pretty boy, and I will put as much substance into everything I do so that, hopefully, people will recognise that substance.
“But look, girls comprise one half of the audience, and gay men another 10%, so if you’re appealing to 60%, that’s pretty handy.” He smiles.
“I’m grateful that people think I’m sexy.”
◗ Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Charlie Hunnam in a scene from King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.