Almost two years after the fact, Charlie Hunnam is talking about the experience of dropping out of Fifty Shades of Grey.
When Hunnam backed out of the film adaptation of Fifty Shades in October 2013, fans of the erotic novels were in an uproar over the news. (After much debate over casting, the role of whip-wielding, brooding billionaire Christian Grey went to Jamie Dornan, of course, and the film premiered this Valentine’s Day weekend to record-breaking box office numbers.)
Hunnam, who stars next in Guy Ritchie’s highly anticipated King Arthur, told EW earlier this summer that exiting the project was “very, very painful for me,” and recalls the episode as being “a really unpleasant period of time.”
“I felt like I let myself down,” he told EW. “I let those people down on Fifty Shades that I’d grown to really love and respect.”
Now, in the cover story for V Man #34, Hunnam speaks out again about the “heartbreaking” experience of turning down the role.
“It was the worst professional experience of my life,” the Sons of Anarchy star says in the interview. “It was the most emotionally destructive and difficult thing that I’ve ever had to deal with professionally. It was heartbreaking.”
When Hunnam backed out, his official excuse was his demanding TV schedule, though rumors swirled that he was uncomfortable with the explicit content and overwhelmed by the books’ ardent fan base. But the actor wasn’t lying: In addition to shooting the final season of Sons of Anarchy, which ended in December 2014, he had committed to Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak.
“I’d given Guillermo my word, over a year before, that I was going to do this film,” Hunnam says. “It was deeply unpleasant and challenging emotionally. I really, really pride myself on being a professional and a man of keeping my word.”
When he broke his word to Fifty Shades director Sam Taylor-Johnson and left the film, he called her personally to tell her his decision.
“We both cried our eyes out on the phone for 20 minutes,” he tells the magazine. “I needed to tell her that this was not going to work.” And not only for scheduling reasons: “There was a lot of personal stuff going on in my life that left me on real emotional shaky ground and mentally weak,” he admits. “I just didn’t know what to do.”
In response to the rumors that he gave up the role because of the explicit sexual content, Hunnam, recalling his role on Queer as Folk, simply says, “When I was 18 I was getting f–ed in the ass, completely naked on national TV.” That ought to shut up the skeptics.
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