Charlie Hunnam on 'Sons,' 'Fifty Shades' fallout, and what's next
In this week’s EW cover story (read it online), Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam discusses his brotherly, head-butting relationship with show creator Kurt Sutter, the difficult decision Sutter faces in how Jax will respond if/when he learns Gemma (Katey Sagal) is the one who killed Tara (Maggie Siff), how he’d write Jax’s fate, and the kind of afterlife he hopes FX’s top-rated show will have following its Dec. 9 series finale. Here’s more of our conversation about season 7 of Sons, his decision not to do Fifty Shades of Grey, and the three movies he hopes to film next.
EW: Back in August, Kurt told EW that he believes two club members will die this season. Did that relatively low number surprise you?
Hunnam: There just are not that many club members left. If you want there to actually be a Sons of Anarchy at the center of Sons of Anarchy storylines, you can’t really kill anyone else, or else we need to start patching new members in at a very fast rate. For me, this show has always been about the Sons. I have a wonderful time working with Katey [Sagal], I loved with all my heart working with Maggie [Siff], and they’re obviously incredibly important characters. But to me, what has made this show so special is the brotherhood and the boys. It’s incredibly painful for me every time we lose one of the guys. As we get closer to the end and this little club has kinda become somewhat real to me, I just hope that there’s enough of the original guys [left] that we have a sense that this thing will continue once we stop watching their lives. I would love, at the end of the show, for a sense that the club is in tact and gonna move forward, but I don’t know if ultimately that will be the case or not.
What excites you about where the season is headed?
Jax’s psychology and where he finds himself in processing all of this. Because I think there’s a somewhat dishonest, easy default place that he’s allowed himself to settle into where it’s all about vengeance. His moral compass is gone, so he doesn’t have to answer or think about it: He’s an outlaw, and this is the way he his, and that’s just the f–king reality of it now, and everyone better f–king like it, you know. And that’s just total f–kin’ bulls–t because that’s not who he is. He’s a soulful guy, and he’s a real thinker, and I don’t think he’s giving himself the opportunity to really mourn Tara’s loss in a way that’s significant. Killing innocent Chinese men or guilty Chinese men or anyone is not gonna be the answer. We’re getting into that place now where there’s much more of an honest kind of reflection and exploration of what he’s doing, and who he is, and how this means manifested or was catalyzed by him seeing the perpetuation of this cycle in his children. I think that’s a really smart, beautiful way to hold the mirror up to Jax in Tara’s absence—with this children. That has been really, really lovely, satisfying stuff to play towards the end of the season.
If we didn’t have six seasons of affection for Jax, hearing him tell Jury his plan to destroy Henry Lin and kill all the Chinese would be tough to swallow. When he tells Jury that he has no vision behind revenge, it’s like, “Bobby, are you hearing this? Why is the club following a man who admits he has no vision?”
I know. The guys playing those characters struggled with that a little bit in the moment. It didn’t necessarily feel like it was the instinct that they’d come to know from those characters to behave that way. We just all had to bear in mind through those moments that it was gonna go somewhere. It’s supported by pretty easily understandable psychology: They know Jax. They know how much Tara meant to him. The way I was thinking about it, almost from their point of view, is, “We know this is f–ked. We know this is probably gonna cause some pretty tumultuous [monstrosities] to come, but ultimately this is what this kid needs, so we’re just gonna support him because this is his darkest moment.” I think that resolve to follow me blindly definitely gets reduced and reduced to the point where there has to be a little bit of a come-to-Jesus moment amongst us.
Switching gears, you’ve opened up recently about your decision not to do Fifty Shades of Grey [he was driving himself crazy thinking about being ready to step into Christian’s suits 48 hours after wrapping Sons‘ season 6 finale, and a delayed start wouldn’t have helped him because was committed to shooting Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak right after Fifty]. How did you get through the media storm? Just radio silence?
Yeah, it was radio silence. It was a very difficult position that I put myself in, and that I put the studio in, because of course, those type of things are like red rag to a bull to a lot of bloggers and reviewers. There was a whirlwind of speculation that went around it, and I just feel like I’m happy to do interviews to promote projects and to get the word out there and stuff, but I don’t feel as though I really owe anyone an explanation on the things I do. It’s very personal to me, and every decision I make comes from my heart. There’s nothing ever monetarily or fame-seeking or any of the other motivations that sometimes go hand-in-hand with this profession. To me, it’s just not like that. I’m on [Laughs] a journey of self-discovery and trying to avoid total existential crisis. That’s the kind of operating zone that I’m approaching this business from. And so it was very painful, and it was very difficult. I was worried that the wrong perception would come out, which is what happened—it was all about that I got cold feet, or that I didn’t have faith in the movie, or that I didn’t like the script, and all this f–king bulls–t. Anybody that knows the process of actors with integrity going about choosing roles knew that all of those questions would have been answered in the very first meeting and that had any of that actually been the case, I would have not gotten myself in the situation in the first place. So it was a little bit annoying and a little bit painful, and I really was just so sad for Sam [Taylor-Johnson], the director, because I absolutely adore her, and I gave her my word and committed to going on this journey with her. It’s been many years that I’ve been in this business. All of a sudden, I’m getting all of these wonderful people approaching me and asking me to work with them. It’s very hard to say no when you love and respect people. I just kind of made a bit of a rookie mistake in that one in biting off more than I could chew.
Looking ahead, when I was on the Sons set, director Charles Murray had gotten some of the SAMCRO guys Burger Crown crowns to wear to celebrate your casting in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur project. That’s next for you?
We’re not gonna start shooting until mid-February. But there’s two and a half months of dialect coaching, sword fighting, horse training, fight training—all of that kind of stuff that I want to do.
And the reason to do that is to work with Guy?
One hundred percent, Guy. But also, I gotta say, Arthurian legend did play a big part in my childhood. In particular, the film Excalibur was definitely one of those films that was instrumental in me realizing that I wanted to become an actor. So it kinda feels like one of those full circle type of moments.
You also told me on set the one thing you won’t miss about Sons is working 16-hour days in the sun. Now you’re also attached to the adaptation of the romantic survival story The Mountain Between Us, about two strangers whose plane goes down in the wilderness with temperatures hovering in the teens.
I’ll probably be very, very quickly missing the heat of Sons once I get out into those Arctic conditions for a couple of weeks. But that’s a project that I’ve been pursuing and watching from the sidelines for several years now. Beautiful script, and it’s been a few different incarnations with a couple different directors. I had been attached to it once before with one director, and then he ended up falling out. So long story short, they got this new director that I absolutely adore, and so I went and pursued it and now they’ve attached me.
You’re also attached to A Prayer Before Dawn.
I’ll go to Thailand and do that tiny, tiny, tiny little indie, which is based on an amazing true story about this guy Billy Moore. He was an English kid who grew up an abject poverty and channeled all of his energy into fighting. He was a real contender, and then got into drugs at 17 and f–ked it all up, threw it all away. Cut to 10 years later, at 27, he goes to Thailand to try to clean up. Gets his act together, fights for a year in Muay Thai exhibition fights. This is all the backstory. You meet him the night he relapses and within 48 hours of relapsing, he’s been caught with a massive amount of methamphetamine and got sentenced to probably the worst prison in the world. They call it the Bangkok Hilton. And so it’s a prison story about his journey. Within the Thai prison [system], they operate an incentive scheme that dictates if the prisoners don’t get into any trouble at all whilst inside, they can have access to the gym. If they’re fighting in the gym every day, then they qualify to take part in the annual prison Muay Thai tournament—the winner of which gets a royal pardon and walks out of the prison that night. He took part in three of these fighting tournaments….I got to do a lot of Muay Thai fighting, so now is the time to start getting very, very fit.
That segues into this odd question: When I was on set, you mentioned that you bring three eggs with you every day. Since then I stumbled across an article that said you bought a ranch with chickens last year. Are those eggs from your own chickens?
I absolutely just lost my mind last year. I had some big personal stuff going in my life, and I think it just threw me off balance and I decided I was gonna buy a ranch, I was gonna take Fifty Shades of Grey and every other movie that I got offered all at the same time, and then I had something of a nervous breakdown and had to pull out of all of it. So I didn’t end up buying that ranch. Literally, I had an hour until my, like, [Laughs] six-figure deposit was no longer refundable. When I say I pulled out at the 11th hour, I really did. That sucks. That sucks for everyone involved.
Watch a behind the scenes video of EW’s cover shoot with the Sons cast.
For more on Sons of Anarchy, check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now.
Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.