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When Charlie Hunnam agreed to play 19th-century explorer Percy Fawcett — opposite Robert Pattinson as fellow traveler Henry Costin — in the film adaptation of David Grann’s The Lost City of Z, he knew it wouldn’t be easy. Giving Hunnam only five days between filming on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Lost City of Z, the five-month shoot took him away from longtime girlfriend with essentially no means of contact.
The solution? A letter a day — or that’s what Hunnam promised, anyway.
“We went to Colombia, and the mail system doesn’t really work very well,” Hunnam said. “It’s completely unreliable. I received a letter from her, and I realized that from the tone of it and things she was saying that she hadn’t received the two letters that I sent before.”
With timely letters not really in the cards, Hunnam decided to go even more Method in portraying the explorer-cum-absentee father Fawcett. He stopped writing altogether. “Which obviously makes me sound like a total bastard, appropriately so,” Hunnam said. “But I was very apologetic.”
The separation, however, helped Hunnam understand Percival Fawcett’s obsession. “One of the things that [director James Gray] and I felt strongly that we wanted to explore in the film,” Hunnam said, “was the conflict between family life and the exterior demands that are made on us and the social and economic demands that we all need to deal with in life, being balanced or in conflict with the internal drive, to be the people we want to be and achieve the things that we want to achieve.”
But where does that leave things with Hunnam and the girlfriend he promised to write to? Well, while Colombian mail system failed him, the jewel market did not.
“I had the benefit of shooting in Colombia, where they have rather lovely and somewhat cheap emeralds,” Hunnam says. “My girlfriend is a jewelry designer, so I was able to come back with an appropriately sized gift. It didn’t remedy all of the trouble I was in, but it got me halfway there.”
The Lost City of Z will be released April 14. Before that, you can see an exclusive new photo of Hunnam and Pattinson from the film above.