Fans of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy weren’t the only ones mourning when Charlie Hunnam announced he would be dropping out of the lead role back in 2013. The Sons of Anarchy hunk, 35, took the decision to heart too.
“It was the worst professional experience of my life,” he revealed in the cover story for V Man #34, of his decision not to play Christian Grey. “It was the most emotionally destructive and difficult thing that I’ve ever had to deal with professionally. It was heartbreaking.”
At the time, the actor explained, he had already committed to the film Crimson Peak, and felt like he couldn’t back out on his word to director — and pal — Guillermo del Toro.
“I’d given Guillermo my word, over a year before, that I was going to do this film. People were saying, ‘Are you crazy? Guillermo still has got four months to recast, it’s the fourth lead, you can go and do this [instead],’” Hunnam recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t. He’s my friend, I’ve done a film with him, I gave him my word.’”
For the V Man cover shoot, Hunnam got vulnerable (and shirtless), showing off his chiseled upper body and piercing blue eyes in a series of dynamic photos, including one in which he has red paint slathered across his face.
Hunnam also emphasized how “deeply unpleasant” it was to make the decision. “I really, really pride myself on being a professional and a man of keeping my word,” he said. “It means a lot to me, truly.”
Ultimately, however, it all came down to a matter of scheduling.
“I was going to finish Sons, shoot the whole sequence where Tara was brutally murdered, fly to Vancouver the next day, have ten days of rehearsal, and then start shooting,” he said of the back-to-back commitments he would have had at the time. “Then I was going to have three days after that and I’d have to start shooting Crimson Peak and then I’d have two days to travel and go back into Season 7 of Sons.”
Hunnam felt so invested in the project that he personally called Fifty Shades director Sam Taylor-Johnson to let her know he would have to drop out of the much-coveted role. Jamie Dornan later stepped in to star opposite Dakota Johnson in the sexy flick.
“I called her and we both cried our eyes out on the phone for 20 minutes,” he said. “I needed to tell her that this was not going to work.”
And to nay-sayers who claimed Hunnam backed out of the role because of other reasons, the King Arthur actor has a pointed retort.
“The outside perception of that was that I got really cold feet and got scared of the explicit nature of the sexuality of the piece,” he said. Then, referencing his role on Showtime’s Queer as Folk, he adds, “When I was 18 I was getting f—ed in the ass, completely naked on national TV, y’know?”