The search for Christian Grey has begun anew. As revealed over the weekend, Charlie Hunnam has departed the very high-profile film adaptation of E.L. James' 50 Shades of Grey, with film studios citing the Sons of Anarchy star's "immersive TV schedule" preventing him from committing fully to the coveted role of Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson's Anastasia Steele in the erotic drama.
"Charlie Hunnam was never going to do Fifty Shades of Grey," argues one source close to the production. "He told his agents from the beginning he didn't want to do it and was going to pull out," the insider continues of the blond, grizzled AMC star, 33, whose name was announced early last month.
A second source close to Hunnam counters that the exit is "truly due to scheduling. The role of Christian Grey requires a massive time commitment, a trilogy role in which Charlie and his team were originally very aware of from the start and a major consideration in his hesitancy for taking the role. Charlie is the lead in a massive TV series and his loyalty will always be to Sons of Anarchy, the SOA family and fans."
And despite the tremendous media attention brought on by Hunnam's casting, "this is not due to cold feet," the second source contends. "Charlie is very true to his craft and something like the media circus is not going to deter him from taking a role. That said, The project wasn't appearing to shape up as expected. There is no bad blood."
Adds the pal: "While this was a tough decision, it was the right decision and he's happy he made it."
Hunnam initially won the role over the likes of oft-discussed contenders like Ian Somerhalder, Robert Pattinson and frontrunner Matt Bomer. For Hunnam — committed to his series and "passion projects" in film — "ultimately it wasn't worth it," a third source says. "I know the filmmakers and Universal are not happy."
Back in September, Hunnam seemed 100 percent on board with the sexy flick speaking with Us Weekly, although he acknowledged that attaching himself to the bestselling trilogy was "a big commitment." He met with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and did a reading with Johnson. "There's just like a tangible chemistry between us. It felt exciting and fun and weird and compelling," he said.
Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!