Almost one year after Charlie Hunnam parted ways with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” film, fans of the books are still buzzing about the true reason for his departure. Despite several rumors, including his alleged fear of being typecast for playing the film series’ sexualized role of Christian Grey, Hunnam claims he merely left because he couldn’t handle the pressure that came with starring in a blockbuster franchise.
Hunnam told MovieFone his efforts to simultaneously balance two films and one hit TV show’s filming schedules ultimately caused him to have a nervous breakdown, leading him to his decision to give up the coveted role of BDSM billionaire Christian Grey. “I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place if I didn’t want to do it,” Hunnam, 34, said of his lead role in the feature adaptation of E.L. James’ best-selling erotica series. “It was a really, really difficult time in my life.”
Before accepting the part, playing opposite actress Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, Hunnam said he informed the franchise’s director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, of his commitment to FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.” Despite his jam-packed schedule, which also included a role in Guillermo del Toro’s horror film “Crimson Peak,” Hunnam said his love for Christian Grey convinced him get onboard. “I just fell in love, creatively,” he said. “I just got so excited. I feel in love with the character and started seeing him and becoming intoxicated, which is the way I work: I find a character and I start thinking about it all the time.”
So what happened?
After accepting the part, Hunnam said he ultimately couldn’t handle the pressure. “I was going to finish ‘Sons’ at like 11 p.m. Friday night, get on the plane Saturday morning to Vancouver for ‘Fifty,’ missing the whole first week of rehearsal and start shooting Monday morning,” he said. “I just had like, frankly something of a nervous breakdown. I really didn’t want to fail on such a grand scale and I just couldn’t transition from Jax Teller [“Sons of Anarchy”] to Christian Grey in 48 hours. I bit off more than I could chew and it was painful. I loved the character and I wanted to do it.”
“Sons of Anarchy“ creator Kurt Sutter last spoke out about Hunnam’s leave from the franchise in August. Contradictory to Hunnam’s claims of a nervous breakdown and busy career, Sutter told Deadline that the actor was merely unhappy with the film's script. “I had conversations with Charlie, when he was offered that role,” he said. “I think he was promised a certain level of…not collaboration, but excellence with the script. And that never materialized. That’s why he ultimately stepped away.”
“Fifty Shades of Grey” debuts in theaters Feb. 13. Johnson will star alongside actor Jamie Dornan in Hunnam's former title role.
Catch Hunnam on "Sons of Anarchy" Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on FX.