Published May 10, 2017If you've been living under a rock for the past nine years, Charlie Hunnam may seem like an odd choice to play Britain's biggest mythical hero. But since getting the starring role in TV's Sons of Anarchy, the Newcastle native and former Nicholas Nickleby has transformed himself into a total badass on screen.
That's one of the reasons Guy Ritchie (Snatch, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) hired him to play Arthur in the latest big screen adaptation of the legendary king. (The actor reportedly upped his workout routine from 300 to 1,000 pushups every day to prepare for the movie, and, during his audition, even offered to fight fellow actors Michael Fassbender and Henry Cavill — both of whom were in consideration for the lead — to prove how serious he was about getting the role.)
In reality, the Hollywood heartthrob is affable and welcoming, as evidenced by his recent trip to Toronto with Ritchie in support of their latest feature. Here, the two tell Exclaim! about making the film, taking on the role of The Round Table's leader and the celebrity sports cameo that almost happened (as well as the one that did).
1. Their backgrounds in Jiu-Jitsu helped them improvise fight scenes on set
Ritchie is a longtime practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu and personally taught Hunnam the fundamentals before the actor signed up for professional classes. That came in handy when it came time to film Legend of the Sword's many fight scenes.
"There's [a] scene in the middle where I have a scrap with some of the boys… [it]was a big thing that we spent ages rehearsing and it just felt a bit contrived," Hunnam says. "So Guy just said, 'Alright, fucking knee him in the bollocks, give him a head-butt, throw a shoulder in there and let's see where it goes.' After hours and hours of preparation, we shot something in half an hour that didn't resemble anything that we'd intended to do."
2. UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor Partly Inspired His Portrayal of Arthur
"I talked about him to Guy a lot," Hunnam says. "What I actually found most exciting about Conor is this journey and manifestation of the personal destiny that he's been on. He seems to have identified exactly what and who he wanted to be in life, when there had been no precedent in his life or the area that he grew up in for that. Yet he fearlessly marched in the direction of his dreams and has been doing quite a wonderful job.
"I felt like there was symmetry between the things that I was getting excited about with him, and some of the things we were discussing in this film."
McGregor almost made an appearance in the film, but Hunnam says "he was preparing to fight José Aldo," who, it's worth pointing out, the Irish fighter would go on to knockout in 13 seconds.
3. But they did get David Beckham to make a cameo
Ritchie is no stranger to using non-actors in his movies, having worked with British DJ Goldie on Snatch, as well as former soccer star Vinnie Jones (whose first acting role was in Ritchie's silver screen debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).
"I think you sort of want a combination of traditional actors and non-traditional actors," Ritchie says about one of the reasons Beckham made an appearance in the film. "Acting is a great craft and a hard-earned skill, and it's to be taken very seriously… but what I think you can do is work with certain people on the periphery as a form of [pauses to think] I don't really know what it is, fun? It's to pepper it with disparate components that somehow excite the entire process."
4. The message in Legend of the Sword is close to Hunnam's heart
"The message of this film, for me, is anybody can do anything, and that's always been my fundamental belief in life. Sometimes in jest, half in jest, when people ask me what I would've liked to do if I wasn't an actor, and I say 'I'd like to be a professional fighter,' people sort of laugh at me. And I say, 'Listen pal, people used to laugh at me when I said I wanted to be an actor too,'" he says. "That's hopefully the message people will take away from this, because it's just the reality: If you march fearlessly in the direction of your dreams and endeavour to live the life that you've imagined, you will meet with success."
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword hits theatres across Canada on May 12