Hollywood watchers and insiders were stunned this weekend after news broke that Charlie Hunnam was stepping away from the potentially star-making role as billionaire and sexual fetishist Christian Grey in the big screen adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
It wasn’t the unintentional hilarity of headlines that proclaimed “Hunnam pulls out” without a hint of irony that set those tongues a-wagging.
No, it was an official statement from the actor and Universal Studios that rather unconvincingly explained away his decision by saying that his “Sons of Anarchy” schedule didn’t allow him enough time to prepare for the sexy role. Beyond sit-ups, it’s not clear what kind of preparation the part would entail given that the character description is basically it’s not pervy when you’re rich.
For her part, author EL James was magnanimous, taking to Twitter to write, “I wish Charlie all the best. x.”
Meanwhile, former child actress and “Matilda” star Mara Wilson praised the move, tweeting, “Good for you, Charlie Hunnam,” while the actor’s “Sons of Anarchy” co-star Christopher Douglas Reed offered his support, tweeting, “Charlie Hunnam is a damn good dude. Regardless of his reasons behind 50 shades, he’s an honorable guy who will be around a long, long time.”
Entertainment journalists were less forgiving and were clearly not buying the official explanation.
Entertainment Weekly’s Mark Harris joked on Twitter that Hunnam was getting cold…something, “On Charlie Hunnam‘s desk right now: Thumbed copy of 50 Shades of Grey, hand mirror, ruler, scrap of paper with agent’s home number.” In that vein, the Los Angeles Times’ Steven Zeitchik quipped, “Would have loved to eavesdrop on a meeting
#CharlieHunnam had with [director] Sam Taylor-Johnson. ‘You want me to do what now?'”
Box Office Mojo’s Ray Subers decided to use a weekend excursion to lend producers a hand with casting a new Christian, tweeting, “At the LA Zoo today. Will see if anyone here is interested in replacing Charlie Hunnam.”
The speculation about Hunnam’s abrupt departure moved beyond social media and onto blogs and media outlets. At CinemaBlend.com, Mack Rawden wrote, “Part of me thinks it may have been Hunnam’s decision to bolt. He’s been getting plenty of negative comments about his participation in the project from Sons Of Anarchy fans, and it’s very possible those jokes may have started bothering him. Then again, it’s also possible he started thinking about just how much nudity will likely be expected.”
With the chilling prospect of full frontal shots now a banished nightmare, People Magazine assured its readers that Hunnam was moving on with his life, spending the weekend serving as best man at a friend’s wedding.
A source told the magazine that the actor, “seemed in really good spirits and spent time with his closest friends and his girlfriend.”
For his part, TheWrap’s resident casting scoop-machine Jeff Sneider hailed Hunnam’s maturity and even speculated his exit might help the film in the long run.
“If Hunnam was reluctant to play Grey, that hesitation would certainly manifest itself in his performance,” Sneider wrote.
And by performance, he clearly meant acting.