When Charlie Hunnam parted ways with the movie version of E L James’ racy bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey earlier this year, the actor’s scheduling conflicts with the final season of his FX biker series, Sons of Anarchy, was cited as the root cause. In a new interview with US Weekly, though, the 34-year-old actor reveals that some performance anxiety was equally to blame. "I just had like…frankly, something of a nervous breakdown," he says about his last-minute decision to back out of playing wealthy S&M enthusiast Christian Grey. “I just said, ‘I can’t… I can’t …,’ to fail on such a grand scale — because Fifty's going to be massive, it's going to be huge. I really didn't want to fail on such a grand scale.”
Hunnam’s departure left the movie’s director Sam Taylor-Johnson scrambling to find a replacement Christian to romance — in the most extreme sense of the word — Dakota Johnson’s young college student Anastasia Steele, eventually setting on Irish model and actor Jamie Dornan. In the interview, Hunnam expresses guilt about the headache he caused his almost-director. “Sam and I just fell in love, creatively. We started talking about this thing and I just felt so excited. I fell in love with the character and started seeing him and becoming intoxicated, which is the way I work: I find a character I love and I start thinking about it all the time. It’s painful because I loved the character and I wanted to do it. I’m also a man of my word.”
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
But the prospect of three intensive back-to-back shoots — Sons of Anarchy, Fifty Shades of Grey, and then the Guillermo Del Toro-directed Gothic romance Crimson Peak, also starring Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain — caused those feelings of love and loyalty to fade. “I was going to finish [filming] 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. I just couldn’t transition from Jax Teller to Christian Grey in 48 hours.”
So Hunnam handed in his “Dear John” letter and while his co-workers were disappointed, fans of the book — who weren’t thrilled by his casting in the first place — didn’t seem too crushed about the break-up. With Fifty Shades set for a Valentine’s Day release, we’ll soon see whether his replacement was able to commit to the role enough to spark a love affair with audiences, or if this potential trilogy becomes a one-movie stand.
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