Less than a year after the live-action Aladdin adaptation became Guy Ritchie’s highest-grossing film ever, the British director goes back to his roots with The Gentlemen, out this weekend. The Gentlemen is more akin to Ritchie’s early crime classics like Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels than anything he’s made in a decade. Its starry cast includes the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, and Charlie Hunnam, who last worked with Ritchie on 2016’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
“I really like Guy, both as a fan and as a collaborator. I was super excited to work with him the first time on King Arthur; we had high hopes to make a series of films and explore that whole Arthurian legend,” Hunnam tells EW. “Unfortunately that didn’t work out, and one of the things I was most bummed out about our inability to keep making those movies is I didn’t get to work with Guy again as quickly as I thought I was going to. But then we turned around and made this film, so I was thrilled. It’s sort of return to the type of films that Guy made that made me want to work with Guy in the first place. I was in my late teens/early 20s when Snatch and Lock Stock came out, and those created a great desire to work with him.”
King Arthur was a medieval fantasy film, but Hunnam says Ritchie spent a portion of their first meeting asking him what he knew about the medical marijuana industry in California. That interest laid the groundwork for The Gentlemen, which focuses on the British marijuana empire run by American expatriate Mickey Pearson (McConaughey). As the film opens, Mickey is looking to sell off his empire and retire to a life of quality time with his wife Rosalind (Dockery). But he needs the help of right-hand man Raymond (Hunnam) to thwart the machinations of rival criminal Dry Eye (Golding) and relentless journalist Fletcher (Hugh Grant). Though Raymond is clearly a skilled enforcer, he spends much less time physically fighting than King Arthur did. Some of the tensest confrontations in The Gentlemen are entirely verbal.
“I’m almost 40 now, so any time I don’t have to do too much physical activity in a film is a huge benefit,” Hunnam says. “It’s just really fun to go into scenes armed with Guy Ritchie’s dialogue. Nobody really writes dialogue the way he does. There’s a couple of scenes in there where I get to really let loose with the Guy Ritchie vernacular. For me, it’s as much fun to throw insults and snappy dialogue as throwing punches.”
He continues, “the big question that Guy and I had about understanding Raymond all the way through the process of making this was, how loyal was he to Matthew’s character Michael? Is he just this Alfred-esque loyal servant of the master, or is there a secret agenda where he ultimately wanted to take over the business himself? I think at one time there was the potential of doing a TV show with this world, or maybe another film. Guy was trying to figure out the most compelling way to tell this film, but also set up the parameters of what he would be able to do with this world going forward.”
So far there’s no news about a TV series based on The Gentlemen, but fans of Hunnam’s work on Sons of Anarchy might be interested to know he’ll soon be returning to the format with a show he says he can’t discuss much yet. For now, though, The Gentlemen is a film, and one where Hunnam spends most of his time verbally sparring with Grant’s Fletcher — and repelling his flirtations.
“It’s certainly not a position I thought I was going to be in, on the receiving end of his affections,” Hunnam says. “But it was amazing. For all the screen time we have, I think it was shot in four-and-a-half, maybe five days. We worked very intensely but quickly together on those. I was really just blown away. I thought he put on a clinic. He had something like 45 pages to deliver in four-and-a-half days. He came in as a consummate professional and just absolutely smashed it. It was very sweet too. He’s Hugh Grant and he’s had enormous success in his career, but he still gets very nervous around the process. He described acting to me as ‘hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.’ That’s a pretty great description.”
The Gentlemen is in theaters now.