For a little more than a month back in 2013, Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam was set to play Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey film trilogy. The casting choice made Hunnam one of the most famous actors in Hollywood because the role would require some nudity and S&M sex scenes. But, just one month after the novel’s author E.L. James announced Hunnam’s casting, he shocked fans by abruptly dropping out of the movie.
Hunnam quit less than a month before production was supposed to begin, and James said that his decision was disappointing.
— E! News (@enews) March 14, 2017
At first, Hunnam told the media that he was excited to play such a complex and fascinating character, and he was happy that they had trusted him with the job of bringing Christian Grey to life. But not long after Hunnam told reporters he had spent his whole life preparing for the role, Universal Pictures and Focus Features issued a joint statement saying that the Fifty Shades of Grey filmmakers had agreed to find another male for the lead role because Hunnam’s schedule filming the final season of SOA would not allow him to adequately prepare for the role.
Rumors started to swirl that Hunnam was unhappy with the script, and he hated the attention from landing such a big movie role. The 38-year-old actor later said that he put himself in a difficult position when he left the film and caused a whirlwind of speculation about his exit. But, he didn’t feel like he owed anyone an explanation.
A couple of years later, Hunnam revealed that leaving Fifty Shades of Grey was the worst professional experience of his life, and it was an emotionally destructive and difficult thing to deal with professionally.
He then explained that he had promised his friend Guillermo Del Toro that he would be in his movie Crimson Peak, and that ended up conflicting with Fifty Shades of Grey. He would have also been simultaneously been portraying a revengeful and murderous Jax Teller in the final season of SOA.
Hunnam said that he called director Sam Taylor-Johnson directly to let her know he couldn’t be in the movie.
“I called her, and we both cried our eyes out on the phone for 20 minutes,” he said. “I needed to tell her that this was not going to work… There was a lot of personal stuff going on in my life that left me on real emotional shaky ground and mentally weak. I just got myself so f–king overwhelmed, and I was sort of having panic attacks about the whole thing.”
According to E! News, Hunnam has since changed his story a bit when it comes to his Fifty Shades exit. Last year, he said that he worried about his aspiration for the role compared to the context of the book, and he realized that he was trying to reinvent Christian Grey. So, he decided to step aside.
Charlie Hunnam filming action scenes❗️ for "Triple Frontier" https://t.co/6lnYhmmAlP
— Betty_J_ (@Betty_J_) May 24, 2018
When Fifty Shades of Grey came out in 2015, it ended up earning more than $569 million at the box office, while Crimson Peak grossed $74 million. Five years later, Hunnam has continued to star in multiple box office disappointments like Papillon, The Lost City of Z, and King Arthur. So, was his decision to quit Fifty Shades a career killer?
The short answer is no. He is now going full-circle and teaming up with Taylor-Johnson for the new film A Million Little Pieces, and he will also be starring in Triple Frontier with Ben Affleck. Compared to the resume of the actor who did play Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan, there isn’t much difference when it comes to their level of success.
In some ways, the role of Christian Grey has defined Charlie Hunnam’s acting career, even though he did everything he could to keep that from happening.