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Charlie Hunnam: ‘When Beckham came on set, tough guys turned into little girls at a Justin Bieber gig’

Charlie Hunnam: ‘I used to get mistaken for Heath Ledger.’
Charlie Hunnam: ‘I used to get mistaken for Heath Ledger.’ Photograph: SilverHub/Rex/Shutterstock

Hello Charlie. In Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, you reminded me of a cross between Chris Packham and Gary Barlow. Have you been mistaken for either of them?

I don’t know who Chris Packham (1) is. Gary Barlow? Really? I used to get mistaken for Heath Ledger a lot. A few years ago I was in Newcastle for a poker tournament during a break from Sons of Anarchy (2), so I still had the beard, and I was walking home from the casino around 3am when this huge group of lads came up to me on Northumberland Street. One of them said: “Are you that film star?” When I told him I was, he said: “Aye, ah fucken knew it, Gandalf the wizard, yer beardy bastard.” I thought, “Welcome back to Newcastle.”

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword - Guy Ritchie’s take on a medieval myth

You hung out with Hell’s Angels for Sons of Anarchy and football hooligans for Green Street. How does that compare with being on the set of a Guy Ritchie film?

Guy likes the sort of rough-and-tumble elements, so there were certainly some pretty tough characters in the background, whom he had brought in from the fighting community. He’s a very active practitioner of jujitsu, so there were a lot of chaps from that world.

Does Guy have a gentle side?

He does. He’s on a personal exploration of the human condition. He has studied the nature of the ego writ large, the prism with which we make sense of humanity in all its folly (3).

Do you have a favourite Arthurian film?

John Boorman’s Excalibur. I watched it a lot when I was seven or eight. At that age, it seemed as if sword-fighting and riding horses and kissing pretty girls would be an excellent way to make a living.

David Beckham has a cameo in the movie. How do you rate him as an actor?

I thought he was very good for a guy who had never done it before (4). He had a good work ethic and was striving for excellence. He was nervous but filled with humility and kindness. A lot of the tough guys on set that day were like little girls at a Justin Bieber concert. I was never a football man, so I just took him on his own merits. We got on really well.

How did it feel to be acting with Aidan Gillen for the first time since Queer As Folk?

He seemed exactly the same. He has still got a real magic to him and he’s every bit as eccentric and beautiful and weird as he always was. I’ve always been cognisant that I owed Aidan a huge debt of gratitude, being exposed to his level of craftsmanship and integrity at the start of my career. He was a very powerful guiding force to me.

Your scenes together in King Arthur have a lot of innuendo. Was that deliberate?

Ha! Not that I was aware of. What are you referring to?

You tell him: “I want to get my arse out of here.” He tells the others: “Leave him alone with me.” Then you say: “Put your ring back on, Honeytits.”

It hadn’t occurred to me, but you’re right. Maybe Russell (5) came in to do some secret script doctoring on that scene.

What’s the most ridiculous rumour you have heard for why you dropped out (6) of playing Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey?

I didn’t pay too much attention, but the most common one I heard was that I was afraid of the explicit sexual material. Come on, I was doing full frontal nudity with a man at the age of 18, I hardly think a bit of sexual stuff with a woman 15 years later is going to faze me.

Some of the King Arthur characters have interesting nicknames. Have you got any?

Guy had a few for me on set. One was The Movie Star. And he called me Cunty Bollocks a lot. Also, my friends call me Kid Fibre because I’m very into nutrition and my high-fibre diet. For a while, I was trying to persuade them to start taking psyllium husks. They are the ground-up seedpods from an African tree. It’s a big intestinal cleanser that gets rid of all the rubbish in your intestines as it goes down.

So are you always telling people, “I’d give it a few minutes if I were you”, after you’ve been in the loo?

Quite the opposite. You’ll find you pass a large volume and it’s usually a fairly clean process.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is released 19 May.

Footnotes

1) BBC nature presenter and author of the superbly titled memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.

2) The hit FX series about Californian bikers.

3) Most poignantly in that scene in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in which a man is beaten to death with a giant dildo.

4) Not strictly true. Previous cameo roles include the projectionist in Ritchie’s last film, The Man From UNCLE, and ‘David Beckham’ in the short Only Fools and Horses: Beckham in Peckham.

5) That’s Russell T Davies, Queer As Folk creator.

6) He dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, calling it “the worst professional experience of my life.” Some might describe it as dodging a bullet.

This article titled "Charlie Hunnam: ‘When Beckham came on set, tough guys turned into little girls at a Justin Bieber gig’" was written by Ryan Gilbey, for The Guardian on Friday 19 May 2017 06.00am

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