BATD ON Nov 14, 2013 AT 12:00 pm


Charlie Hunnam Q+A

Charlie Hunnam

Charlie Hunnam

Why did you want to make Pacific Rim?

It was really to work with Guillermo. I was so excited. I met him on Hellboy 2 years ago when he was doing that and I just love him as a guy and, obviously, some of the movies he has made are so terrific, Cronos, Pan’s Labryinth and Hellboy. But also the man himself, he’s such an inspiring, exciting guy to be around and to talk about film with, a real original thinker and he makes every film from the heart. You never feel it is about commerce, never about advancement; he’s making these things from his soul.

Apparently, you signed onto the film without reading the script?

Absolutely, I signed onto this movie without reading the script, just on the strength of Guillermo and on an hour-long conversation we had. He told me about the world and the backdrop of this film, the giant robots and monsters, but it was really clear that there was going to be a human story at the centre of it. He had a character and he was very compelled to tell his story, the classic hero’s journey. He wanted to tell the story of a guy who at the beginning was overcoming a great tragedy, which is how most great stories begin. A man has a tragedy and is compelled to go out and fix it. Of course, at the beginning there is the reluctance to the call and then the mentor figure comes in and convinces him to take a gamble. It is classic storytelling and it became clear that while there was going to be this larger-than-life world around it, even without reading the script I felt sure that at the centre of it there was a multi-dimensional character to work with.

Which scenes from the shoot stand out as being especially memorable?

We shot this film for so long because Guillermo had the luxury of a very big budget. We shot over the best part of six months and so there was a series of chapters in making this film. The first chapter was the fighting stuff. For the first two and a half weeks we shot the big hand-to-hand fight scenes and the stick fighting. Then the final chapter was all that control pod stuff. Guillermo does those sequences so well and they are so slick and meticulous. There’s electricity around how he handles that type of action. I knew from what was on the page that he was going to want to do something pretty epic with this movie.

Did the action sequences require a huge amount of preparation?

Yeah. Guillermo was like, ‘I need you to learn how to stick fight,’ which was music to my ears. He wanted to me to do the vast majority of that stuff myself. He feels, and I share his opinion, that when you shoot those sequences if even for a split second it is clear that it is not the actor doing it, it breaks the whole scene. You can’t get anything past an audience nowadays. Our generation has all grown up watching these action movies, so they know about this stuff. I was really excited to do all that stuff. Those were really, really gruelling long days but very, very fun to shoot.

There was an actor’s bootcamp during pre-production that you could not attend, so how did you get up to speed on the fight sequences?

I trained by myself. I had a kind of rule though I didn’t always achieve it. While I was shooting Sons of Anarchy I told myself that I had to do 300 push ups through the course of the days we were shooting. Sometimes I would only do 150 or 200 but sometimes I did the full 300. Then I’d go to the gym every night after work. I just remember that as a really exhausting period, but even then at the weekends I would go and learn the stick fighting. That was really where all my energy was going because I have done a lot of screen fighting and I knew I’d be able to get the beats down for the fist fights but stick fighting is different.

Did anyone get hurt during training, or making the movie?

Well, there’s no contact in screen fighting but in stick fighting you actually have to make contact and make it hard because if you don’t it looks awful. And working with Rinko, who is a very delicate girl, I wanted to be very precise and exact with my movements because if you get that stuff wrong, that’s a very formidable piece of equipment you are dealing with. The force with which we were wielding it was going to result in broken bones if we got it wrong.

So Rinko survived…Tell me about the experience of shooting the control pod scenes on Pacific Rim. Apparently, it was quite tough…

It was, just due to the basic logistics of the thing. We were all on this elliptical machine with quite high resistance because Guillermo wanted it to really look as though it required some effort. And then you are in this suit and it is huge and hot and sweaty and weighs 30lbs. It pinched you here and there where the different pieces of plastic would join. Our feet were strapped into the thing so if we fell we weren’t going to be able to abort and catch ourselves, so we had to wear a harness underneath our suits. And wearing a harness for 14 hours, your gonads start to feel horrible! Then you are wearing the helmet and throwing punches. Anyone who has done any martial arts will tell you — you throw punches just for 30 seconds and it’s hard. You do it in armour for 14 hours a day, while on an elliptical machine, and the whole thing is really brutal.

How long were you shooting those scenes?

I was in there for 27 days! Of course, Guillermo is such a jokester. He is a very compassionate man but he would be up there in this big chair and he edits in his drawing book the whole time while he works. He is always drawing and designing shots and deciding how one will lead into another. He has a huge bullhorn and is up there with his coffee and his books and he is talking to everybody like he is Orson Welles — sitting in this giant chair, directing the whole circus around him. Then he would be on the bullhorn when I was struggling, saying, ‘I know, Charlie, I am suffering too. My cappuccino got cold!’ He’s a funny guy.

Does having a successful TV show like Sons of Anarchy help or hinder a career as a film actor?

I feel like there is no bad. Sons of Anarchy is far and away the most powerful, creative experience of my life so far as an actor. I have missed out on a load of huge opportunities because I couldn’t make myself available due to the show — but then I wouldn’t have probably got those opportunities if it wasn’t for the show, anyway. So I just remain very, very grateful and positive about it.

Do you dread the day when the show will come to an end?

I do. I always get a bit depressed when I finish any job because you have been embroiled in this really specific purpose for a period of time and then you go back to normal life and you can feel a bit lost. I can only imagine it is going to be like that tenfold when I step away from Sons. I went through it with my friend, which sounds kind of ridiculous. There is a character in Sons who is played by Ryan Hurst. He plays Opie Winston, who was best friend to my character, Jax. And his character got killed last year and Ryan had a really, really, hard time, grieving. He wrote a beautiful essay called The Last Rites of Opie Winston, a catharsis for himself, and there are some beautiful sections in that essay which say that every actor carries around a graveyard of characters that they have brought to life and then have had to kill. He’s right. So yes, I do dread saying goodbye to Jax Teller.


Take a look at the trailer for Pacific Rim here, due for UK DVD release on 11th November 2013, pre-ordere here.

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