Cape Town – Imagine hanging out with Charlie Hunnam and Guy Ritchie in a cabin by a lake.
Chilling with them by a log fire or sharing stories over breakfast before taking a dip in the icy waters as the sun rises. All this while filming a medieval blockbuster with the coolest crew that Hollywood has to over.
During a quick Q&A, Charlie Hunnam lets us in what it was like filming King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
You talked on set about fighting your way into this role, because you weren't at the top of director Guy Ritchie’s list, initially.
I don't think I was even middle of his list! [Laughs] Guy flat-out said he didn't want to see me. I thought, wait, he’s not even going to give me audition?! The hell with that! That's outrageous. We knew a lot of the same people, and before this film even came up, I kept hearing from friends that Guy and I should work together. So I had this construct in my mind that Guy and I were already pals. I wanted him to at least have a cup of tea with me. Finally, Guy invited me to read for him, and then read again with some other actors. A week later I got the call and Guy said, “Alright, fucker, you got the role.” I was both surprised and overjoyed.
You've done big movies before, but this film takes to it to a new level.
It does, but I try to not get intimidated by that. Ultimately, you just have to push that aside and focus on the story.
I just worked as closely as I could with Guy, and on having fun. He saw that I could be a little too exacting or too tough on myself, so his only imperative was that we both have fun every day and enjoy what we're doing.
He was confident that if we enjoyed the process, he knew he could put something together that's going to be enjoyable for an audience. That was a pretty lovely directive, and it really did help me relax. There's something very stable and self-assured about Guy and his process. So I just followed his lead.
Is it true that Guy has a log cabin trailer, and that you camped out together on location?
Yes, he does have an exceptionally cozy trailer. It's very difficult to get him out once he's got the log fire going and some eggs cooking on the stove. Guy creates this dynamic wherever he goes.
The camping was wonderful. I'd always dreamed about what it would be like to just live around a film set and not be taken out of it. This was that experience for a brief period of time. We were in Wales for three weeks, but we all lived together in these little caravans by a lake. Some of us would jump in the icy lake every morning at 06:00 for what we lovingly referred to as the Plunge of Death.
Guy would come out of the cabin and start talking about the day’s filming, and we'd have breakfast together and walk from our trailer onto the set. Before we knew it we were in the zone and doing our thing. It was a lovely way to make a film.
What sort of training did you have to do for the role?
Over the six month period of shooting King Arthur: Legend of the Sword my size fluctuated a little bit, but I actually got to be the biggest I've ever been on the film. I put on a good 20 pounds. It involved going to the gym, lifting weights, eating lots and lots of food, particularly protein, and repeating the process until your muscles are big and swollen.
But I had fun with it. I mixed it up, did some boxing and, obviously, was very active learning sword fighting and stunts.
But for me, the least interesting aspect of exercise is the physical effect. What’s really exciting is the mental, psychological, emotional aspect of exercise. You feel a significant difference in how you feel in your day-to-day life when you stop working out.
Did you have a favourite scene to play in the film?
I will always love a bit of a giggle up with the chaps, so all of the scenes with the boys—Djimon Hounsou, [Sir Bedivere], Kingsley Ben-Adir [Wetstick], Neil Maskell [Back Lack], and Aidan Gillen, [Goosefat Bill], who I'd worked with years ago in Queer as Folk.
Do you relate to Arthur?
The thing that really interested me and Guy, and which is inherent in the Arthurian legend, is the idea that the challenges we face are only given weight by our fears. It was exciting to both of us to distill Arthur’s journey to the concept that he must conquer his innermost fears to construct the self-belief that will allow him to conquer any external challenge. That's the basic journey that Arthur takes in this film.
It's the classic Hero's Journey. You get this call to duty, which you resist due to fear. Then you go through several trials to overcome those fears and build up the confidence and skill set to be able to conquer the dragon at the end of the journey.
I'm a huge fan of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which is basically every folktale distilled to the seven or eight stories that we keep telling ourselves to make sense of the human condition.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword opens in SA cinemas on Friday, 12 May.
(Photo: Warner Bros.)