Charlie Hunnam is no longer attached to play Christian Grey as he is leaving "Fifty Shades of Grey". The studio says it was mutual decision between the actor and the producers, citing his hectic schedule of filming "Sons of Anarchy" as the reason of his departure.
"The filmmakers of Fifty Shades of Grey and Charlie Hunnam have agreed to find another male lead given Hunnam's immersive TV schedule which is not allowing him time to adequately prepare for the role of Christian Grey," Universal Pictures and Focus Features say.
Hunnam is indeed busy with the FX series playing Jackson "Jax" Teller, the outlaw motorcycle club leader. The show is airing its sixth season and will continue with the seventh cycle in 2014. The production is reportedly to finish in October, while "Fifty Shades of Grey" is planned to start shooting in November.
While there does seem to be a complication in Hunnam's schedule, a source tells The Hollywood Reporter it was not the main reason why the "Pacific Rim" star pulled out of the movie. Rumor has it, the 33-year-old hunk was turned off by the attention that he received from being cast as the male lead.
Hunnam was supposed to star opposite Dakota Johnson in the adaptation of E.L. James' erotic book. Their casting was met with backlash. Earlier this year, some hardcore fans of the book even went as far as posting an online petition on Change.org to have both stars thrown out of the project.
They urged the main roles to be re-cast, saying in the letter that has collected over 80,000 signatures that they wanted Matthew Bomer to play the kinky billionaire and Alexis Bledel to portray the naive college student Anastasia Steele who enters an S&M relationship with the wealthy businessman.
"There is a lot that goes into casting that isn't just looks. Talent, availability, their desire to do it, chemistry with other actor, etc.," producer Dana Brunetti defended the casting back then. "So if your favorite wasn't cast, then it is most likely due to something on that list. Keep that in mind while hating and keep perspective."
Despite the hate, Hunnam was ready and willing to take on the role. "We both suggested I do a reading with Dakota, who was her favorite," he said recently. "As soon as we got in the room, I knew that I definitely wanted to do it. There's just a tangible chemistry between us. It felt exciting and fun and weird and compelling."
But the "Deadfall" actor once did hint that "there was a bit of a timing issue." "I just wanted to ensure that I was going to have enough time to really do the preparation so I can bring this guy to life and do him justice," so he said.
Following Hunnam's exit from the project, author E.L. James offered the hunky actor a sweet send-off on Twitter. "I wish Charlie all the best," so she wrote.
The movie eyes an August 1, 2014 release date. Sam Taylor-Johnson ("Nowhere Boy") is on board to serve as the director. Jennifer Ehle ("The King's Speech", "Contagion", "Zero Dark Thirty (2012)", "RoboCop") was recently added to play Anastasia's mother.