Charlie Hunnam on Acting in ‘Deadfall’ and Portraying a Former Boxer
WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written back in 2012.
Best known for his roles in the film “Green Street Hooligans” and on the television series “Sons of Anarchy,” actor Charlie Hunnam gets to do a variation on his tough guy image in “Deadfall.” Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, he portrays Jay, an ex-boxer who has just been released from prison. He is contemplating going back home to have Thanksgiving dinner with his parents, but things go awry for him after he seriously injures, albeit accidentally, his former coach who had betrayed him. Fearing he will be sent back to jail, Jay flees the scene and goes on the run.
While talking with Christina Radish of Collider, Hunnam said there was “real poetry” to Zach Dean’s script when he first read it and that he related to Jay’s frustration and anger over how his life felt completely out of his control. When actors study and prepare to play a role, they are always expected to go over the similarities they share with their characters as well as how they are different from them. Hunnam found that his life as an actor was similar to Jay’s career as a boxer.
“I thought that was really interesting and I could relate to it, in a way, living in Hollywood,” Hunnam told Radish. “I’m very disciplined and I have a very clear idea of how I want to be spending my time, but I’m at the mercy of everybody else who decides how I get to spend my time and whether I get to work or not. In classic storytelling terms, with the classic hero’s journey and contemporary male narrative, a man being released from prison is a dynamic that I was predisposed to be interested in and like.”
The other interesting thing Hunnam brought up in his interview with Radish was how Jay was a successful athlete. Now in crime dramas like “Deadfall,” we typically expect boxers like Jay to have failed in their profession in one way or another, be it through drugs or some sort of gambling controversy. But here, Jay proves to be a victim of circumstance which has rendered his past achievements non-existent.
“This guy seemed like a guy who had dedicated his entire life to this goal of becoming a world class athlete and actually achieved it,” Hunnam said of Jay. “We just all inherently understand the dedication and sacrifice that is needed to achieve that because we’ve all grown up watching professional athletes on TV, so I understood that. He seemed like a guy where it was day one of the rest of his life. He had ruined the prior 30 years and he was coming out completely with nothing, at all.”
One of the best things about “Deadfall” is how beautiful the snowy landscapes look and how brutally cold they appear. I got to attend the movie’s press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, and it was surprising to hear Hunnam say how he looked forward to working in the freezing cold. Many actors would give anything not to work in such frigid temperatures, but for Hunnam it offered a change of pace. Still, he did find the snow to be a challenging environment to work in.
“I had actually been really excited about a period in the cold weather because we shoot ‘Sons of Anarchy’ in LA through the course of the summer, and I’m a skinny guy who wants to look as big as possible so I wear several layers of clothing; it gets really old being that hot,” Hunnam said. “But I must say that a couple of days in, I was craving the sunshine. You know when you’re really hot you get miserable and a little bit grumpy, but the cold is really debilitating.”
Hunnam did take the time to train as a boxer which helped him better understand his character. It also turned out he had a unique way of getting into Jay’s psyche which he accomplished by working out a lot and then suddenly stopping. Anyone who has exercised a lot at the gym and then stopped for a period can clearly understand how difficult it is to start all over again.
“I’ve also always been interested in boxing so I put myself through an intense boxing academy where I got up and ran five miles every morning and then went and had breakfast and boxed a couple of hours and then came home and watched fights all day long and then went and swam, and I did this seven days a week for five weeks before filming this movie. Then when I got to Montreal (where the film was shot) I wanted to stop completely and feel the absence, and I knew that was going to have a very negative effect on my psychology. It’s kind of a shortcut, rather than intellectually empathizing, to actually feeling the emotion. I got into a very dark and happy place during shooting because of that preparation,” Hunnam said.
Charlie Hunnam still has “Sons of Anarchy” to work on, and many are excited at what the show’s upcoming season finale has to offer. Up next for him is Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” in which he will be playing Raleigh Antrobus, a washed-up former pilot who has to defend the world by piloting a giant robot and fighting monsters who are rising out of the depths of the ocean. Thar one looks to be Hunnam’s biggest movie yet.
Christina Radish, “Charlie Hunnam Talks DEADFALL, SONS OF ANARCHY Season 5, PACIFIC RIM, and Writing a Movie About a Drug Lord for WB and Legendary,” Collider, December 5, 2012.
Ben Kenber, “Interview with the Cast and Director of Deadfall,” We Got This Covered, December 7, 2012.