Thursday 27 July 2017

The Rise of Charlie Hunnam

Having received universal acclaim for his outstanding lead performances as Jackson 'Jax' Teller in FX’s outlawed motorcycle club crime drama Sons of Anarchy, Charlie Hunnam - the unlikely lad from the north east of England - has gone from strength to strength. Since Sons of Anarchy launched him into the mainstream, Hunnam has landed a number of scorching lead roles in Hollywood blockbusters such as Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and James Gray’s remarkable true-life epic about early 20th century British explorer Percy Fawcett The Lost City of Z which comes to Blu-ray, DVD and digital on 24th July courtesy of StudioCanal.

Although there is no doubt that Hunnam is now an international movie star, it wasn’t always that way as he began his career on television, appearing first in three episodes of Byker Grove in 1998, before the big time beckoned with his first major role as the love-smitten Nathan Maloney in Queer as Folk (1999), a critical success that ranked at number 13 in The Guardian’s 2010 list of "The Top 50 TV Dramas of All Time". Subsequently, Hunnam gained his first lead cinematic role as Nicholas Nickleby in the 2002 film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel. Further film roles came through in the mid-noughties, most notably a pivotal character in the critically acclaimed drama Cold Mountain (2003) and a less memorable stab at a cockney accent in British football hooligan flick Green Street (2005). As noted, though, it wasn’t until Sons of Anarchy that Hunnam thrust himself to the forefront of Hollywood’s long list of leading men.
Let’s take a look at what he’s been up to since then...

Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)
Here it is, then: Hunnam’s breakthrough role. As Jax, the grizzly, hardened and morally flawed biker from the Californian coast, Hunnam led from the front across seven seasons of the TV drama. Centring on both the personal and family life of Jackson "Jax" Teller and his biker crew-cum-organised crime syndicate SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original; based on the real life Oakland motorcycle crew Hell’s Angels), Sons of Anarchy explores the themes of vigilantism, government corruption and racism in fictional Californian town, Charming. Jax lives for the club, but as the seasons pass he questions the violent extremes his peers will go to in the name of "business”. A stunning turn from Hunnam that grabbed the attention of casting directors across the globe.

Pacific Rim (2013)
Treasured visionary filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro has long been known for his incredibly imaginative and detailed monster creations, which he provides in spades with this colossal monster knockout. However what was most notable about the director’s first real stab at a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster was his human characters, and how relatable and believable they were in amongst the incredible Robot vs Monster action set pieces, unlike many other films of this nature. This was true none more so than for Hunnam’s protagonist Raleigh, who is tasked with leading the fight against giant beasts who have come to destroy earth from another dimension, by piloting robot behemoths to take them down. Hunnam, as expected, brings much needed life to his lead character that could so easily have been lost under all the incredible crashy, smashy CGI.

The Lost City of Z
Based on author David Grann’s non-fiction bestseller, The Lost City Of Z is the incredible true story of pioneering British explorer Percy Fawcett, who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century. In the film, Hunnam stars as the ill-fated explorer who, despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment that regarded indigenous populations as savages, returns time and again to his beloved jungle; discovering evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region in an attempt to prove his case. A big role and one that caught the attention of critics, Hunnam’s performance in the film further cements his credentials as a leading man, and a big screen force to be reckoned with.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
This summer, British director Guy Ritchie cast Hunnam as the eponymous Arthur in his action-packed fantasy epic, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, in which he starred alongside a heavily eye-lined Jude Law. As expected, Ritchie brought his signature dynamic style to the Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur's journey from the streets to the throne, via a sword in the stone. However the film struggled at the box office; not even a cameo from Ritchie’s bezzie Golden Balls could entice the audiences that were expected. Nevertheless, Hunnam’s performance was by and large considered a good one, and yet another high profile leading role to add to his impressive 2017.

Papillon (2017)
Up next, Hunnam will star opposite Rami Malek in the titular role of Papillon, an upcoming biographical film directed by Michael Noer. Based on the best-selling autobiography by the French convict Henri “Papillon” Charrière, Papillon charts Charrière's escape attempts from the brutal penal colony on French Guiana. The film, which is now in post-production, is a remake of the 1973 American crime drama prison film of the same name starring Steve McQueen (as Papillon) and Dustin Hoffman (as Louis Dega, as played by Malek in this version). Big shoes to fill, but something tells me Hunnam is up to the task...

The Lost City of Z is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download from 24th July.