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The Untold Truth Of Charlie Hunnam

You may know him as broody biker bad-boy Jax Teller from the ultraviolent FX hit drama "Sons of Anarchy," but Charlie Hunnam is much more than your stereotypical action hero. Sure, his rugged good looks, gravelly voice and macho demeanor make him an appropriate choice to slide into any role that requires a little bare-knuckle brawling, but there's a whole lot about the English actor that fans probably don't know.

In the two decades since his first official on-screen appearance, Hunnam has enjoyed a bit of a chameleonic acting career. He's tackled roles in films ranging from comedies like 2012's "3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom" to Gothic dramas like 2015's "Crimson Peak." Still, his most lucrative projects all reside in the action category, including 2013's "Pacific Rim" and 2019's "The Gentlemen."

Behind the scenes, the blonde-haired stud from Newcastle upon Tyne is apparently a bit more reserved than the characters he portrays in shoot-em-up blockbusters. For the most part, he's lived his life under the radar of media scrutiny, leaving a tinge of mystery to the multi-talented star. You might be shocked to hear about some of the now-iconic roles he nearly played or some of his more interesting personal traits.

Here is the untold truth of Charlie Hunnam.

Charlie Hunnam's a reformed sneakerhead

If you woke up one morning as a famous actor with money to blow, what's the first thing you'd splurge on? For a number of today's celebrities, it's all about the footwear — Mark Wahlberg, for example, has a sneaker collection valued at over $100,000! Although his shoe rack might not have been quite that expensive, Charlie Hunnam certainly had a shoe obsession during the early part of his career as well. His Achilles' heel? Nike Air Max 90s.

Speaking to GQ in 2013, Hunnam explained that when he was a kid, his family couldn't afford to buy him £100 pairs of shoes. But when Nike re-issued the infra-red colorway in the early 2000s, he couldn't resist: "I don't know how it happened, but I became obsessed with buying every colorway I could get my hands on." Although he had amassed a massive collection, he apparently hardly ever wore them, opting to keep most pairs in their boxes.

Later, in a 2017 interview with Elle, the "Children of Men" actor admitted that he'd grown up, meaning that his collection of kicks had to go. "I took out six or seven pairs that I cared about, and I gave the rest to charity," he revealed. It's good to see stars giving back.

Charlie Hunnam was discovered, and then discovered again

It's Charlie Hunnam's love of athletic shoes, or trainers as they're known in his native U.K., that directly set him off on the road to fame, success, and wealth. In the late 1990s, a teenaged Hunnam wanted to be an actor and was attending film school, but he was yet to book any work when he found himself Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. Having spent the previous four hours in a pub drinking, he was rather inebriated when he wandered into a shoe store. "I was in JD Sports trying on some trainers for my brother and a bit of a dance around, drunk," Hunnam explained on "The Graham Norton Show" in 2017. "And there was a lady staring at me so I blew her a kiss and gave her a little wink." The woman turned out to be the production manager of "Byker Grove," a long-running, family-friendly U.K. drama about the goings-on at an urban youth group. Hunnam was invited to audition and he landed a part on the show as a character named Jason.

Around the same time, Hunnam was approached by another connected individual, a scout for a modeling agency. "They sent me one modeling job, for Wall's ice cream. I did one job for them, and then a catwalk shoot for Kangol caps and decided modeling was not for me," Hunnam told GQ, adding that he persuaded the agency's acting chapter to book him auditions. He landed the first one.

He was almost Aldous Snow

Although it's been over a decade since it first graced theaters, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is still widely revered as one of the finest romantic comedies of its era. Who could forget the ludicrously humorous plight of Jason Segel's Peter Bretter, who regrettably vacations at the same resort as his ex-girlfriend, superstar actress Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), and her new beau, eccentric rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand)? Every actor in this 2008 classic feels perfectly picked for their respective roles, but as it turns out, the cast wasn't always set in stone, particularly with one key part.

Believe it or not, Russell Brand wasn't the first choice to play Aldous Snow. Speaking to Collider, Charlie Hunnam revealed that Segel, who both wrote and starred in the film, had actually originally written the part for him! "Jason Segel wrote 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' for he and I to do together, and he wrote that [Russell Brand] role [of Aldous Snow] for me," he said. "I went and I did the table read and it was very successful." Hunnam and Segel were very close friends at the time, having recently worked together on the early 2000s comedy series, "Undeclared."

Hunnam ultimately decided that the part wasn't right for him, but he admitted that he really struggled turning his friend down. However, when he saw a piece of Brand's stand-up, he felt assured about his decision: "Obviously, that's the dude who should have been playing that role." The rest is history.

He's heartbroken about dropping out of 50 Shades of Grey

Before "The Fall" heartthrob Jamie Dornan slipped into the highly-provocative role of Christian Grey in 2015's "Fifty Shades of Grey," Universal was apparently all-in on Charlie Hunnam for the part. In fact, the author of the wildly popular literary series, E.L. James, even made the announcement over Twitter back in 2013.

However, as most people know by now, the pairing just wasn't meant to be. Hunnam ultimately dropped out of the role due to scheduling difficulties. While Dornan wound up being a perfectly suitable replacement, some fans still wonder what could have been had Hunnam not turned down the role. As it turns out, the "Crimson Peak" actor himself sometimes does, too.

In 2014, Hunnam got candid with reporters (per Marie Claire) about missing out on what could have been the role of a lifetime. "When you put the time into something like that and a character comes alive in your mind, it's heartbreaking not to be able to play him. It was definitely kind of heartbreaking having to say goodbye to that character and not bring it to life."

Hunnam's not a fan of kissing scenes for a specific reason

To the average Joe, locking lips with some of Hollywood's most attractive women might sound like a dream come true. However, in an interview with Elle, Hunnam revealed that he truthfully has a very different opinion on the matter. "Everyone thinks it's great to be an actor and get to kiss a bunch of beautiful actresses in films, but I actually hate it," he admitted. And it's not just because he's in a very committed relationship.

While he admits that his longtime partner, Morgana McNelis, is not the biggest fan of watching her main man get steamy onscreen with another woman, the "Pacific Rim" star cites a different personal phobia that explains his distaste for spit-swapping scenes. "I've been profoundly germophobic since I was a young child," he admitted. "I don't want to kiss anyone but my girlfriend for my whole life." While this may seem like a bit of a peculiarity, there's actually a long list of celebs who are huge germophobes, so he's certainly not alone in that regard. Now knowing all of the intimate scenes required for "50 Shades of Grey," maybe it's best that Hunnam passed on the role of Christian Grey after all.

The SoA star nearly joined the MCU

Throughout the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a number of actors and actresses have seen their careers explode due to their heroic onscreen portrayals, arguably none more so than Chris Hemsworth, who's brought Thor to life in multiple MCU movies. Although it's now nearly impossible to envision anyone but the Australian hunk in the mighty Marvel role, there was actually another blond-haired actor who the studio originally eyed for the gig.

During a press conference at 2017's CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards (per International Business Times), Charlie Hunnam divulged that before they found Hemsworth, Marvel was interested in him wielding the mighty Mjölnir in 2011's "Thor." "I auditioned, and I met with the director and the guys at Marvel several times," he recalled. "And it was sort of this awkward dance that we were having." He went on to add that neither party totally bought into the idea, but "there was something that kept bringing [him] back into the mix." You can't deny that Hunnam certainly has the look to play the Thunder God, but could anyone honestly get as ripped as Hemsworth did for the part?

Charlie's been in a committed relationship for a long time

There are certainly more than a few Hollywood elites who prefer playing the field to monogamy. Some celebs are consistently single, some are constantly changing who they're dating, and some have even been engaged multiple times. Charlie Hunnam's public dating profile is a little less extravagant compared to most of his peers.

Although the rumor mill has thrown Hunnam's name into more than a few unverified relationships, he's kept his dating life pretty close to the chest. When the English star was only 18 years old, he came to America to audition for "Dawson's Creek." Although he didn't get the part, he met a fellow actress at the audition named Katharine Towne. Only three weeks later, the two went to Las Vegas and got hitched. The couple stayed together for three years before eventually divorcing in 2002.

A few years later, Hunnam started seeing American jewelry designer Morgana McNelis, and apparently, the two were simply made for each other. They are still going strong today! Although they keep most details of their relationship private, a certain tidbit that Hunnam disclosed about his workout routine to Men's Fitness (via US Weekly) perhaps offers some insight as to how the two lovebirds stay close: "I also try to make love as often as I can. That's an important part of fitness." It's understandably an important part of a healthy relationship, too.

He's still close with his 'Hollywood dad'

If you're working on a super-intense TV show for an extended period of time, there's bound to be some dramatic tension build-up behind the scenes. For a series like "Sons of Anarchy," which was just as much a character piece as it was a brutally violent drama, it's totally understandable that the show's actors would clash at times with the people in charge. Speaking to Men's Journal, Hunnam admitted that sometimes things got a little dicey on set between he and "SoA" creator Kurt Sutter. "I love that guy, but it was hard for us to work together sometimes because we're both crazy," he said. "There has been security rushing onto set and pulling us apart before."

Although that may sound a little alarming, there's nothing but love between the two men today. Hunnam referred to Sutter as his "Hollywood dad" in an interview with Men's Health, noting the shared respect within the pair's relationship. Apparently, the feeling is mutual. When speaking on the "100% Honest Pretty Much" podcast (via PopCulture), Sutter also had nothing but flattering things to say about his show's former lead, explaining, "I love Charlie, I think we're closer now than ever."

Hunnam's enjoying a career in transition

Famous poet Maya Angelou once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Charlie Hunnam, who turned 40 in 2020, can apparently attest to such agony. In an interview with GQ, the "Jungleland" star discussed how getting older has put his career in a bit of a transitional phase, and that writing has become his primary focus. "I've spent these last six to eight months writing five hours a week," he explained. "I wrote a screenplay, and I wrote a television show, a six-part television show. And right now I'm in the middle of writing a miniseries."

Although he's most well-known for his work in front of the camera, Hunnam is far from a screenwriting novice. He wrote his first script when he was just 15 years old, and has only improved his craft since then. He's actually sold four screenplays to major studios throughout his career, and although none of them have been made (yet), he's still really enjoying the process. As he puts it, "When I write, I feel as though I'm honoring the innate gifts that God gave me." Who knows — maybe he'll add a "written by" credit to his resume at some point in the near future.

Charlie Hunnam's historical drama might never make it to the big screen

Of all the screenplays Charlie Hunnam has written, and which earned some attention from film production companies, the most high profile and notable is his script about the life of Vlad the Impaler, the 15th century noble who stuck the corpses of his vanquished enemies on stakes and inspired the Dracula legend.

In 2006, according to Entertainment Weekly, Hunnam began writing "Vlad," and three years later, with a writers' strike and the author landing a regular acting gig on "Sons of Anarchy," development finally began in earnest when music video helmer Anthony Mandler signed on to direct. Hunnam considered playing the title role himself, but ultimately wanted to cast Colin Farrell or Christian Bale.

But despite Hunnam's celebrity and clout, an interested studio, familiar and marketable source material, and a rewrite by Hunnam's "The Lost City of Z" writer-director James Gray, production still hasn't begun on "Vlad" ... more than a decade after it was first announced.

He loves cats

Although onscreen he often portrays tough guys and scrappy badasses, Charlie Hunnam apparently has a major soft spot for kitty cats in real life — in particular, his pet cat George. According to The Sun, Hunnam first found his favorite feline "lying half-submerged in a puddle" on his roof years ago, and the two have been close ever since. He once even told The Kit (via Bustle) that his cat's chest was his favorite smell in the whole world. What a purr-fect pair!

But George isn't the only cat that Hunnam is looking out for. When his longtime partner, Morgana McNelis, took to her Instagram to try and start a GoFundMe page for a kitten in need of surgery, her main man came through in a major way. In a post updating her followers on the kitten's progress, McNelis wrote, "Charlie just found out about the GoFundMe for Stitch's surgery and was very upset that I did not ask him directly. ... He insists on covering the remaining cost of the vet bills." Apparently, she didn't ask him in the first place because he had already paid for another cat's surgery that month. Charlie Hunnam is clearly a friend to felines everywhere.

He's never, ever playing Jax Teller again

Nowadays, it seems like TV reboots, spinoffs and long-running continuations have become an industry norm. Netflix's "Fuller House" breathed new life into the legendary '90s sitcom, "Full House," in 2016. Meanwhile, "Star Trek: Picard" returned Sir Patrick Stewart to his long-extinct "Star Trek" role, and Peacock's remake of "Saved By the Bell" brought a few familiar faces, including Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley, back to Bayside High.

While some stars may be all too happy to slip back into the roles that jumpstarted their Hollywood careers, Charlie Hunnam isn't one of them. While the British actor is genuinely grateful for the show that put him on the map, he has absolutely no intention of ever returning to the world of "Sons of Anarchy" as Jax Teller. "I would never, ever put that cut back on," he told People. "I would never put his rings back on. Not even for Halloween." For Charlie Hunnam, it's all about looking forward in life.

Some fans want Hunnam to be the next Bond

Even before Daniel Craig officially ended his tenure as James Bond, fans were wondering who would replace him as 007. While the studio is remaining tight-lipped as to who Craig's successor will be, fan speculation is at an all-time high. There are several prominent actors who fans would love to see suit up for MI6, including names ranging from Idris Elba to Regé-Jean Page. As it turns out, Charlie Hunnam is right there on the list as well.

On paper, he certainly fits the bill. He's British, has the acting chops to pull off both drama and action, and looks awfully handsome in a suit. Still, Hunnam isn't putting any stock into his chances. When speaking to People magazine, the action star stated that while he'd be absolutely flattered to play the iconic English role, he's a realist. "My intuition tells me that I shouldn't be waiting for that phone call to come. I think there are many people ahead of me on that list." Only time will tell.

He can't do Cockney

England is a physically small country — it's about the same size as Alabama — but it's home to more than three dozen distinct regional dialects, according to England Live. Each has its own unique characteristics, and they can be hard for an actor to convincingly pull off, even a performer from England who didn't grow up speaking that particular brand of English. Born and raised in the working class northern city of Newcastle, Hunnam wasn't normally exposed to Cockney, a rhyming-slang and jargon-loaded dialect historically associated with working class neighborhoods of London. As such, the English Hunnam has struggled to perform the English Cockney accent, and he's been taken to task for it.

"This horrendous gobble of twisted syllables and distorted vowels is an aural nightmare that ruins an otherwise quite good film," ShortList said of Hunnam's vocal work in "Green Street," a film which includes a sequence of his character explaining the nuances of Cockney rhyming slang to an American.

Charlie Hunnam was expelled from school

Charlie Hunnam landed his first roles in British television shows when he was a teenager, and at an age when his peers were still in school. His own education followed a more circuitous route. Hunnam excelled in art at his school in the north of England, but was enough of a troublemaker that his art teacher barred him from going on the class trip to Florence, Italy. "I was a 'menace to society,'" Hunnam explained to Elle Canada. "While he was away, I broke into his stash of acrylic paints and painted this giant crushed-up Coke can. It was maybe the best painting I'd ever done, but he ripped it up in front of the whole class." 

Livid and embarrassed and trying to stop himself from crying in front of others, Hunnam hurled a pair of scissors that landed in a doorframe inches away from the teacher's head. "And that was it — they expelled me from school," he said. Hunnam would continue his education at Ullswater Community College, an area he told The Mirror was "just about the worst place you could hope to live."

Dawson's Creek was responsible for Charlie Hunnam's first marriage

Many of today's most prominent forty-something actors got their first big acting roles when they were teenagers or in their early twenties, appearing on one of the many young-adult-oriented shows that filled the network TV airwaves in the late '90s and early 2000s. Take for example British actor Charlie Hunnam, who broke through to U.S. audiences with roles on the short-lived series "Young Americans" and "Undeclared." He also auditioned for the juggernaut of millennium-era teen soaps, "Dawson's Creek." According to Entertainment Weekly, Hunnam landed a tryout with the WB drama in 1999. He failed to land a major role in the series, and concurrently co-starred on the original, U.K. version of "Queer as Folk" instead. 

But Hunnam at least made the trip to read in front of a bunch of producers and casting agents worth his while. It was during the large-scale audition that he met actor Katharine Towne, who he'd marry, at the age of 18, in 1999, according to Us Weekly. "We had fallen madly in love and it was the first time I had ever been in love," Hunnam said, adding that he and Towne married after having known each other for just three weeks. (Hunnam and Towne divorced in 2002.)

Charlie Hunnam's Sons of Anarchy back tattoo wasn't real, but he's got another real one

Charlie Hunnam is best known for his role as second-generation California biker gang kingpin Jax Teller on FX's "Sons of Anarchy," which he portrayed throughout all seven seasons of the show. The opening sequence for the series employed a gimmick where tattoos came to life to spell out the names of actors, leading into a final shot of the name of the show and a grim reaper mascot. That's supposed to be the back of main character Jax Teller, as played by Hunnam, except it isn't really him. Producers hired actor Tyson Sullivan to serve as Hunnam's body double for the credits shot, according to Yahoo! Insider (via International Business Times).

So Hunnam doesn't really have a huge back tattoo of the "Sons of Anarchy" logo, but he does sport some different, prominent ink on his reverse. When he got married on the spur of the moment at age 18 (via MTV UK), to Katharine Towne, whom he met at a "Dawson's Creek" audition (and then divorced not long after), he got a tattoo to commemorate the event. The design, a circle with two triangles poking into it, came to him in a dream. "That tattoo was a bad idea for many reasons," he quipped.

He needed some help to lose his Sons of Anarchy accent

England-born Charlie Hunnan played an American on "Sons of Anarchy" for six seasons. After that show wrapped in 2014, he moved onto movies, taking on the title role in "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,"  Guy Ritchie's take on the British mythological stories about the legendary ruler of Camelot. While the actor is English, the King Arthur stories are English, and the character portrayed was English, Hunnan had a hard time getting Arthur's voice just right — his vocal cords had assimilated too greatly to American ways of speech. "I've been acting and living in America for so long and acting with American dialects, and putting an enormous amount of time and energy into trying to learn an American dialect and get it as flawless as I can, that by the time I got hired to return back to England, I had adopted, just naturally, a lot of those cadences and inflections," Hunnan told Hollywood.com.

Ironically, the British actor had little course but to hire a dialect coach to help him sound more British for "King Arthur." But it wasn't like he had to completely re-learn his own natural accent. The film took place in London, in southern England, and Hunnan is from northern England. "There's a very, very different dialect, so even the English that remained in my dialect wasn't appropriate for this, so I had to work hard."

His father didn't always keep things legal

When Guy Ritchie made the 2017 movie "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword," he constructed it in the style in which he's most adept — as a seedy, slightly comic tale rife with underworld criminals and explosive violence. Charlie Hunnam starred as King Arthur, whose life begins inauspiciously, raised by sex workers in a crumbling, blighted seventh-century city called Londonium and growing up to run multiple illegal operations.

Hunnam based his portrayal of Arthur, and several performances of other wrong-side-of-the-law types in his career, on his father. "I feel like my whole life I've been playing versions of my dad," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. Officially, William Hunnan worked as a scrap-metal merchant in the northern English industrial city of Newcastle who had a second job booking security guards for area nightclubs. The elder Hunnam actually "operated his whole life outside the law," as the younger Hunnam told Los Angeles Confidential (via SMH). "He was an underworld character and a pretty famous gangster."

He has a blue belt in a martial art

Writer-director Guy Ritchie has practiced Brazilian jiu-jitsu for decades, and in 2015, received an illustrious black belt in the martial art and combat sport, according to Eastern Europe BJJ. A year later, inspired by Ritchie, his director in the film "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword," Charlie Hunnam took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, too. Within two years, per Eastern Europe BJJ, Hunnam had trained so intensely that he'd moved up to the rank of blue belt, the second level for adults which requires hundreds of hours' worth of practice. "I'm interested in having a high fitness level across the board. Running, swimming, jumping rope, hiking, jiu-jitsu — I try to do it all," Hunnam said. "There's no reason you can't be active at 70. I want to run up mountains at that age." Hunnam planned to continue with jiu-jitsu, setting a goal for himself of obtaining a black belt by the time he turns 45 in 2025.

Charlie Hunnam is aggressively healthy

Charlie Hunnam is extremely conscious of his body, and what goes into it and on it. Not only is he a fitness enthusiast who specializing in multiple physical disciplines so as to ensure a long and active life, and who went under the needle to get a tattoo, he's also very particular about what he eats. During his long stint on "Sons of Anarchy," he'd bring his own eggs to the set and have the craft services crew cook them up for him. "They're like, 'Why are you bringing your own eggs?' I'm like, 'Cause your eggs are from Monsanto. Mine are from a farm down the road," Hunnam recalled to Men's Health. The actor is very sensitive to large-scale and factory-style food production. After watching the overfishing documentary "End of the Line," he couldn't make himself eat fish for a year and a half.

Shantaram is Charlie Hunnam's passion project

In 2022, Charlie Hunnam took on his first role in a regular, continuing TV series since his six years on "Sons of Anarchy" ended in 2014. That show is an Apple TV+ original called "Shantaram," based on the 2003 bestselling novel by Gregory David Roberts about a criminal on the lam who runs away to Bombay to build a new life and gets involved in a complicated romance.

While "Shantaram" marks Hunnan's first major TV work in nearly a decade, he'd been attempting to get the series going for four years. "A friend of mine gave me a copy of the book, and I happened to be going to Thailand the next day on vacation and took it with me," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I just devoured it on that vacation. I came back from that vacation and said to my friend, who's a writer and a producer, 'Can we make this?'" But they couldn't make it — the rights had already been sold to Warner Bros. and Johnny Depp, who wanted to make a "Shantaram" movie. Hunnam lamented missing his chance, as well as how the book's content would have to be severely truncated to fit into a two-hour run time. But Warner Bros. delayed the project for so long that they lost the rights, and Hunnam quickly secured them and set about developing a TV series rather than a movie.