On the England set of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Charlie Hunnam is doing push-ups — a lot of them. It's his way of getting his energy up before a big fight scene, he explains to reporters during a break on-set, and the fact that he does these push-ups shirtless is just an added bonus for those of us watching from the sidelines. Hunnam clearly takes his King Arthur role seriously, and it's no wonder why; although beloved by many due to his seven-year run on FX's Sons of Anarchy, he hasn't yet hit movie star status — but King Arthur, out in May, might finally be the project that gets him there. And yeah, all those shirtless scenes certainly won't hurt.
But that's not to say that King Arthur is only about showing off its star's abs. The movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, is a more modern and stylized retelling of the classic legend, with an impressive cast that includes Djimon Hounsou, Game of Thrones' Aiden Gillen, Jude Law, and Eric Bana. Legend of the Sword is just the first of a planned six movies for the franchise, if all goes well, so the pressure is high — but as these behind-the-scenes King Arthur secrets I learned while on-set show, this movie is definitely one you won't want to miss.
1. Charlie Hunnam Looks Good. Real Good.
Look, anyone who's seen Hunnam on Sons of Anarchy or even just on the cover of a magazine knows that he's one attractive man. But seeing him in costume on-set, it's clear that the actor embodies the whole leading man look pretty damn well — and all those shirtless scenes are just wonderful additions.
2. The Movie Was Made Before Filming Even Started
According to Hunnam and Hounsou, Ritchie had his actors shoot a version of the movie in just four hours, before real production of the film even started. "It was such a high energy, and anxiety-inducing experience," Hounsou recalls, noting that the room where they shot the footage was where most of the cast met for the first time.
3. The Two Lead Actors Are Basically BFFs
Maybe it's just because they're spending so much time together, but Hunnam and Hounsou are as tight as it gets. They literally finish each other's sentences, accidentally repeat each other when not in the same room, and have an overall rapport that's pretty sweet to witness. "As soon as I came up and shook your hand, I was like ah, this motherf**ker’s cool," Hounsou recalls to Hunnam with a laugh.
4. Hunnam Already Has A Connection To King Arthur
Playing such a popular character might be intimidating to some actors, but not Hunnam, who reveals that he's been a fan of the King Arthur saga forever. "I’m very familiar with the Arthurian legend. In fact, my girlfriend is called Morgana [McNeils], and one of my favorite films that actually led me want to become an actor was Excalibur," he says. "So I’m very familiar with the world."
5. But He Ignored Everything He Knew To Take On The Role
"I've always loved this world, but I decided to try to forget everything I’d ever seen and just come in with it fresh, and not feel that pressure of having to do justice to this beloved story," Hunnam says. "I just felt like it was much healthier and more fun and more exciting and more free to approach it as though it was a completely original story and a completely original character, and not feel beholden to any of that sh*t you’d seen before, you know?"
6. Lancelot & Merlin Won't Play Central Roles
Although the supporting characters in the Arthurian legend are rumored to appear in the film, Legend of the Sword is primarily about Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. "It’s the Arthur origin story, the rise to the throne," says Hunnam. "It’s a reinvention, certainly, of the periods between him being estranged from his family and reuniting with his destiny, with the royal lineage."
7. Pacific Rim Helped Hunnam Prep For His Role
Starring in the action-heavy Pacific Rim was good training for King Arthur, Hunnam says, although the two movies are very different. "We were hyper-aware of the CG element of Pacific Rim, like every day, that was something that needed to be negotiated around," he explains. "This is much more story and character driven than Pacific Rim. This is really kind of a straight grand drama that has as Guy puts it, a liberal sprinkling of f*k dust over the top." Well, then.
8. One Fight Scene Got A Bit Too Intense
One major fight scene featuring arrows, punches, and jumps off buildings was so crazy that Hunnam got hurt, the actor reveals. "I split my eyebrow open while we were doing this sequence," he says. Ouch.
9. The Set Brings Londonium Back To Life
The real 1st century city that now is called London is the setting for King Arthur, and the movie's elaborate sets bring to life every intricate detail. "It makes it really easy for the actors to have a brilliant set like this," says Gillen. "You really just feel like you are there. And you’re doing a chase scene, there’s always just another alley that you can run up... [you'll be thinking] why don’t we use that alleyway, or why doesn’t somebody jump off that roof, or why doesn’t somebody start firing arrows off that turret? It really is a proper working city, almost, so that makes it easier for us, because you really believe like you’re there."
And soon, fans will be able to feel like they're on the Londonium streets alongside King Arthur themselves.