Charlie Hunnam, Djimon Hounsou talk King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Now in theaters, the latest iteration of the classic King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is Guy Ritchie’s stylistic tale of the beginning of King Arthur. The film features Charlie Hunnam as the titular character and a terrific cast of supporting actors including Jude Law, Eric Bana and Djimon Hounsou. The Daily Campus held a conference call with Hunnam and Hounsou in preparation of their new film.
Christina Fuco: Hi, how are you guys?
Charlie Hunnam: Yes, good. How are you?
Christina Fuco: Pretty good. Pretty good. So what was the most important thing you think you learned from Guy Ritchie?
CH: Twofold. I mean, I think on the surface, what he taught me was the importance of having fun when we work. I tend to be pretty serious about the work I do and go in with a lot of preparation and just set about quietly executing my game plan. And Guy said that’s all well and good but I don’t know what we’re going to be shooting, so you better come ready to be a little bit more light on your feet. You know, but he said the thing that you have to remember is that we want this film to be really, really fun. So what we need to make sure every day is that we’re having the most fun possible because then I’ll be in the editing room and if we’re having fun, the material that we get will be fun. So that was a really liberating, sort of new approach for me to film making.
Djimon Hounsou: And I think we can see that transpiring in his films. You do see the fun in his films.
CF: Cool, thanks.
Inge Koda: Hello. So I was just wondering what audience do you hope the film will attract?
DH: Well, it’s a story of all people. I think it’ll attract a lot of people and certainly most of us can relate to this king. Certainly, this interpretation of Guy Ritchie and certainly having to witness this heir to the throne that I, Bedivere, have been looking for 25 years and finally he manifested himself by drawing the sword out of the stone, that was quite exciting. What was the question?
CH: I think the thing for me and that Guy and I discussed a lot was that Arthur has always historically been rendered as this very noble man who goes on a noble quest to become the noble king. But it’s sort of quite elitist and it’s… in that rendering and what we wanted to really do was make Arthur an everyman. Just somebody that everybody could relate and that felt accessible. And one of the amazing things… the most exciting thing about film is it’s a universal language. So I think that people from all parts of the world and all cultures can take something from this. It’s a really universal story because ultimately it’s about how do we become the best version of ourselves and when we’re presented with a challenge in our lives that seems insurmountable, why do we shy away from it? And ultimately, that’s about fear. Because we all have had to endure failures and difficult circumstances in our life and it’s painful. And so what we tend to do was build a wall up around us and create a sense of inadequacy in our lives. But ultimately, that’s just an illusion. What you need to do when you encounter difficulties in life is learn as much as you can from it and apply that new knowledge to the next time you try to achieve your goal. And so it’s a really lovely story and I think for me at least, the people that I’m most excited about seeing this film are young generation because it seems to me that there’s a lot of disillusionment in the kids of today. My little brother’s much, much younger than me and he just graduated university. He’s like a brilliant kid, super bright and he studied genetics at university. And graduated top of his class and I was so proud of him when I call — and I was away working, so I called him and I said (bro,) I’m just so proud of you and congratulations and I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there with you today. And he was so dismissive and he said yes, well maybe now I’ll be able to get a job at McDonald’s. And it like was an insight into the youth of today. And I understand it because it’s more competitive, there’s less opportunity but I firmly believe as I think Djimon does that anybody in this world is capable of anything. You just have to cultivate a sense of belief in yourself and know that the journey’s going to be difficult and you’re going to have to endure failures but you get knocked down five times and you get up six. And that’s just the key to achieving what you want. But it’s so important in this world. You only have one life and your only responsibility is to be true to yourself and live that life as fully as you can. And I think that’s ultimately the message of the film, which I think hopefully is a really universal one.
IK: Yes, that’s wonderful. Thank you so much.
CH: Thank you.
Dominique Jones: Hi. It’s Berklee College of Music. You both have had really commanding previous roles. Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy or Amistad, several other roles. What’s the impetus behind — or strategy behind how you choose future roles?
DH: What strategy? There’s no specific strategy.
DJ: Or impetus, like why did you both choose to be in this film?
DH: I think the first attraction for me with (this) story, it’s obviously the director, Guy Ritchie. His body of work speaks for itself. I mean he’s still very young. But it’s the director and obviously the story, King Arthur is quite a legendary story that’s — I guess resonates to a lot of people. That’s why it’s been counted so many times. And again, our approach to this tale was quite lovely in a sense that we were more — we dived in to a little bit of the back story of King Arthur himself and Bedivere also with Arthur’s father. Bedivere was a knight, a trusted confidant and advisor to Uther Pendragon and so he knew the family. Obviously, he was present when Arthur was born. That was my appeal to the story.
CH: Yes, same for me. Film is a directive medium and the input that an actor has beyond the interpretation of their character is very, very limited so it’s essential that you really trust a director’s vision and his sensibility as a film maker and it’s — obviously it’s always wonderful if there’s themes within the film that resonate with you and speak to your vision of life or areas of life that you’re interested in exploring. But again, for me and like Djimon said, I was just an enormous fan of Guy Ritchie’s my whole life so the idea — the prospect of having an opportunity to work with him is very, very exciting. And it spoils you. I had a really lovely year where I got to work with two directors that I had admired for a long time and now I’m completely unemployed because I’ve been spoiled and I’m not willing to take a step back where you feel like there’s maybe a compromise has to be made in terms of your — my affinity with a director’s work.
DJ: Great. Thank you to both of you.
CH: Thank you.
Rachel Enton: Hi. Rachel Enton from Nehoia. Thank you so much. My question: King Arthur is a myth that’s been very popular and told many times and this movie is (done with) and iconoclastic take on it. What do you think makes this film special or unique in it’s telling of the story?
CH: I think that Guy Ritchie’s sensibility as a filmmaker is just so unique. I mean it’s all with — what makes any story exciting is the vision of the director. And ultimately — you know, we talk about the fact that King Arthur has been told many times but ultimately, King Arthur is one version of the telling of the Hero’s Journey, which is one of the archetypal stories, the three or four stories that we dress up different ways that we tell over and over and over again. Because it’s — storytelling by nature or historically has been a way in which we understand the human journey. And so it — having Guy Ritchie at the helm immediately makes this fresh and original and unique because there’s nobody out there that really has that vision that he has as a filmmaker. I mean immediately you know it’s going to be cheeky and irreverent and fresh and unexpected and original, so… for me at least, when I was told the four-word pitch, which was Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, I said “I’m in,” you know? I would want to see that film in the cinema, so I want to be a part of the production.
DH: Same here. Same here.
RE: Great. Thank you so much.
DH: Thank you.
Kate Moewy: Hi. Kaitlyn here. My question is for Charlie. And I was wondering if there were any similarities between your role as Arthur and Jax in Sons of Anarchy.
CH: I think that — you know, I think that there inevitably are some similarities. I mean first and foremost, they look pretty similar. Sorry. That was a terrible joke. It’s been a long day over here. No, they’re both sort of ordinary men that are called to do extraordinary things and are — you know, I was reading a quote the other day and it said there are no great men, just ordinary men that are called to greatness through circumstance. And that seems to be a narrative that I’m drawn to over and over again. The idea of we all just have these great doubts about our abilities in life and you never know unless you try and these — both of those men are forced into a situation through their birthright, through the environment that they were born into and the family that they were — that they come from, that they were called to these really lofty destinies. Neither of which they chose for themselves but — and both of which wanted to deny it but as we all know, denying one’s destiny’s not that simple. So I think there were a lot of similarities. I didn’t intend for there to be that much similarity but I really recognize — I mean I think just by virtue of the fact that I played Jax Teller for seven years and I just finished shooting Sons of Anarchy and I went into this movie, I don’t think there was enough time to really find center. So there was inevitably going to be a bit of hangover from one character into the next. I think they would have been pals in real life, so I think it’s all right. I think they seem like very similar souls, those two guys and so I like them both and I’d like to go out for a beer with both of them. I’ve been asked a lot, actually, which is not your question at all but I’ll just (inaudible) your question — but I’ve been asked a lot who would win in a fight between Jax Teller and King Arthur, so who do you think?
KM: Who do I think?
KM: Well, I haven’t seen King Arthur yet, so I’d have to say Jax, but…
CH: Right. King Arthur’s got a magical sword and all that, which is lovely for him but Jax Teller’s a gunrunner, so…
KM: Yes. Yes, that’s pretty hardcore.
CH: Yes, (it’s probably) going to go to Jax on that one.
KM: Well thank you very much.
CH: Thank you.
Alex Boone: Hi. [Alex] here. Being a Guy Ritchie film, I know there’s going to be a lot of humor in it but how much of the humor in the film is in the script and how much was left to you guys to add into the movie?
DM: Well, I did not see much humor in the script, I think the humor sort of came organically as we were interacting with Guy Ritchie as our director. I think most of it came from the — that, what it was for me.
CH: Guy Ritchie’s not much of a — he’s not much of a preparation man. He really has an extraordinary ability to work in real time. And so the script for Guy is really just a blueprint and the whole thing’s going to come alive on the day, which is why he’s very specific about the team he puts together because he wants some like-minded people that he feels have the ability to contribute to the process and that’s why it’s exciting for Djimon and I. It’s a really rich collaboration, working with Guy and like Djimon said, a lot of that humor came from us shooting the scene a couple of times as scripted and (his) saying well, we can do better. Let’s throw some jokes in and us starting to banter around and some guy will throw in like a honey tits or something like that, you think oh, that’s — you know, let’s work with that. How can we put that in, you know? And before you know it, you’re riffing, writing, each writing little notes in our script and bantering and before you know it, the scene in real time has transformed from something that was sort of the basic movement of what the scene needed to be and then we sort of render it and color it in in real time. So very exciting process for — I think for us as actors.
AB: It sounds really organic.
CH: Yes, he really is.
DH: Organic is the word.
DH: Organic is the word. It’s right on the moment.
AB: Well, I’m really excited to see the movie.
CH: Oh, yes. I hope you all enjoy it. I think we’re both really proud of it. So yes, I hope you enjoy it, guys. Thank you so much for your time.
AB: Thank you.
CH: Thank you. Thank you.