Hunnam and Hounsou Discuss ‘King Arthur,’ Acting
Interview with Charlie Hunnam and Djimon Hounsou of "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword"

WARNER BROS.

WARNER BROS.

Charlie Hunnam, star of “Pacific Rim” and “Sons of Anarchy,” and Golden Globe-nominated actor Djimon Hounsou, of “Gladiator” and “Blood Diamond,” are no strangers to Hollywood action films. Most recently, Hunnam and Hounsou played the roles of Arthur and Bedivere, respectively, in the fantasy-adventure film “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” directed by Guy Ritchie. In anticipation of the film’s May 12 release, Hunnam and Hounsou spoke with a group of college journalists about the experience of working on the film and their perceptions of the King Arthur legend.

COLLEGE TIMES: What was the most important thing you think you learned from Guy Ritchie?

HUNNAM: It’s twofold. I mean, I think, on the surface, what he taught me was the importance of having fun while you 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 … So that was a really liberating, sort of new approach for me to filmmaking.

THE GAZETTE (WESTERN UNIVERSITY): What audience do you hope the film will attract?

HUNNAM: 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 a noble king, but it’s sort of quite elitist in that rendering, and what we wanted to really do was make Arthur an everyman. Just somebody that everybody could relate to and that felt accessible. And one of the amazing things, the most exciting thing about film, is that 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 really a universal story. 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?

BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC: Why did you both choose to be in this film?

HOUNSOU: Well, I think, for me, the story and the director, Guy Ritchie. His body of work is just, I guess, it’s quite iconic.  Obviously the story of King Arthur, it’s quite a legendary story.

HUNNAM: Yeah, same for me. Film is a director’s 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 filmmaker. And, you know, obviously it’s always wonderful if there’s scenes within the film that resonate with you and speak to your vision of life or areas of life that you’re interested in exploring.

THE HOYA: King Arthur is a myth that is very popular and has been told many times, and this movie is billed as an “iconoclastic” take on it. What do you think is special or unique in its telling of the story?

HUNNAM: 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 [in] different ways that we tell over and over again, because storytelling, by nature, or historically, has been a way in which we understand the human journey. And so, 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 that it’s going to be cheeky and irreverent and fresh and unexpected and original.

THE ALESTLE (SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY): Were there any similarities between your role as Arthur and as Jax in “Sons of Anarchy”?

HUNNAM: They’re both sort of ordinary men who are called to do extraordinary things — and I was reading a quote the other day, that 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.  That the idea of, you know, we all just have these great doubts about our abilities in life, and you never know unless you try. And both of those men are forced into a situation through their birthright, through the environment that they were born into and these families that they come from, called to these really lofty destinies, neither of which they chose for themselves and both of which want to deny it, but as we all know, denying one’s destiny’s not that simple.

THE PEAK (SIMON FRASIER UNIVERSITY): 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?

HOUNSOU: Well, I did not see much humor in the script. I think that the humor sort of like, came organically as we were interacting with Guy Ritchie. As a director I think that most of his work is to see what looks funny.

HUNNAM: Yeah, Guy Ritchie’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 who he feels have the ability to contribute to the process. It’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 then saying well, we can do better, let’s throw some jokes in, and us starting to banter around …  Before you know it, the scene in real time has transformed from something that was the basic movements of what the scene needed to be, and then we sort of render it and color it in in real time.

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