EL James, the author of Fifty Shades Of Grey, announced yesterday that she’d found an actress to play her in her fantasy with Robert Pattinson. Dakota Johnson will be Anastasia Steele. Charlie Hunnan is Christian Grey. So the biggest move of his career is a replacement for Robert Pattinson. What was your motivation Charlie? Imagining EL James imagining Pattinson going down on Kristen Stewart, basically.
But let’s start with Dakota Johnson. WHO does she look like? It’s been bothering me for a long time. I can’t quite hit it. Riley Keough? Helen Hunt? Chynna Phillips is the closest I’ve come. Johnson is the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. She was Miss Golden Globe in 2006, remember? At 23 years old, she’s exactly the right age for the role and with a face that’s a combination of so many other familiar ones, it seems an appropriate choice. Anastasia, after all, is the blank receptor for every readers’ transfer – this is why she is unformed, without any actual soul or personality, so that you can easily fit inside the sketchy outlines of the character. Anastasia Steele will be Dakota Johnson’s Vivian Ward, Fifty Shades her Pretty Woman. Given that she remains largely unknown, her previous work unfamiliar, it’s the part that will define her, that will stay with her probably forever. And we don’t know yet if she has the talent to elevate beyond that like Julia Roberts. There are very few Julia Robertses.
You could say there’s some symmetry there too with the story – Anastasia is nothing when we meet her; she has no history, she has no experience, she has no claims, an open canvas just waiting to be created by a man.
Charlie Hunnam on the other hand, well, the work is already there. It’s a solidly diverse body of work that includes Queer As Folk, Undeclared, and Sons Of Anarchy. What could possibly be his motivation for wanting to be Christian Grey? But this is so predictable it’s almost sad: FILM.
The lack of originality behind his decision wasn’t so obvious in Pacific Rim. It’s Guillermo Del Toro. It’s schoolboy fantasy. Fine. Hunnam’s interest in Fifty Shades however is straight up saying I Want To Be A Movie Star…right now. And while his ambition is understandable, it’s the direction that’s questionable. Think of it as George Clooney’s Batman. Clooney has admitted several times that he took on Batman for the express purpose of being a Movie Star. Batman didn’t make Clooney a Movie Star. All the smaller movies he made after Batman, to make up for Batman, made him a movie star. It’s also worth noting that Batman was a one shot. Hunnam could potentially be playing Christian Grey for 3 films – that’s, at minimum, 3 years he could sink into the role without the luxury of moving on. One of Clooney’s great achievements has been to engineer his career in a way that we’ve almost forgotten he was the Caped Crusader. If Fifty Shades on film ends up being an embarrassment, would Charlie Hunnam be able to do the same?
This might be a different discussion if Christian Grey was a prestigious part. If, for example, Hunnam had beaten out a Jake Gyllenhaal or a Ryan Gosling to win the role, there could be some swagger here, no doubt. But this is a game the A List didn’t want to play. Instead then, Hunnam was playing pick-up with names like Ian Somerhalder and Joe Manganiello. It’s not exactly knocking out Muhammad Ali.
Consider too that Hunnam’s agent at CAA also represents Henry Cavill and Michael Fassbender and that his manager at Brillstein has Garrett Hedlund and Aaron Taylor-Johnson on her roster, all names that were rumoured to be in consideration and received rather positively. It almost feels as though Hunnam is the beauty pageant runner-up who steps in when Miss America can’t fulfill her duties. And he’s better than that, don’t you think?
I am a fan. Not only because he’s f-cking hot, but because he’s legitimately talented, no doubt. I’ll be the first to eat it if Fifty Shades Of Grey is a smash hit. Right now though, I’m just not feeling the magic. Are you feeling the magic?
Attached – Dakota Johnson at the US Open last week and Charlie Hunnam on his bike on Friday.