Production recently wrapped on ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising,’ the sequel to 2013’s giant robots-vs-giant monsters epic. However, while the film will bring back a number of key figures from the original, there are two notable absentees: director Guillermo del Toro, and Charlie Hunnam, who took the lead in the original as Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket.
The ‘Pacific Rim’ sequel had a troubled development period, in which for some time it was uncertain the film would get made at all; the original had only been a modest box office success in most territories, but it was a smash hit in China, which proved enough get ‘Uprising’ a greenlight.
By this time, Del Toro dropped out in favour of directing his upcoming independent picture ‘The Shape of Water,’ passing on the directorial reins to Steven S DeKnight; but, until now, it hasn’t been entirely clear why Hunnam also passed.
The actor explains to Den of Geek, it came down to a “huge scheduling conflict” between the Legendary Entertainment production and another project, a remake of the 1973 Steve McQueen movie ‘Papillon,’ which Hunnam was “really, really invested” in making.
“What happened was Legendary was sold to Wanda, which is the big Chinese corporation, and ‘Pacific Rim,’ although it underperformed in other territories in the world, was an enormous success in China. All of a sudden, it became their primary focus to make this and they wanted to do it very, very rapidly… I think their schedule subsequently changed, and I might have been able to do both, but at that time, they were writing the script and they needed to know, was I in or was I out?”
Unsurprisingly, Hunnam was contractually obliged to appear in a ‘Pacific Rim’ sequel, and it’s well known that plenty of actors have wound up being essentially forced to make movies they don’t want to make under these circumstances. Happily for Hunnam, his producer was more compassionate than some.
“I have great relationships with everyone at Legendary, and they were incredibly generous to me and let me out of my contract… when I spoke to Thomas Tull [producer and former Legendary chairman], who is a dear friend of mine, I said, ‘Listen, man. It’s not that my heart is not in this. I’m invested in this creatively, but my heart’s going to be broken because I already was going to do this other film.’
“He was like, ‘Dude, you were going to do that other film and that’s where your heart is. I don’t want you being on set if you’re not going to be happy, so go do the other film,’ which was ludicrously generous of him. But that’s just the type of man he is.”
This is not the first time Hunnam has backed out of a major role, as he was the first actor cast as Christian Grey in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ before having a change of heart, clearing the way for Jamie Dornan to take over.
In Hunnam’s absence, ‘Star Wars’ actor John Boyega will headline ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ as the son of Stacker Pentcost, Idris Elba’s character from the 2013 original. Other newcomers in the sequel include Scott Eastwood (‘Fast & Furious 8’), Tiang Jin (‘Kong: Skull Island’) and Adria Arjona (TV’s ‘Emerald City’).
However, several of Hunnam’s ‘Pacific Rim’ co-stars will be back, including Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day and Burn Gorman.
‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ is due 23 February 2018, whilst Hunnam will next be seen in ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,’ opening 19 May. (‘Papillon’ is expected at some point later this year.)