Charlie Hunnam walked away from a high profile role as kinky billionaire Christian in Sam Taylor Johnson's much-hyped Fifty Shades of Grey movie after developing "cold feet" due to overwhelming attention from fans, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Hunnam announced at the weekend that he was quitting the much-hyped adaptation of EL James' bestselling erotic novel. Several other US industry sites, including Deadline and Variety, have since questioned the official line that scheduling issues with the British actor's long-running TV series, Sons of Anarchy, were responsible for his decision to leave.
"Hunnam, 33, was overwhelmed with the attention he received from being cast in the movie and got cold feet about carrying such a high-profile project," said the Hollywood Reporter, citing two separate sources. "Universal was forced to hire bodyguards for the actor at a recent Sons of Anarchy premiere, where questions about Fifty Shades dominated the red carpet. The sources caution that Hunnam had no reservations about the role of Christian Grey, just the media and fan frenzy that came along with it, especially as he was transitioning from Sons to Fifty Shades so quickly."
Speculation over the identity of the main cast members for Taylor-Johnson's film has been at peak intensity since March 2012, when the project was first announced. Angry fans of the three-book literary saga, which has sold more than 70m copies worldwide, took to the campaigning web platform Change.org last month to express their disgust at the casting of Hunnam and Dakota Johnson in Taylor-Johnson's forthcoming film adaptation of the first instalment.
Johnson, best known for small roles in the Oscar-winning The Social Network and comedy The Five Year Engagement, remains in the lead female role of Grey's blushing virginal paramour, Anastasia Steele. Fifty Shades centres on Grey's recruitment of Anastasia to be his well-remunerated sex slave. It is expected to be the first of a trilogy based on James' three novels.
In a comment piece for Variety, Justin Kroll wrote: "Saturday's announcement that Hunnam and studio executives couldn't work out the actor's Sons of Anarchy schedule was immediately met with speculation around town. While it's unknown what, if anything else, went into Hunnam's decision, a handful of sources believe his schedule would have been figured out long before it was publicly announced that he was joining the film, leading some to suggest the actor was dissatisfied with the sexy part."
Meanwhile, James herself wrote on Twitter: "I wish Charlie all the best. x"
Taylor-Johnson was revealed as the surprise director of the film version in June. The artist turned film-maker, whose only feature film to date is the acclaimed 2009 John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, reportedly beat out luminaries of the calibre of Joe Wright, Bennett Miller and Gus van Sant.
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