It seems Charlie Hunnam is angling to join Christian Bale and (the newly retired?) Daniel Day Lewis in the ranks of handsome British leading men who are known for suffering through absurdly unpleasant conditions for their craft. Shortly after the horror that was filming Lost City of Z (in which a beetle burrowed into his ear in the Amazon) the actor started shooting Papillon, which tells the true story of Henri Charrière, who suffered in and repeatedly escaped from a French Guiana prison dubbed “Devil’s Island” in the 1930s. Sounds pleasant.
While the prison break story has already been brought to the big screen in 1973 starring Steve McQueen as Charrière and Dustin Hoffman as a fellow convict who aids in his escape, this rendition (which costars Rami Malek in Hoffman’s role) presents a more brutally honest depiction of the horrid conditions these inmates faced. Never one to phone it in via green screen, Hunnam went to extremes for the role.
As Hunnam explained to W today, while promoting Papillon at the Toronto International Film Festival:
“The last sequence in the film is a 20-minute sequence in solitary [confinement] and by the point I was shooting that at the end of the film, my mind and body and f—ing will to live had all really shut down. I just stayed in that cell for eight days and I never ate and I didn’t drink any water… I just chain-smoked cigarettes for eight days. By the time I got out of there, I really felt like I’d lost connection to reality a little bit. I couldn’t go home to see my girlfriend, I had to go to England for a week to get my shit together. I thought, if I show up now after not seeing my girlfriend for four months, she’s going to be like, ‘Dude.’”
To make matters worse, the actor’s recent roles have him on a yo-yo diet from hell. “It’s been really unpleasant, these last two films,” he said. “I’m naturally 180 and I got down to 145 for both films. I lost the weight easy for Lost City of Z, but then I had to do it for Papillon, like, eight months later and my body went into total f—ing crisis.”
Unsurprisingly, Hunnam, while sipping a green juice, swore he’s not going to “do that again to myself for a while.” Although, his next film Triple Frontier, directed by J.C. Chandor for Netflix, is described as “a thriller set in the notorious border zone between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil where the Iguazu and Parana rivers converge.” Hmm.
Meanwhile, if you need to get out of prison, Hunnam is your man. Just don’t expect him to stage an elaborate breakout. “I had to get my pal out of jail this week, so I am actually pretty nifty when people get arrested,” he said. “I’ve bailed many of my friends out of prison.”
Hollywood Reporter Portraits:
Photographed by: Austin Hargrave
Toronto People Entertainment Portrait:
Photographed by: Jenny Gage & Tom Betterton
Other Toronto Film Festival Portraits:
Arriving at the Toronto Film Festival:
Toronto Film Festival Papillon Q&A:
Toronto Film Festival interviews: