Last year, Charlie Hunnam was known for two reasons: playing sensitive bad boy Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy, and being cast as America’s Sexiest Sadist, Christian Grey, before bowing out and ceding the role to our February cover boy Jamie Dornan. Today? Hunnam’s in a lull before a handful of high-profile film projects, and found the time to smolder alongside Dutch supermodel Doutzen Kroes in the campaign for Calvin Klein’s newest fragrance, Reveal. (You can watch their Peeping Tom campaign video here).
Just after the brand’s fall 2015 menswear show in Milan, Hunnam hopped on the phone to talk Fashion Week, modeling pitfalls, and stealing from his dad’s cologne collection.
DETAILS: Someone recently posted a photo of the back of your head, front row at the Calvin Klein show. Is this your first time in Milan for Fashion Week?
Charlie Hunnam: No I’ve been over here once before, probably ten years ago, when I did a little campaign for Emporio Armani. I barely remembered how the whole thing works, you know? I forgot how quick the fashion shows were. It was four or five minutes. That’s a tremendous amount of work for such a brief period of time.
DETAILS: Are you seeing anything else over there?
Charlie Hunnam: No, just Calvin. I don’t have any interest in anything else [laughs].
DETAILS: You mentioned a stint with Armani—do you have a history modeling?
Charlie Hunnam: When I was a kid, probably 16 or 17, I got spotted by a model scout that wanted to represent me, and they sent me one modeling job, for Wall’s ice cream. I did one job for them, and then a catwalk shoot for Kangol caps, and decided modeling was not for me. They had an acting division as part of this agency as well, and I said, “Well, I don’t want to model, but if you want to send me on some auditions, I’m in film school, I want to be an actor, so if you want to represent me, that would be great.” And they, eh, weren’t really interested, and I just badgered and badgered and badgered them and they finally sent me out. I ended up getting the first job that they sent me out on.
DETAILS: And now you’re back at it with the Calvin Klein Reveal campaign.
Charlie Hunnam: I was super flattered and excited about the prospect of working with Calvin Klein, and doing a Calvin Klein fragrance specifically, because I always really liked what they did. Back when I was a kid I used to tear pages out of magazines and stick them on my bedroom wall—I had the Eternity ads on my wall and the CK One ads. My whole childhood, those were on my wall, and cut to 20 years later, being asked to be the face of one of Calvin Klein’s new fragrance is kind of surreal.
DETAILS: Did you retain any of your modeling chops?
Charlie Hunnam: It was humbling. You have all these tools at your disposal as an actor, you know? Movement and dialogue and all this stuff, and tools to invoke the thing you’re trying put across. When we did the TV spot I found it easy and really fun, but actual stills I found difficult. Working with Doutzen particularly, who’s an absolute master of the still, it was very queer to me that I was the rookie of the equation. I just watched her a lot and tried to replicate what she was doing. I was sort of panicked that day. I felt like I was maybe in over my head a little bit.
DETAILS: Did Doutzen offer you any tips?
Charlie Hunnam: She’s so sweet I don’t think she would presume to do that, you know? But I think probably without even knowing, she was immensely helpful, just in doing her thing, I feel like I learned a great deal. She’s a badass for sure, she’s awesome. Everyone had told me how great she was, and I was like ‘Ah well, we’ll see,’ sort of took it at face value, but then when I met her I was like ‘Whoa, she really is great, I see what everyone was talking about,’ like really, really smart and funny, kind of sassy, just a really cool chick.
DETAILS: Did you get to hang out during down time between shots?
Charlie Hunnam: No, there really wasn’t any. Marcus [Piggott, who forms a photographic duo with Mert Alas] shoots so fast, it was crazy. That’s what I learned—the fashion industry is way better, you don’t have to work nearly as hard as you do in the film industry if you’re the talent. I work 16, 17, 18 hours a day on set, and I think we were working like six hour days on this, so it’s a pretty cushy gig. Show up, look pretty for six hours, go home.
DETAILS: How do you find the cologne?
Charlie Hunnam: The cologne wasn’t finished when I signed onto this, so it was much more about wanting to work with Calvin and wanting to be in one of these iconic campaigns that they do. Then, happily and completely honestly, I really like the fragrance. It’s a relief, because obviously I knew that at some point I was going to have to come and talk about this a lot, it would have been pretty unpleasant if I didn’t like it, but I think they did a beautiful job.
DETAILS: Do you remember the first cologne you wore?
Charlie Hunnam: I’ve only worn three colognes in my life, actually four now, with Reveal, and now three of them have been Calvin Klein, so it did seem sort of fated that it would be Calvin Klein reaching out to me. Anyway my dad had a big selection of colognes. He never owned a pair of jeans in his life; he was impeccably dressed—unfortunately I didn’t inherit that trait—but he did wear a lot of colognes. I didn’t live with him, but when I used to go and stay with him, I used to love going to his bedroom and having a little spray. But like an idiot kid, I would probably put on three different colognes at the same time, which is not really recommended.
The smell of my teenage years and the one I absolutely loved was CK One. It’s a bit too young for me now, though I still really love the way it smells. My mom, on a nostalgia kick a couple years ago, got me a bottle of CK One for Christmas, and I had a little phase where I rekindled it, but it’s so personal, scent. I don’t think so much that the scent itself is young, I just think that I wore it while I was young, so it sort of had that association for me, you know?
DETAILS: Has Sons of Anarchy influenced your personal style at all? How did you deal with the end of the show?
Charlie Hunnam: I pretty much wore nothing but plaid shirts for the last seven years, and then as soon as I finished, I just felt compelled have a massive spring cleaning. I just went through and got rid of everything.
I put everything I had into that show, I lived it as much as I could. I never got in a car the whole seven years: I was only on my bike, and rolling around with a bunch of real bikers and occasionally acting like a maniac. Finishing the show felt like a real celebration—we finished at the right time. The tendency when something’s generating a shitload of money is to keep on doing it, beyond where it’s reached its natural conclusion, and I was so happy that everyone had the discipline and the integrity to not do that with Sons.
But saying goodbye to the character was a motherfucker. As stupid as it sounds, it really felt like a genuine bereavement, because he was this guy that I loved and hung out with constantly for seven years. It was a lot tears for like two or three weeks, every time I thought about it. Then one day I woke up and was like ‘OK, it’s time to move on. RIP Jax Teller.’
DETAILS: Tell us a bit about your second Guillermo Del Toro project, Crimson Peak—what can we expect?
Charlie Hunnam: It’s beautiful, it’s him absolutely in his wheelhouse. It’s a classic gothic romance set against a backdrop of this very rural house in the middle of nowhere. Everybody did a great job, Jessica [Chastain] absolutely killed it, she’s wonderful in the film. I think it’s one of Guillermo’s best films, if not maybe his best film. I’m actually not really in it that much, it’s really Mia Wasikowska, Jessica, and Tom Hiddleston’s film, and when I’m in it it’s significant, but I really just did it because I love Guillermo and wanted to work with him again. If it had been anybody else, I probably wouldn’t have taken the role, I had to turn down a lot other stuff to be free to do that. People were like ‘What are the fuck are you doing?’ but I’m doing exactly what I damn well please. That’s my answer.