Unique: Charlie Hunnam reveals the actual motive he turned down “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”
Charlie Hunnam‘s new movie, Junglelandsees him playing a rough manager and coach of his younger brother (Jack O’Connell), a boxer looking for a break. When Collider’s own Christina Radish spoke to Hunnam recently about the film and his role in it, their discussion made a brief detour into Hunnam’s previous roles. In doing so, it reminded us of all the twists and turns his career has taken over the last 20 odd years that have led him to this point, after Jungleland. Hunnam spoke to us about two of those big twists and turns, one of which was his brief appearance on the television comedy of the early ’00s Undeclared. The other was a landmark decision not to play a role To forget Sarah Marshall – a decision he has never spoken about before.
However, before we can tell Hunnam’s incredible story of forgetting Sarah Marshall (which he first publicly revealed to us), the actor spoke to us about working with us Judd Apatow on the short-lived Fox comedy Undeclared. The show, which ran for the 2001-2002 season, followed a group of freshmen through the ups and downs of university life. Hunnam played Lloyd, a polite Lothario and roommate of Steven (Jay Baruchel), the protagonist of the show. Undeclared was Hunnam’s second major TV role to date – after his role in HBO’s Queer as Folk – and also his biggest step into comedy at the time. (Who better to manage you as a comedic actor than Apatow?) Given his history with Apatow on Undeclared, would Hunnam ever want to work with him on another project again?
“Yeah, it’s funny, I surprised myself, both of the things I wrote this year I wrote for myself and one of them is pure satire and the other has a very strong comedy component. So, yes, when I sat down and started writing, my heart let me know that this is surely something I want to pursue more. I don’t know exactly about this group. I would certainly work with Judd. I don’t know if he would be interested in working with me. He has not proven this desire in recent years. I think that might answer the question for us. “
When we joked about it, maybe Hunnam’s role as Jax Teller on FX Sons of anarchy – his first major TV role after Undeclared – was so off the beaten track in apatow-esque entertainment that it might put the writer / director off that something seemed to click for Hunnam. To the joke, Hunnam responded with a fascinating story that eventually revealed why he retired from the 2008 Apatow-produced comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall – reasons largely unclear to this day.
“Maybe. It’s funny, I’ll tell you a little story. Jason Segel wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall so he and I could do it together, and that’s what he wrote.” [Russell Brand] role [of Aldous Snow] to me. I went and I read the table and it was very successful. Judd produced. At this point, I was on a dark soul night in my career and felt like I needed to grasp the trajectory and that just didn’t really align with what I wanted to do at this time in my life and career. Jason was one of my best friends [the pair had worked together on ‘Undeclared’]That’s why he wrote the film for me, but I had to tell him, “I’m so sorry, I’m not going to do this.” It was one of those things that wasn’t very well received by the inner circle of this production. I had to assert myself and say, “Look, it’s not personal. I’m just following my north star. I’m just in a strange place trying to define myself what the way forward looks like. ‘“
After refusing to take on the role of Aldous Snow, Hunnam realized that he had made the right decision. Not just for the personal and professional reasons he shared with us, but because that was clear to him Russell Brand was the best choice. Hunnam went on to tell us about the moment of clarity he had when Brand Aldous played in the months after moving away from forgetting Sarah Marshall.
“It was one of those things that it was really difficult for me to do for a few months or a year after that, and then I saw this piece of stand up. I didn’t know who Russell Brand was, but I saw this piece of stand-up that Russell Brand did with my mom on Christmas Day. It was just that liberating moment when I said, “Obviously this is the guy who should have played this role. Sure, I just had to step out of the way of the universe, which is manifesting as it should be. ‘My relationship with Jason spawned this character, but there was no way I could have gotten it right like Russell Brand. I think these things have a rhythm and you just really have to follow your instincts. It’s all you really can ever do. I suppose I brought this up because it’s a nice example of my instinct proving me it was right I guess. By the way, I’ve never told anyone this story before. I don’t know if that’s attractive or not – but it’s a world exclusive. “
While we may never know what would have got Hunnam into the role of Aldous Snow, we have numerous other killer appearances by the Briton made simultaneously with and after Sarah Marshall’s oblivion. Hunnam made a huge leap in his career with the role of Jax Teller, who played the leader of a California biker gang from 2008 to 2014. After his time in the blatant crime drama, Hunnam appeared in hits like Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, and King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword. And you know what? That’s a pretty good compromise if you ask me.
Jungleland will be available on Premium VOD starting Tuesday, November 10th.
Allie Gemmill is the weekend editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.