Hot Role

10.13.13

With Charlie Hunnam Out, Who Will Play Christian Grey in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey?’

There’s a lot riding on the role of Christian Grey in the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ film—a potential blockbuster franchise, and the core of Focus Features’ rebranding effort. So who should play the suave S&M fiend?

It ain’t easy being kinky.

131013-stern-grey-box
Charlie Hunnam arrives at FX's "Sons Of Anarchy" Season 6 premiere screening at Dolby Theatre on September 7, 2013 in Hollywood. (Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

The official reason given by Universal Pictures was an “immersive TV schedule” which wouldn’t allow enough time to “adequately prepare for the role,” but reports suggest that the fan frenzy got to Charlie Hunnam.

On Saturday, Hunnam, 33, dropped out of the role of Christian Grey in the upcoming film adaptation of E.L. James’s bestselling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. And, while shooting on the sixth season of his FX drama Sons of Anarchy was to end Oct. 22, with production of Fifty Shades set to begin Nov. 1 in Vancouver, two sources told The Hollywood Reporter that the British actor became “overwhelmed with the attention he received from being cast in the movie and got cold feet about carrying such a high-profile project.” Back on Sept. 7, Universal had reportedly hired extra security for Hunnam for the Hollywood premiere of Sons of Anarchy in the wake of his casting as Grey.

Hunnam was all set to star as Grey, a power-hungry young businessman with a penchant for BDSM who enters into a psychosexual relationship with a young college graduate, Anastasia Steele, who will be played by relative newcomer Dakota Johnson. The film will be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and produced by Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, the team behind The Social Network.

And there’s a lot riding on the film. It’s based on James’s trilogy of bestselling novels, which has sold over 70 million copies in 37 countries, so there are three (or more) potential blockbuster movies in play. Furthermore, it will be the first major test for Universal’s specialty film unit Focus Features, which is distributing Fifty Shades. The shingle recently bid its co-founder and CEO James Schamus adieu, replacing him with FilmDistrict CEO Peter Schlessel. It’s the first move in a rebranding effort that will see Focus, which earned a reputation as a reliable distributor for art-house fare like Brokeback Mountain and Milk, release up to 10 films a year comprised of both award bait specialty films and wide releases with broader appeal.

So who should be cast as Christian Grey, the 28-year-old CEO/charmer/Dom? It’s a role that needs a touch of star power, because Johnson is an unknown. Since Michael Fassbender’s sadly a bit too old, here are The Daily Beast’s picks for the coveted role.

Henry Cavill

henry-cavill-almost-james-bond
Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Sure, he played Superman in Man of Steel, but he’s not really tethered to the role the same way as, say, Robert Downey Jr. is to Iron Man. Cavill, 30, looks dynamite in a suit, and has an air of mystery about him, which helped in his portrayal of the Son of Jor-El.

Nicholas Hoult

130130-nicholas-hoult-warm-bodies-stern-tease
Actor Nicholas Hoult attends the 'Warm Bodies' Photocall at Cinema Adriano on January 16, 2013 in Rome, Italy. (Ernesto Ruscio/Getty)

Hoult, 23, has mostly been typecast as the awkwardly cute love interest in films like Warm Bodies and X-Men: First Class, but he can also do dapper, as his modeling stint for Tom Ford proved, and can also play a manipulative ladies man, as he did on the acclaimed E4 teen drama Skins.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson

131013-stern-grey-johnson-embed
Aaron Taylor-Johnson exits the 'Today Show' studios, NYC (Derek Storm/Splash News)

Taylor-Johnson is also 23, and married to the Fifty Shades movie’s director, who previously directed him in Nowhere Boy. They’d have a shorthand, to say the least, and Taylor-Johnson has already proved his mettle at portraying a rich, icy seducer in the recent film adaptation of Anna Karenina.

Dane DeHaan

131013-stern-grey-dehaan-embed
Dane DeHaan arrives at the premiere of Sony Pictures Classics' "Kill Your Darlings" . (Jason Merritt/Getty)

The 27-year-old DiCaprio look-alike delivers a fantastic performance as a charismatic, manipulative scoundrel in the upcoming Kill Your Darlings, and his pale blue eyes can convey both menace and misery.

Alex Pettyfer

130424-pettyfer-50-shades-cheat
Alex Pettyfer in Los Angeles on February 24. (Matt Sayles/AP)

The British model-cum-actor, 23, certainly looks the part and, after a few duds, showed some legitimate acting chops as a greenhorn stripper in Magic Mike. When Gus Van Sant attempted to get the directing gig for Fifty Shades, he shot Pettyfer in some steamy sex scenes.

Alexander Skarsgard

alexander-skarsgard-stern-new
Denis Poroy / AP Photo

At 37, Skarsgard is a bit on the old side—a year older than the aforementioned Fassbender—but the ageless Swede could still pass for late 20s. And Grey isn’t that far off from his sexy vampire character on True Blood.

Armie Hammer

armie-hammer-celebrity-heroes
Matt Sayles / AP Photo

Hammer, 27, has some history with producers De Luca and Brunetti, having starred as the pampered Winklevii in The Social Network and, as the grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer, he’s got CEO’s blood pumping through his veins. Hammer’s mostly played good guys, but perhaps he’d excel at an against-type role like Grey.

Ryan Gosling

things-we-are-thankful-for-ryan-gosling
Matt Sayles / AP Photo

Anyone who’s seen the guy strut down a red carpet in a bespoke suit knows he could knock the role of Christian Grey out of the park. But Gosling has largely shied away from roles in heavily-hyped would-be blockbusters, so convincing him to take on the role would be very tough.