Charlie Hunnam Talks Cold Mountain

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Charlie Hunnam in Seattle to discuss his breakout role in the new film “Cold Mountain” Charlie was a very warm and engaging person who is very dedicated to his craft and I was very impressed by the actor as we discussed his career and his work on the film.
GVK: What part of England are you from?
CH: Newcastle, very nice area.
GVK: What attracted you to the part?
CH: Originally my character was very small as he only had the one seen near the end of the film. I had read the novel and when I heard they were doing a film, I tracked the production and kept checking in to see if there was a part for me. There was the only part left and I was told that if I wanted it, I could have it. During the rehearsal period, the part just kept getting bigger and bigger and things kept getting added.
GVK: Was the whole film shot in Romania?
CH: We did four and a half months in Romania, and three weeks in North Carolina.
GVK: Your character is very pivotal to the events and outcome of the story yet you do not have a name for in the film, how did this come about?
CH: Well, he was very vaguely written and in the novel he is described as a bad boy who is at times a loner and at other times working with the Home Guard who seems to like to kill and as it got bigger and bigger, the director and I decided he had a bit of a swagger in that he would not get down from his horse or a fence, he would do a flip to get down.
GVK: Describe please how your character differed from the men of the time, as he was in many ways very different from the town’s folk and the men who went and served.
CH: He was a big contradiction as during that time most able-bodied men were off fighting and since he is shown time and again to have a love of violence so it was odd that he was not in uniform as he was certainly of able body. Anthony the director and I came up with the idea that the character is an Albino.
I did a lot of research and with the lineages of the time, it became very plausible that he could be an Albino and that would explain why he was not at war as he would not be allowed to serve. I also saw this as a chance to show his motivation as he saw the war as his big chance to prove himself and get ahead only to be relegated to the Home guard.
GVK: I liked the way they did it as my first thought was that the leader of the Home guard was using his influence to keep your character away from the fighting in a hypocritical father and son relationship, being I will not let him fight but I will shoot anyone who attempts to come home to their family. It was not always black and white and I like the way it was handled.
CH: Very true, the original cut of the film was five hours and 17 minutes and I am sure you will see a lot of it when the DVD comes out.
GVK: Did you have to do a lot of preparation for the riding scenes?
CH: Yes I did. I was working with a trainer and with little to do on our days off, I would go out and do as much work as I could.
GVK: How did you handle the gunfight scenes on the horses, as the noise must have made it difficult working with them? I know they are trained but it still must be a challenge.
CH: Yes, they stuffed their ears with sponge in order to quiet the noise my horse Bob was a great horse but was not the smartest in the bunch for sure.
GVK: Did you ride the same horse through the entire production?
CH: Yes, we got along well despite the fact I was thrown twice. The first time, he let me know, as I fired my gun and he tossed me then gave me a look as if to say if you shoot
That gun again, you are going back on the floor.
GVK: The costuming looked very authentic. Did you use any modern fibers or were they the heavy wool clothing of the time?
CH: They were the heavy, heavy wool clothes and when they did a war scene it was 100 Degrees outside and many of the extras who were in the Romanian Army were dropping like flies from the heat. I was there the whole time, and there was just so much that did not make into the final cut.
There was the whole evolution of the Home guard that they were good people who stayed behind to watch over women, children, and property and kept order while the men were away. At the end of the second and start of the third year, they were tasked with tracking down and killing deserters and it was the arch of that journey that extends the character.
GVK: Did Anthony talk about the fact that many of the people in the film were not American, as I found it refreshing to get the interpretations from people who did not grow up with the events from day one in school almost an outsiders look.
CH: The interesting about this is that an Englishman who is doing an American accent that is not 100% perfect is actually very accurate as most of the people were second or third generation from England so it was not so much of a stretch but it was very interesting. On “Queer as Folk” there was criticism that of all the main characters only one was actually gay. My attitude was that they go the best people for the parts and that is what made the roles unique.
GVK: What was the main thing that you tried to emphasize in your character to make him stand out?
CH: I would say the constant anger and rage in the character and the fact that he is a very tough and cold guy. I was sure that he killed before the war and that being an Albino he was an outcast who wanted to be a hero in the war, and was not allowed to fight, he was always angry and only got excited when he was getting ready to kill.
GVK: What was the hardest part of filming?
CH: I would say the time off as we had a three and a half week stretch near the end of filming where we could not go home but had to be around should we be needed. The weather made it difficult, as we had to shoot around it. After visiting Dracula’s castle a few times it gets old as there is not a lot to do in the Hills of Transylvania and the food was not the best. That being said, it was by far the best job I had as we were surrounded by a great group of people in a magical atmosphere where we thought we were making someone special?
GVK: Did you do the back flips yourself or did you get help?
CH: I did them, I worked with the Romanian Gymnastics coach and I had a setup in my house so I could do the flips.
GVK: That fence did not look very sturdy.
CH: (Laughs) it was not but I did the flip three times and managed not to fall. I was heartbroken that of the angles they shot the one where you could clearly see my face and they did not use that one.
GVK: The night filming must have been tough.
CH: It was as I had the contacts in and it did make things difficult at times as my peripheral vision was tough especially in the cold and on the horse.
GVK: What would you say your fondest memories of the shoot were?
CH: We had a lot of fun on the set, and the people were great. We went to the local discos and met some really great people and tried to keep it light.
GVK: How did you get into acting?
CH: I was in college studying to be a director and I was discovered in a shoe shop buying shoes and I was cast in three episodes of Biker Grove and that lead to an agent and a few weeks later “Queer as Folk”.
GVK: You have passed up some leading roles for “Cold Mountain” any second thoughts?
CH: Not really as I had a hard time deciding on parts like Nicholas Nicolby as it was a great cast but I could not do it justice and sit comfortable in those shoes. I decided to sit back and look at my offers and I am going to take time and try not to make the mistakes that many of my peers do as they just want to work. They do not really write for our age group and it is important to look for the good roles and not be so quick to jump on whatever comes along.
GVK: That is a great attitude. When I did my two small parts, I had so many people telling me to take whatever they give you, as you do not know when you will act again. Since I was not pursuing acting at that time, I did not have to worry but now that the companies are coming for you with roles, it must be hard to say no at times to offers.
CH: Yes, it is when some films do not pay as well and you have a mortgage to pay and you are on an economy drive eating eggs and beans, and you are offered a million dollar role and you turn it down, as it is not right. I want to be doing this when I am 60 and getting the big paying roles then so I have to pick the parts that are right for the long term rather than take the money now.
GVK: That is a great attitude; it must have driven your agent crazy though?
CH: He is actually been very good to me as I am his main client and he wants me to succeed and is willing to take it slow for long term success. Many people want the money and excitement but that is not always the best.
GVK: True, River Phoenix and others show that films can fade and if roles dry up, tragic outcomes may arise.
GVK: What do you have coming?
CH: I am doing a film on Soccer Hooligans and I play the leader of the West Ham and I am fascinated by what I learned in research. It is amazing how organized it is and how fights can be arranged before the matches as well as a code of conduct. There is some good comedy in it as well. Elijah Wood, Tommy Flannigan are in it as well. I will do Robert Towns new film after that as well with Collin Farrell and Selma Hayak