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Charlie Hunnam On 'Pacific Rim' & Co-Starring With Giant Robots And Giant Monsters

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CHARLIE HUNNAM PACIFIC RIM
Charlie Hunnam stars in "Pacific Rim." | Warner Bros.

This coming weekend's robot-versus-monster epic "Pacific Rim" isn't all about giant robots fighting giant monsters. (OK, yes, there are a lot of giant robots and there are a lot of giant monsters.) There are humans involved, too. Namely, the humans who pilot the giant robots.

Charlie Hunnam (best known for starring as Jax Teller on "Sons of Anarchy") plays Raleigh Becket, star Jaeger (i.e. "big robot") pilot whose talents are one of the only things preventing Earth's destruction. We spoke to Hunnam about the pressure of headlining an expensive blockbuster (with the "Pacific Rim" budget near a reported $180 million, this is Hunnam's biggest film to date), and, well, what it's like to act in a movie in which the co-stars are giant robots and giant monsters. And Hunnam offers a quick trip down memory lane in regards to Judd Apatow's other sort-lived television series, "Undeclared."

For people who don't know anything about "Pacific Rim," I feel the commercials create the biggest "What is this movie?" reaction of the summer.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that was one of the big draws for me of the movie. And I totally understand why people would be curious but, also, unsure. American moviemaking has become very safe and a little bit lazy in that regard. In this current landscape that we're dealing with, it's all sequels and adaptations and remakes of adaptations.

It's weird to say this, but it's actually risky to make a big budget "robots versus monsters" movie.
Yeah, because it's all about marketing costs and stuff like that. For instance, "The Lone Ranger," everybody knows the Lone Ranger and, so, you kind of know what you're getting right away and people feel comfortable with that, you know? People have a small amount of free time in this day and age and it's expensive to go to the movies. It's nice and safe and people know what they're going to get. But, I'll tell you what, if people go and see this movie, I guarantee they won't be disappointed.

With someone like Henry Cavill right before "Man of Steel" came out, there's obviously pressure on him because he's the new Superman. You're the lead in this movie, but is it different? I feel the success or failure of this movie is based more on the concept as opposed to the actors.
I have to be honest, I have never really put much thought or energy into worrying about how a movie or a TV show -- or anything that I've done -- performs. But for this one -- it's certainly not, I'm sure, the pressure Henry Cavill felt, but there is a certain amount of pressure ... not a "certain amount of pressure," but I haven't been able to shake a certain expectation of what it could do. Because, in great success, it makes it much easier for me to go and get another movie that I care about.

But, also, I feel a certain responsibility that these people at Warner Bros. have spent an enormous amount of money and they chose to hire a guy who nobody really knows. I don't bring a massive fan base of my own to the project. So, I do feel a slight responsibility that I hope I did a good enough job -- and we did a good enough job in the movie -- that they can get a little bit of a return on their investment.

At the same time, I don't think anyone will stop watching "Sons of Anarchy" if "Pacific Rim" doesn't do well.
No, no. And I guess more than any responsibility, you know, there's a big responsibility for Guillermo and I just love him like a brother. He's become a dear friend of mine and we're going to go make another movie together in the spring. So I guess that I hope that, more than anything, it's a giant success for him so that he can keep making fantastic movies like he always has.

Are you talking about "Crimson Peak"?
It's a much, much smaller movie. It's like a Jane Austen-style, haunted house ghost story. It's a really, really wonderful cast he's put together.

There are a lot of practical effects in "Pacific Rim." What's the weirdest thing you saw is a "I've never seen that before" kind of way?
The strangest thing: I had anticipated there being some challenges with this and, actually, the challenges were much less than I had thought they would be. I realized that the environment is not as important as I thought it was. What's really important is having other actors that are there and engaged with you.

I feel like in the last few years that you're having a nice run lately. You were in some interesting movies in the mid-2000s, but they seem really spaced out. Are you noticing a difference?
Oh, a tremendous difference.

Did you ever get worried that things wouldn't work out?
Yes. Of course. Definitely. What was most important to me is that I always cared about the movies that I was making. I didn't just want to "work." In all those periods of time where I was working only once every two years in relatively small roles, I had the opportunity to be working the whole time. But, I just didn't because I felt like the early years of an actor's career it's imperative that you establish yourself doing the type of work that you want to do for the rest of your career. And not kind of cheapen yourself.

What were you turning down?
A lot of movies. I was really only looking at movies at that time. And at that time they were making many more movies than they're making now. It was really frustrating because there were directors that really liked me and wanted to hire me that I wanted to work with that were doing great, interesting stuff. Then they would get to the studio and the studio would say, "Listen, we think he's great, but he's not really a big enough star to justify hiring at this budget" -- so I wouldn't get the job. Then, the stuff I wasn't really interested in doing, I was getting offered left and right. I just was very stubborn and tenacious about only doing the type of work I wanted to do and I just felt like I'd rather do nothing than do something that I'm not really, really passionate about.

That sounds risky.
Well, I mean, it was risky in that-- I mean, not really. I felt it was riskier to go and do work that I wasn't passionate about. Because if I didn't believe in it, why would I want to go and do it. But, also, if I didn't believe in it, I felt like I wasn't going to perform as well as I could.

Is there a specific example of something we would know?
Oh, I wouldn't want to name names because, you know, some guy went and did the role. But, yeah, there was a lot of stuff. I mean, I can talk more generally: there was a lot of action films and I got offered a slew of horror films. You know, just different stuff -- teen drama stuff and some romantic lead type of stuff. Not all of it terrible, just not specifically what I wanted to do.

I feel that, compared to Judd Apatow's "Freaks and Geeks," his other series,"Undeclared," that you were a big part of, doesn't get quite the attention it deserves.
Yeah, I mean, it was tonally very, very different. But, yeah, we put everything we had into that show. We really loved it and were pretty devastated when it got canceled. The problem with that show is it never really had a chance. I mean, I think 17 episodes aired over the course of, I don't know, 25 weeks? In three different time slots. So the goal post kept changing. And Judd, again, was very tenacious in doing exactly what he wanted to do. You know, Fox had wanted us to put a laugh track on and he said no -- and that kind of led to another argument. And they couldn't quite agree on what the show was going to be.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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