Welcome to the eighteenth installment of ACTING UP, a Casting Networks column designed to call attention to standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature shines a light on how certain actors got to where they are now. Have a peek and then check out these noteworthy performances to help hone your craft.
For exceptional 18: Charlie Hunnam plays Raymond, the classy badass trying to keep the sale of a profitable marijuana empire from going up in smoke in Guy Ritchie’s new film, The Gentlemen. (Release date: January 24, 2020)
Like so many of Guy Ritchie’s movies (a la Snatch and RocknRolla), the London criminal underground is alive and well in The Gentlemen. It’s a world chock full of colorful characters with questionable motives, thick accents and the chronic ability to live lives way more interesting than ours.
To that end, this league of extraordinary gentlemen does not disappoint.
From classy badasses to scheming billionaires to slender divas dedicated to preserving their wealth and power, The Gentlemen is technically about an American ex-pat (played by Matthew McConaughey) looking to unload his profitable marijuana empire in London. When word gets out, self-preservation instincts kick into high gear as schemes, bribery, and blackmail ensue, while the opportunistic jockey to steal his empire out from under.
That’s when the real fun begins.
One of the characters is Raymond (aka “Ray” played by Charlie Hunnam), the #1 to McConaughey’s marijuana kingpin, Mickey Pearson. But he’s in no way your typical goon. Ray is a guy who you get a sense knows more than you think at any given time. He’s a guy who stays highly composed as he listens to a blackmail plot from a relatively slimy private investigator, Fletcher (played skillfully by Hugh Grant). Ray, all GQ’d out, with his slicked-back hair, manscaped beard, buttoned-up vest, tie, and sport coat, listens intently as he whips up everything from Whiskey to a Wagyu steak for Fletcher the blackmailer while learning about what he knows (and more).
This is all serviceable, but it’s the scene where Hunnam’s Ray shows up in a sketchy part of London to rescue a business associate’s daughter that we see what this character is really made of. In a den full of heroin addicts, Ray owns the room in a scene I wish I could go back and watch again. It’s an actor’s fantasy when it comes to reel material, much like the Ezekiel 25:17 scene from Pulp Fiction that made Samuel Jackson a legend.
From his whip-smart cut downs to his psychological edge in the face of junky hostility, Ray’s gift is his ability to channel his rage into composure and fierce intimidation. To that end, he literally sits two junkies down by simply motioning for them to sit. Then, he rolls a joint while lecturing them on how they have no idea how to do drugs properly. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the film and by itself, probably worth going to see.
The cast is rounded out with all sorts of talent (Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey, Jeremy Strong from Succession, Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding). But it’s Hunnam’s Ray that really stands out with his suave unpredictability, a talent that keeps us on edge and makes us laugh thanks to the words Guy Ritchie puts in his mouth in this wildly entertaining film.
If you were a fan of FX’s wildly popular Sons of Anarchy, you know Hunnam. He played Jackson “Jax” Teller, the president of the SAMCRO motorcycle club across the show’s highly successful seven-season run.
The almost 40-year-old Hunnam hails from Newcastle, England, where he started his TV career at age 18 with a guest-starring role on the controversial British TV show, Byker Grove (1989). This was a role he was randomly discovered for in a shoe store by the show’s production manager, who encouraged him to audition for a supporting role. He got it.
Then, fame came calling when he landed a role in the British version of Queer as Folk (1999) as the gay love interest, Nathan Maloney. After starring in the short-lived Fox series Undeclared as an English drama student, Hunnam eventually went on to earn roles in films like Abandon (2002), Nicholas Nickelby (2002), Cold Mountain (2003) and Pacific Rim (2013).
Worth noting is that, prior to The Gentlemen, Hunnam did pair up previously with Guy Ritchie for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), where he played the title character. For the role, he trained heavily in Brazilian jujitsu. Reports say his love of martial arts still remains intact.
Amongst other notable roles, there was also A Million Little Pieces (2018), where Hunnam might’ve been the sole standout, playing the patient and composed brother of James Frey in the film about achieving sobriety.
And, speaking of staying away from vices, Hunnam is probably equally well known for the starring role he didn’t take in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, which he dropped out of before shooting due to conflicts in his schedule.
Hunnam is currently shooting Shantaram for Apple TV, playing the lead in this international drama based on Gregory David Roberts’ best-selling novel about a “man on the run from an Australian prison looking to get lost in the teeming city of Bombay,” according to Deadline.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.