‘Pacific Rim’ star Charlie Hunnam says film ‘delivers on its promise’

July 05, 2013 | 8:00 a.m.
pacific rim 3 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 5 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

The United States' Gipsy Danger in a scene from "Pacific Rim." Gipsy Danger is a Jaeger, one of the fighting robots invented by humans to defeat an alien kaiju onslaught. (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 4 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 10 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 13 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Clifton Collins as Ops Tendo Choi in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 16 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 17 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Robert Maillet as Lt. S. Kaidanovsky and Heather Doerksen as Lt. A. Kaidanovsky in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 18 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

China's Jaeger Crimson Typhoon, left, and Russia's Jaeger Cherno Alpha in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 25 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, left, and Mana Ashida as young Mako in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 31 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

The United States' Jaeger Gipsy Danger, left, and Australia's Jaeger Striker Eureka in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 35 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 37 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 40 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 41 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 47 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 48 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 49 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, Max Martini as Herc Hansen, Clifton Collins Jr. as Ops Tendo Choi and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 50 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Charles Luu, Lance Luu and Mark Luu play the Wei Tang triplets in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 54 Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam says film delivers on its promise

Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, left, and Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

In “Pacific Rim,” the new film from Guillermo del Toro that storms into theaters July 12, Charlie Hunnam plays the talented Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket who must overcome personal heartbreak in the hopes of saving the world from an invading alien race of kaiju. With its $180 million budget and live-action anime trappings, the movie isn’t necessarily the sort of project the 33-year-old English actor usually finds himself drawn to — Hunnam, of course, is best known to American audiences as the tough but sensitive biker Jackson “Jax” Teller on “Sons of Anarchy,” the gritty, critically acclaimed FX drama revolving around the members of a California motorcycle gang, but his resume also includes turns in such films as Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men,” the indie drama “Deadfall” and the cult comedy “3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom,” among others.

But the presence and passion of filmmaker Del Toro was more than enough to persuade him to enlist in “Pacific Rim.” In an interview with Hero Complex, Hunnam described his interest in working with the Oscar-nominated writer-director on his biggest movie yet, the day to day experience on set and the possibilities of a big screen future for Beckett and his Jaeger Gipsy Danger.

HC: What was your initial reaction when you heard about the premise for “Pacific Rim”?

CH: It’s not generally the type of stuff that I’d really been drawn to, other than when it’s in a situation like working with Guillermo, where it’s his true passion. I think that’s the key always for me is finding filmmakers that are not just going to work — the guys that have a huge amount of integrity and passion for the stories they tell.

HC: What intrigued you about playing Raleigh, and how did you work with Guillermo to shape that character?

CH: Guillermo was up in Toronto when I was working on “Sons of Anarchy” right up until the day before rehearsal period began … [so] a lot of that work I had to do myself. Guillermo, as part of his process of exploring who these characters are, writes very long detailed character bios. He would send me that material, I would pick through it. Some stuff that really resonated, I would send him some emails and say, “I think we could really kind of build on this,” but it was pretty clear to me who this guy was, and, I think, very clear to Guillermo. He was this guy who had found himself in an unlikely position of being a real life superhero. He was a guy going on the line every day because of his very basic ability of being a great fighter — but with a great heart to go with it — and had found himself in this highly coveted position of being one of these Jaeger pilots, and it had all been taken from him. I don’t have any amazing skill-set for life but I’ve found myself in this very coveted position of actually being a working actor. To imagine all of that being taken from me was a pretty easy thing. It’s what I fear most. I kind of readily understood where this guy was at the beginning of the film, and then the arc of this character is the path back.

HC: What was the experience like shooting the film? I know it was an especially grueling schedule.

CH: The whole process was incredibly intense. We were working at least 100 hours a week, and then Guillermo would be there editing after everyone had left work. My days were 15, 16, 17 hours, and his days were 19, 20 hours. I don’t know how he does it. I need a lot of sleep, and I guess he’s conditioned himself to sleep three or four hours a night. He has 20 hours at his disposal every day. He is an incredible slave driver, but I never begrudged him that because he just works so damn hard himself.

HC: How would you characterize Guillermo as a director of actors, perhaps contrasting his style against someone like Alfonso Cuaron, with whom you worked on “Children of Men”?

CH: He’s very open to trying whatever anybody wants. Alfonso and a lot of the directors that I’ve worked with are very specific and I am very specific too. If you guys are on the same page, it’s wonderful; if you have different ideas about the material, then that can become really problematic. With Guillermo, he likes to try a lot of different stuff. It took me a week or so to get into the rhythm of that. Particularly, I guess from working on a TV show for so long where we shoot everything so rapidly that there’s only time to do three takes of everything — if you beg for a third take — I have to come to work knowing exactly what I intend to do in the scene and then spend those two or three takes just trying to do it to the best of my ability on any given day. Guillermo likes to shoot a lot and try the whole spectrum of the potential of the character through those takes. I wasn’t anticipating that. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of that. It was a pretty exciting way to work. I certainly learned a lot through that, not to maybe be as rigid as I had been in the past. It’s a luxury of time obviously, and if you have the time and trust the director and leave yourself open, definitely things that had never been anticipated come to the surface. Often it feels totally wrong and we’ll just scrap that idea, but sometimes you’re surprised by something that’s really exciting.

HC: What can you say at this point about sequels?

CH: It’s an expensive movie to make. I think we’re all praying that some people go out and see it. I don’t think they’ll be disappointed if they do. I think it delivers exactly on its promise. But I think the sequel depends greatly on how well it does. I know that Guillermo definitely has some strong ideas for what he would like to do — I’m sure he’d be very excited to go and make another one. He’s told me many times that this is the best experience he’s ever had making a movie. It was so hard, it was such a grueling experience making this movie, I kind of laughed when he said that. I said, ‘I’m glad I wasn’t on your other shoots if this is the best one you’ve ever had.’

– Gina McIntyre | @LATherocomplex

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