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Fans of the original Pacific Rim spent years hoping that a sequel would come along, and while it's finally on the way, it's missing a lot of the characters that made the original movie so good. Chief among them is Charlie Hunnam who played lead character Raleigh Beckett in the first film. The actor explains that the reason he couldn't make the sequel is because the plans for it went from zero to sixty so fast that when he finally asked about reprising his role, he couldn't because he was already attached to make a new version of prison escape movie Papillon. According to Hunnam...
What happened was Legendary was sold to Wanda, which is the big Chinese corporation, and Pacific Rim, although it underperformed in other territories in the world, was an enormous success in China. All of a sudden, it became their primary focus to make this and they wanted to do it very, very rapidly... I think their schedule subsequently changed, and I might have been able to do both, but at that time, they were writing the script and they needed to know, was I in or was I out?"
For the longest time Guillermo del Toro was trying to drum up support for a sequel to Pacific Rim, and while there always appeared to be some interest, the trigger was never getting pulled on the idea. With the new timeline that Charlie Hunnam explained to Den of Geek, everything now becomes a bit clearer. The sale of Legendary Entertainment happened in January of 2016, and the announcement that Pacific Rim 2 was going to happen, but without del Toro as a director, happened only a month later. This is what the actor is talking about when he says the new owners wanted to see the sequel happen rapidly.
However, this new expediency didn't work for Charlie Hunnam. He was already involved in making a movie about the famous escape of Henri "Papillion" Charriere from Devil's Island. The problem was, he already had a contract to make the new Pacific Rim movie as well. The good news for the actor is that the studio was happy to let him out of the contract when he explained how much he wanted to make the other film.
Instead of Charlie Hunnam, we will see John Boyega as our lead character in Pacific Rim: Uprising. He'll be playing the son of Idris Elba's character from the first film. We are expecting a few of the characters from the first film to return, including Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, and Rinko Kikuchi. Hopefully, that will be enough to satiate the fans of the original.