Charlie Hunnam Talks Losing 40 Lbs For Movie Roles

Papillon Charlie Hunnam starved in solitary scratching his name in the wall

When it comes to transformative roles, there are some actors who are known to take it to the extreme. Robert De Niro famously gained 60 pounds to star in Raging Bull; and Christian Bale lost approximately that amount to star in The Machinist. It takes a serious dedication to craft putting your body through all that, but for some performers it's entirely worth it. This includes actor Charlie Hunnam, who recently spoke about losing 40 pounds playing the lead role in Michael Noer's Papillion, as well as losing weight in other roles.

I had to lose a lot of weight for Papillon. I didn't have to, but I thought it was important. Seeing as Michael [Noer] had made the decision that he was going to try to shoot the film as sequentially as possible, I thought it lent itself to a nice opportunity to lose some weight on camera through the journey of the film. I did that twice in a row, which was unfortunate, 'cause I did that on The Lost City Of Z too, and not that it really shows an enormous amount on camera, but I actually lost 40 pounds through the course of shooting The Lost City Of Z and I think I did very close to losing 40 pounds again through the course of this film. So whatever is required.

It isn't terribly good for your body to lose and gain a lot of weight quickly, but it's a sacrifice that Charlie Hunnam was willing to make not once but twice in recent years. While speaking with the Boston Herald he revealed the hell he's put his body through, but also honestly explained why he was willing to do it.

Of course, those familiar with Charlie Hunnam's work know that he isn't regularly playing scrawny, ill characters - which is what the work called for in the making of both Papillon and the Lost City of Z. He's also been known to take on parts in action movies and tough guy roles, which means that he has to put on weight and muscle. Referencing the upcoming film Triple Frontier and two other projects he's been working on, Hunnam said,

The last film that I did, with the J. C. Chandor film that I did, I had to put on a lot of weight because I was playing a soldier and it was appropriate that I be a little bigger. Then, the last two films, both me and the directors decided that it would be better for me to have a smaller frame and so I immediately lost that weight again. I'm a little bit fatigued with the constant fluctuation of weight, but it's just part of the job.

There are only a few actors out there who are willing to go to such extremes - and it is admirable. After all, anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that it's not always the easiest thing. Naturally, there is hope that none of them take things to unsafe levels, and that there are no long-term side effects - but for now, we can definitely appreciate the work.

Those interested in seeing the end result of Charlie Hunnam's work can see Papillon in theaters now, and for those who missed it last year, The Lost City of Z is now available for Digital Download, and on Blu-ray and DVD.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.