Charlie Hunnam sneezes, clears his throat, and apologizes: “Sorry, I’ve been smoking so many fucking cigarettes.” He’s fresh off of his seven-season run as Jax, the roguish outlaw biker on FX’s monster series Sons of Anarchy, and Hunnam is feeling “pretty damn liberated.” Sons’ popularity paired with Jax’s unassailable grit turned Hunnam into a household name, but as with Mary Poppins or the Terminator, it’s hard to detach Hunnam the man from the gangster he plays on TV. Even more difficult: making sense of Hunnam’s career trajectory from fresh-faced roles like Nicholas Nickleby in the eponymous 2002 Charles Dickens adaptation, or Lloyd, the hunky British stalwart in Judd Apatow’s underappreciated TV show Undeclared.
“That’s something that I was fearful of,” says Hunnam of early typecasting. “I felt drawn to darker material and to characters that aren’t afraid to use violence as a currency.” With subsequent roles in Green Street Hooligans (2005), Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006), and, more recently, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (2013) under his belt, the 34-year-old actor is in no danger of languishing in pretty-boy purgatory.
These days, with badass cred aplenty, Hunnam is taking on a new role as the face of Reveal, Calvin Klein’s latest men’s fragrance. Instead of picking a celebrity endorser who already looks like the product smells (see Tim McGraw’s McGraw, Katy Perry’s Purr, or any of J. Lo’s 24 fragrances and counting), Calvin Klein asked Hunnam to play a character: a suave, shark-suited, cocktail-in-hand gentleman caller. “What I’ve realized is that the key to the fashion world is the idea of aspirational living—the most sophisticated, most luxurious, most sexy, most exciting version of life, manifested,” he says. “I found myself really being seduced by that world.”
The Reveal bottle is minimalist, just brushed metal and glass—something you’d find on the shelves of the MoMA Design Store. Inside, however, it’s a different story entirely. The ingredients aren’t stripped down, they are exotic: top notes of crystalized ginger, lentisque essence, and pear brandy blended with middle notes of raw salt signature, agave nectar, and kiwano, pared down with Haiti vetiver, vintage vanilla bean, and golden amber. It’s not a scent for any one type of guy, it’s just a solid, well- crafted fragrance that won’t define you, but will make you smell great.
His time as debonair scent spokesman couldn’t last forever, so this October will find Hunnam back in his “darker” milieu, reunited with del Toro for Crimson Peak, which is, essentially, a horror flick. “Guillermo elevates that genre,” says Hunnam. “The word around the campfire from the people who’ve seen it is that it’s his best film ever.”
What’s more, Hunnam has been plucked by one of his favorite directors, Guy Ritchie, to play the lead in 2016’s Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur, a part for which Hunnam is already carving his body and mind. “You work out like a motherfucker leading up to doing a movie,” he says. “You get yourself in peak physical condition, and then the trick is to sustain that through the course of filming, when you’re working 16 or 17 hours a day.”
For Hunnam, a rigorous physical routine is not simply a balance of vanity and professional responsibility. “If you want to distill it down to its most primal, Neanderthal psychology,” he says, “I think you’re going to the gym and maintaining your fitness to be able to fight and defend yourself, and attack if necessary.”
By Mickey Stanley.