Sex symbol status is a double-edged sword for Charlie Hunnam
English actor Charlie Hunnam, who plays Arthur in King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, wants to be taken seriously
Charlie Hunnam has a practical approach to the whole sex symbol thing.
"Film is a visual medium, and girls make up half of the audience," he said.
"And then gay men make up another 10 per cent of the audience. So if you are appealing to 60 per cent of the audience, it's enormously helpful. I'm grateful that people think I am sexy."
There is the usual caveat.
"The fear is, I want to be taken seriously and I want people to recognise my heart and my work and not my face. So that is the only downside to it."
We are at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City to talk about his new movie, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, but let's get through the important matters first.
How did the English actor get that ripped bod?
On training for the superhero physique, he said: "As well as lifting a lot of weights, I did an enormous amount of fighting because I wanted to be the tiger and to let everyone know that if it comes down to it, I would whip your ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
"Very little carbs and no sugar and dairy (in my diet) are the big ones for me to put on a lot of muscle and stay toned."
“It’s the classic hero’s journey — this grand destiny is presented, and there’s a reluctance to answer the call.”Charlie Hunnam on king Arthur: Legend of The Sword
Hunnam, 37, has a funny story about how he landed the role of Arthur.
He had gone into the audition with director Guy Ritchie looking small as he had dropped an enormous amount of weight for TV series Sons Of Anarchy.
"He kept saying, 'Man, are you sure you can get big?'
"And I literally tried to pull up photographs saying, 'Look, this is me.' And he went 'Okay, that might be CGI, though.' So it was funny."
The audition proceeded, but Ritchie still had doubts.
"He is looking at me on camera and saying, 'Are you sure you can put weight on, because we need Arthur to be formidable'.
"I sort of pretended to lose my temper and I said, 'You know what, pal? You want to just cut the camera? Why don't you bring those chimpanzees (other actors competing for the role) in here and we will fight, and whoever walks out of this room is going to get the role?'"
Hunnam said: "I saw Guy with a little glint in his eye. And then he said, 'All right then, tough guy. Go back and read the scene again'. That is, I think, the moment that I got it."
“...I did an enormous amount of fighting because I wanted to be the tiger and to let everyone know that if it comes down to it, I would whip your ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”Charlie Hunnam on training for the role of king Arthur
In Ritchie's revisionist take on the legend, when the child Arthur's father is murdered, Arthur's uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law), seizes the crown.
Robbed of his birthright and with no idea of who he is, Arthur has a hardscrabble upbringing in a brothel, and grows up in the back alleys of old London.
But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy.
King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword opens here tomorrow and also stars Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, and Aiden Gillen.
"One of the things that Guy had been very eager to do was to make Arthur an everyman," said Hunnam.
"The idea being that anybody could just be going about their life and then all of a sudden have this grand destiny thrust upon them, and how would we react.
"It's the classic hero's journey - this grand destiny is presented, and there's a reluctance to answer the call.
"It comes down to fear, a sense of inadequacy, or not being able or having the requisite skill set or experience to be able to take on this lofty challenge.
"And so that was something that I think was really relatable to everybody."
He admitted to being a germaphobe, which makes love scenes a trial.
"Yeah, it makes me neurotic. I don't have herpes and I don't want herpes," he said, laughing.
"The struggle is real. I really don't like kissing anyone but my girlfriend, and so I have to just overcome that.
"Guys will usually come up and go, 'You have the greatest job in the world, you get to kiss pretty girls for a living.' And I am thinking, if only you knew what a weird, neurotic young man I am, because that is the least favourite part of my job."
So if he had a Round Table, who would he choose as his knights?
"Well, I would have to have my three brothers. I would throw Guy Ritchie in there to keep it light.
"Guy is good in a fight. He has a black belt in jiu jitsu, black belt in karate, so he is pretty handy to have on the firm. And then maybe we will throw in Donald Trump, just to keep things fun."