Actor Charlie Hunnam arrives at FX's "Sons Of Anarchy" Season 6 premiere screening at Dolby Theatre on Sept. 7, 2013, in Hollywood. (Photo: Jon Kopaloff, FilmMagic)
Bryan Alexander and Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
Charlie Hunnam has dropped out of the lead role of Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, Universal Pictures announced Saturday.
"The filmmakers of Fifty Shades of Grey and Charlie Hunnam have agreed to find another male lead given Hunnam's immersive TV schedule which is not allowing him to adequately prepare for the role of Christian Grey," Universal Pictures said in a statement.
E L James, author of the best-selling novel, responded to the news of Hunnam's departure on Twitter on Saturday saying, "I wish Charlie all the best. x"
Earlier on Twitter James had said: "Okay boys and girls - hold onto your hats - it's about to get serious..."
Hunnam, who stars in FX's Sons of Anarchy, was cast in the lead role in September, along with Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele.
The casting led to howls of Internet protests from fans of the kinky sex missive which is due out Aug. 1, 2014. Fans even went so far as to sign a petition calling for the roles to be recast.
Producer Dana Brunetti took to Twitter during the storm of September outrage saying: "There is a lot that goes into casting that isn't just looks. Talent, availability, their desire to do it, chemistry with other actors, etc...so if your favorite wasn't cast, then it is most likely due to something on the list. Keep that in mind while hating and keep perspective."
In a cover story about Sons of Anarchy, Hunnam told Entertainment Weekly this week, "There are so many fans of that book and I know that on the surface, I am probably not what everybody imagined."
"Because reading is so personal and people bring a character to life in their imagination, they feel ownership of the character. That's daunting, if I allowed myself to think about it too much," he added. "I am taking it very seriously and intend to explore the nature of who this character is, what motivates him - and also dress up nice and look good in those suits."