King Arthur is yet another prospective franchise starter currently in the making under Warner Bros.’ roof. Director Guy Ritchie (the RDJ-headlined Sherlock Holmes movies) is slated to oversee the project, based on a screenplay by writer/producer Joby Harold (Edge of Tomorrow) – and if all goes well at the box office, this particular cinematic retelling of the Arthurian legend could eventually give rise to a six-film saga. Now we know who Ritchie wants to lead the charge.
Deadline is reporting that Charlie Hunnam is Ritchie’s choice to portray Arthur in his film; furthermore, the Sons of Anarchy star is said to be in “final negotiations” to land the title role. Hunnam certainly has both the look and screen presence to make for a captivating version of Arthur, though his age (he turned 34 in April) suggests that Ritchie’s movie will catch up with the eponymous character at a later stage in his life than certain past Arthurian re-imagings have (such as the short-lived TV show Camelot).
Director Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur was the most recent Hollywood version of the Arthurian mythology to hit theaters; that film also featured an older Arthur, played by then-40 year old Clive Owen, as well as a “demystified” take on the legend unlike previous iterations. Camelot, by comparison, favored something closer to a magical realism approach, and it wouldn’t come as a shock if Ritchie’s movie resembled the latter more in that regard – taking it cues from the “low Medieval fantasy” of HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series, in other words.
Elsewhere, Variety is reporting that Elizabeth Olsen is currently the frontrunner to play the female lead in Ritchie’s King Arthur. The site doesn’t name the character that Olsen being considered to portray, but common sense would say that it’s Guinevere. Then again, it was previously reported that Idris Elba is in talks to play a mentor for Hunnam’s Arthur – one who may just be Merlin, but could also be a similar archetype who has a different name. Which is to say, the character Olsen is being eyed for might not be Guinevere, but modeled after traditional versions of the heroine instead.
Olsen costarred in Godzilla earlier this year and will play Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron next year. The latter role could ultimately extend to multiple Marvel Studios films, so Olsen might very well soon be an active player in two franchises – three, if she winds up being brought back for Godzilla 2 in 2018.
Meanwhile, Hunnam passed on playing Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie last year, so he’ll instead followup the upcoming final season of Anarchy with a role in Guillermo del Toro’s horror feature Crimson Peak in 2015, followed by his turn as Arthur in 2016, and then his reunion with del Toro for Pacific Rim 2 in 2017. So, like Olsen, Hunnam may soon have at least two movie franchises under his belt.
Ritchie enjoyed newfound box office success when he resurrected the Sherlock Holmes property for a modern audience; King Arthur, like the Holmes films, needs to do more trail-blazing to stand apart from its predecessors – part of the reason why WB has recruited Ritchie for the job, no doubt. After all, the Arthur brand is still bankable, but not necessarily a huge draw on its own, as demonstrated by Fuqua’s entry a decade ago. (The latter grossed $203 million but on a $120 million budget, with the vast majority of grosses coming from overseas.)
However, between Ritchie – who is coming off his Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie reboot – running the show and the King Arthur cast featuring a talented assortment of actors who are good box office draws when paired with this sort of genre fare, it sounds as though WB has a pretty good game plan going here. Maybe Ritchie’s film won’t end up being popular enough to justify pursuing a six-part expansion, but it shouldn’t be the next Lone Ranger either.
King Arthur arrives in U.S. theaters on July 22nd, 2016.