Is the big screen adaptation of erotic best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey inching closer to tying up a leading man?
Charlie Hunnam's abrupt exit has left Hollywood scrambling to find a replacement to star opposite Dakota Johnson and fill the coveted role of kinky billionaire Christian Grey.
Announcing the news of Hunnam's exit last week, Universal Pictures and Focus Features released a joint statement that read: "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 time to adequately prepare for the role of Christian Grey."
"I wish Charlie all the best. x," author E.L. James tweeted shortly after the news broke.
Although the studio blamed the actor's schedule for his swift exit, The Hollywood Reporter questioned the official line and offered a different take on why the star decamped on the project.
"Hunnam, 33, was overwhelmed with the attention he received from being cast in the movie and got cold feet about carrying such a high-profile project," claimed THR, citing two sources.
"Universal was forced to hire bodyguards for the actor at a recent Sons of Anarchy premiere, where questions about Fifty Shades dominated the red carpet. The sources caution that Hunnam had no reservations about the role of Christian Grey, just the media and fan frenzy that came along with it, especially as he was transitioning from Sons to Fifty Shades so quickly."
Other outlets also theorised that the attention got to be too much for the Sons of Anarchy star.
"He dropped out of the project because he didn't want to be typecast," a source chimed to People. "He didn't want the Robert Pattinson-esque attention that would come along with taking on this role."
'HE IS ONE OF FIVE ACTORS BEING CONSIDERED'
And now that Hunnam's out of the frame, rumours are swirling about who will fill Mr. Grey's shoes.
One name said to be on the list of possible replacements is Scott Eastwood.
In addition to being the son of screen legend Clint Eastwood, Scott, 27, has had roles in Flags of Our Fathers, Invictus and Trouble with the Curve. He also made a bit of a splash and set pulses racing recently with a shirtless photo spread in Town & Country magazine
According to website Just Jared, Scott is reportedly under consideration to replace Hunnam.
"He is one of five actors being considered," chimed a source close to the rising star.
Scott himself took to Twitter last week to tease fans about his possible involvement with the project.
"What is all this talk about 50 shades of grey?? What do you all think?? Let me know. #hype #eastwoodlivin," he wrote.
Other actors rumoured to be contenders to take on the role include fan favourites Matt Bomer, 36, and Ian Somerhalder, 34, Billy Magnussen, 28, Aussie actor Luke Bracey, 24, and 23-year-old Alex Pettyfer.
Rumour has it that Dornan, a former Calvin Klein model and star of UK TV series The Fall, is top of the list.
Per E! Online, Dornan reportedly had "a really good read" on Friday for the role. Curiously, a source also dished that the studio is apparently not in the least bit concerned about Dornan's potential chemistry with Anastasia Steele, the aforementioned Dakota Johnson - daughter of Miami Vice star Don Johnson and actress Melanie Griffith.
"The studio isn't worried about Dakota," added the source. "They think she could handle whoever the guy is."
But not Robert Pattinson. Although E.L. James' pal Bret Easton Ellis recently revealed that the author originally wanted the Twilight star in the starring role, word is he's never been on any studio list.
"Of course it would have been something he wouldn't mind doing, but he was never gunning for the role in the first place," a source told E! Online.
In any case, fans won't be left guessing for too long. Word is the recasting of Christian Grey will be finalised in the next few weeks.
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the Fifty Shades of Grey film is slated to begin production in November, and is due out in cinemas in August 2014.
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- Rumour Has It