Charlie Hunnam will no longer be playing the part of Christian Grey in the highly anticipated film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.

“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,” Universal Pictures and Focus Features announced in a statement.

Hunnam, who has yet to comment on the news, was attending a wedding on Saturday when the announcement was made, and sources say he was “all smiles."

Hunnam currently stars in FX’s Sons of Anarchy, but had signed on for the role in Fifty Shades of Grey despite his commitments to the popular television drama. Sources close to the actor have revealed that the news does not come as a surprise.

“The attention and the pressure was intense. More than anything he hates attention, and being in Fifty Shades of Grey would force him to do lots of media. That’s really not his thing. Charlie doesn’t want to be massively famous. Plus, he hates conforming and being told what to do. This role would force him to have to be something he is not,” the source told E! News.

Hunnam had acknowledged the pressure he felt in undertaking such a beloved role, which has a horde of die-hard fans. No doubt the fans did not help with they launched a petition to replace Hunnam and Dakota Johnson, who is taking on the role of Anastasia Steele, with Matt Bomer (White Collar) and Alexis Bledel (Mad Men). The petition currently has 87,503 signatures.

“There are so many fans of that book and I know that on the surface, I’m probably not what everybody imagined. Because reading is so personal and people bring a character to life in their imagination, they feel ownership over that character. That’s daunting if I allowed myself to think about it too much. I’m 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,” Hunnam told EW.

When the original casting was announced, author E.L. James and producer Dana Brunetti defended the decision, saying that Hunnam and Johnson shared an intense chemistry during auditions, something that was also a selling point for Hunnam.

“As soon as we got in the room and started reading with Dakota, I knew that I definitely wanted to do it, because there was a tangible chemistry between us. It felt kind of exciting and fun and weird and compelling, and so that was it,” Hunnam told The Hollywood Reporter following his casting announcement.

E.L. James appears to have no ill will toward Hunnam for dropping out of the project, tweeting her well wishes.

Johnson is still set to star in the film, and no news has been released as to the casting of her new co-star. The film will be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and is scheduled to begin shooting in November. Coincidentally, the start date on the film was reportedly pushed back to allow Hunnam time to prepare for the role after completing the sixth season of Sons of Anarchy.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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