You don’t have to be Merlin to hazard a guess that a medieval epic directed by Guy Ritchie is not one likely to pull its punches. And in a recent cover story interview for Entertainment Weekly, which unveiled the above photos, Ritchie noted that purists may take a little convincing when it comes to his brutal, bruising take on Arthurian legend. Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur, like the director’s previous films, isn’t big on the straight-arrow good guys, he explained.
“I think where the pitfall has often been is trying to make King Arthur bland and nice, and nice and bland,” he told the outlet. “The two qualities make rather compatible bed companions. Unfortunately, they’re not interesting to watch. Luke Skywalker was always the most uninteresting character in Star Wars because he’s the good guy. Good guys are boring.”
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As such, when looking to cast the Once and Future King, Ritchie settled on the strapping Charlie Hunnam, fresh off seven seasons of playing a violent, compromised antihero on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. In line with hardening his medieval protagonist, the director and scribe Joby Harold made a few adjustments to the tale – this time around, Arthur starts life as an orphan on rough streets in the 5th century’s equivalent of London (“Londonium”), raised by three prostitutes.
“He’s a little bit rough around the edges, but he’s basically a survivor. He’s a hustler,” Hunnam explained of Arthur. “He’s a street kid. There’s definitely a harder edge to him than people would imagine. It’s sort of classic Guy Ritchie stuff.”
Truly, when the Snatch helmer came aboard, many anticipated something like this – a grimy, gritty reimagining of the medieval legend, complete with kinetic brawls and salty, swaggering individuals. What many may not have anticipated, Ritchie teased, is just how big a role the fantasy element will play in Knights of the Roundtable. This new take features giant snakes, hulking war elephants and a possibly human, Viking-esque creature known only as The Nemesis (ancestor to Gorgeous George, perhaps?).
Warner Bros. hopes to launch a new franchise with Knights of the Roundtable, one that could potentially span six films. This first chapter will find Arthur grasping Excalibur and realizing his destiny as he defeats a dictator, but the studio has a wealth of material to draw upon for an entire franchise.
The cast also includes Jude Law as Vortigen, Eric Bana as Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father), Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as Guienevere, Annabelle Wallis as Maid Maggie and Djimon Hounsou as Sir Bedivere.
Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur opens on July 22, 2016.