Charlie Hunnam’s latest project is finally going back into production. Fifteen months ago, Paramount Television put his new TV series Shantaram into “hiatus” because of concerns about the scripts.
Now, it appears the production break is over, as the Sons of Anarchy star is in Australia to film the remaining episodes.
Charlie Hunnam got caught up in the ‘Shantaram’ curse
Hunnam’s new series is based on a book published in 2003 by Melbourne author Gregory David Roberts. The semi-autobiographical novel immediately attracted some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Russell Crowe was the first to express interest in starring in the film, as soon as the book was published.
By 2004, a film project based on the book was in development with Johnny Depp attached to the project. This was after Warner Bros. paid $2 million for the rights to the story.
The studio had Australian director Peter Weir lined up to direct. But by 2006, Weir was off the project because “his interpretation of it differed greatly [from] that of the studio and producers.”
They tried again in 2013
The Shantaram film project stalled for years until 2013, when it was brought back to life by Depp. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, by that time Depp was attached as both star and producer. And he was courting Joel Edgerton to direct, but nothing came of it.
By 2015, Warner’s rights to the project had lapsed. This left the project open for someone else to scoop up, and that’s exactly what happened. In January 2018, US production company Anonymous Content acquired the rights. That’s the version currently in production, with Anonymous and Paramount making it into a series for Apple TV+.
‘Shantaram’ was not actually based on a true story
In Shantaram, Hunnam stars as a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict named Lin who escapes from Pentridge Prison and flees to India. Once there, he reinvents himself as a doctor in a slum before embarking on a number of crazy adventures.
In the book, those adventures include working as a Bollywood extra, forging a passport in Mumbai, and arms trafficking in Afghanistan. The book was initially marketed as a “true story.”
But in 2015, Roberts reframed Shantaram and its sequel The Mountain Shadow as “novels, not autobiographies.” He admitted that “all of the characters and dialogue is created.”
Charlie Hunnam filmed two episodes in 2019 before production halted
Production for Shantaram began in October 2019, with plans to shoot 10 episodes split between Victoria in Australia and India. By mid-December, Hunnam and director Justin Kurzel had two episodes shot.
But in February 2020, Paramount Television had put filming on hiatus and showrunner Eric Warren Singer was no longer part of the project. Then, the pandemic hit and it was unclear when production would resume.
Finally, more than two years after pre-production began, filming is scheduled to begin again in May and continue until the end of the year. They are beginning production in Australia — which is where Hunnam was just spotted — before moving production to Thailand instead of India.
The location change was made because it was deemed “not practical to film in India under pandemic conditions.”
Charlie Hunnam spotted shirtless in Sydney, Australia
Hunnam was recently spotted in Sydney, Australia, after moving down under to film Shantaram. The actor formerly known as Jax Teller posed for a selfie with Macarthur FC striker Matthew Derbyshire at Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
The western Sydney footballer posted the pic on Instagram and wrote in the caption, “Hey up Jax.” In the photo, the 41-year-old Brit was shirtless as he smiled for the camera.
All seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy are available on Hulu. Apple TV+ has not yet announced a premiere date for Shantaram.
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