It’s safe to say that – despite its detractors – E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels have been among the most successful books to hit shelves – or e-readers, as the case may be – in recent years, and last year’s announcement that a film adaptation was in development surprised absolutely no one as a result. Yet, the much-anticipated (or –dreaded, depending on who you ask) project has faced greater-than-expected difficulty in actually coming together.

Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Johnson is onboard, and Universal recently brought screenwriter Patrick Marber (Closer, Notes on a Scandal) in to refine the existing script. However, the mysterious departure of leading man Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) now puts the Fifty Shades of Grey film in a rough place, especially if it intends to meet its 2014 release date.

E! Online recently spoke with Hunnam about why he backed away from the role of billionaire Christian Grey. Here’s what the actor had to say:

“I am doing good. I am just really concentrating on work. It’s been a really busy time…I have had some family stuff going on so just trying to stay focused and stay positive and keep trying to do a good job at work and be with my family and stay positive.”

The report mentions that Hunnam’s father passed away last year, accounting for the “family stuff” the actor has on his plate. In addition, he is currently working on season 6 of the FX series Sons of Anarchy, which may be nearing the end of its run, according to the actor.

“It’s obviously going to be a really emotional time for us. We are like a family and have become very, very close and become dear friends to each other so it’s going to be sad and finish up and say goodbye to everyone, but we’ve got like 13, maybe even a few more, episodes. There’s rumor that we might do a couple of more episodes and do a little bit of an extended season next year, so we will see if that happens. It may or it may not. But I just want to finish that strong and go on to a new chapter of life.”

It’s hard to argue with Hunnam’s sentiment about wanting to focus on his family life and the projects he’s already committed to, including a reunion with Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro for haunted house thriller Crimson Peak. Jumping aboard a prospective franchise like Fifty Shades of Grey – and such a divisive and controversial one at that – might not have been the smartest move for the up-and-coming movie star.

In any case, Universal will have to act fast to replace Hunnam. True Blood star Alexander Skarsgård and lesser-known actors like Jamie Dornan, Theo James and Christian Cooke are reportedly in the running to headline the Fifty Shades of Grey film opposite Dakota Johnson. Expect an announcement sooner rather than later, especially if Universal hopes to get the film out there while the book is still a hot topic.

Fifty Shades of Grey is currently set for release on August 1, 2014. Stay tuned to Screen Rant for the latest as the film makes its way to production.

Source: E! Online