Development on the Fifty Shades of Grey movie has been a point of fascination, if only due to sheer curiosity about who, exactly, would agree to play virgin college student Anastasia Steele and her… ahem… extremely-troubled older lover Christian Grey in the film. The guessing game seemingly came to an end last month, when model-turned actress Dakota Johnson (The Social Network) and the Sons of Anarchy heartthrob Charlie Hunnam were officially set to headline the steamy pop literature adaptation.

However, with less than a month left until principal photography was (is?) slated to begin on the movie, Hunnam has backed out; meaning, the role of Mr. Grey is now available for another hunky 20-something actor to slide into (but possibly not for long, if Universal wants to keep to its planned filming start date and the currently-scheduled Summer 2014 release date).

As mentioned in the report from Variety, there was many a Fifty Shades of Grey who was vocal about their dissatisfaction with the casting of Hunnam; enough that, in fact, producer Dana Brunetti (Captain Phillips) responded to the outcry via social media (following the launch of a petition against the casting that garnered tens of thousands of signatures). That said, the official reason given for Hunnam’s departure concerns his ongoing TV responsibilities to Sons of Anarchy.

Here is an official statement, issued by Universal:

“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.”

It’s also worth noting that Hunnam is preparing for a reunion with his Pacific Rim director, Guillermo del Toro, on the latter’s upcoming haunted house throwback feature, Crimson Peak (which is scheduled to begin production in the first quarter of 2014). In other words, although we cannot rule out the chance that Hunnam had second thoughts about starring in such a controversial project as Fifty Shades of Grey, he does have a lot on his plate right now – enough for Hunnam to be justified in dropping out for that reason, anyway.

So who, then, is a reasonable (in terms of availability, that is) candidate to replace Hunnam as Christina Grey? Well, Arrow lead actor Stephen Amell confirmed that he auditioned for the role earlier this year, but he – like Hunnam – has ongoing TV show responsibilities that could prevent him from coming aboard. Meanwhile, there’s the fan-preferred casting choice of Matt Bomer (White Collar), in addition to Alex Pettyfer – who reportedly starred in a test scene that Gus Van Sant filmed, back when the latter had made a pitch for the director’s job on the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (though, Pettyfer is since reported to have auditioned for a role in Star Wars: Episode VII).

It’ll be interesting to see who does, in fact, end up replacing Hunnam on Fifty Shades of Grey, what with respectable talent like Saving Mr. Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel and Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Johnson calling the shots. Fans of E.L. James’ Twilight-inspired best-selling novel: now’s your chance to sound off in the comments section and give a shout-out for your dream candidate to play Christian Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey is currently scheduled to open in theaters on August 1st, 2014.

Source: Variety