It’s been nearly three years since Sons of Anarchy ended its run, but we can’t forget this sensational biker-centric drama. Under any normal circumstance, a show about a group of rebel motorcyclists shouldn’t last seven seasons on a major network, but SOA defied all expectations as it went on to become one of the greatest TV series ever.
Even so, its stars and creator were never too far from the controversy, as the storylines rattled the censors and the mayhem drifted from the screen to behind the scenes. Speaking to GQ, Charlie Hunnam said, “I put everything I had into that show. I lived it as much as I could. I never got in a car the whole seven years. I was only on my bike and rolling around with a bunch of real bikers and occasionally acting like a maniac.”
It sounds like there was a lot of blurred lines between fiction and reality on set, but what about some of the darker secrets behind the making of the show? With so much chaos and high drama in the Teller family circle, we had a look at what was brimming on the other side of the camera.
With that said, here are the 15 Dark Secrets Behind The Making Of Sons Of Anarchy.
15. Kurt Sutter Angered A Real-Life Motorcycle Gang
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter is quite outspoken and unafraid of telling you what he thinks about something. So, when the reality show The Devils Ride billed itself as a “real-life Sons of Anarchy,” Sutter had some choice words about it.
Venting on Twitter, Sutter said, “Watched [The Devils] Ride. Probably get in trouble for saying this, but I’m pretty sure my SOA actors could kick the s**t out of this ‘real’ MC.”
TMZ reached out to a member of Devils Ride who goes by the name of Sandman, and he said, “Here’s a reality check for you, Kurt. I am sending a personal invitation to your pretty-faced Kurt Cobain lookalike star Jax to come down to San Diego and prove your point. And tell him to wear those shiny white kicks too. I hope he’s a size 11, I could use some new shoes.” Yikes.
14. The Dark Tragedy Of Johnny Lewis
Sons of Anarchy was an extreme show, depicting brutal and heinous levels of violence. However, no one expected the actors to be as intense or aggressive in real life.
Johnny Lewis, who portrayed Kip “Half-Sack” Epps on the show, committed a shocking and depraved crime. On September 26, 2012, Lewis killed his 81-year-old landlady and her cat in her home, and assaulted a painter and home owner next door. After the police were called, Lewis was found dead, with the LAPD determining that he must’ve fallen or jumped from the roof, garage, or patio of his landlady’s villa.
Kurt Sutter tweeted about the incident, saying, “It was a tragic end for an extremely talented guy who unfortunately had lost his way. I wish I could say that I was shocked by the events last night, but I was not. I am deeply sorry that an innocent life had to be thrown into his destructive path.”
13. David Labrava Was A Real Member Of The Hells Angels
A good actor convinces you that he/she is really that person in real life. Sometimes, though, the actors are actually portraying something they’re deeply familiar with – as was the case with David Labrava who played Happy in SOA.
As a member of Hells Angels, Labrava was originally cast as a technical advisor for the show. “I got hired to be the technical advisor and when Kurt [Sutter] came up to my area to get some technical advice on the motorcycle club world, I showed him that I wrote scripts and I asked him to let me have a chance when he cast the show,” he said to Crave.
12. Cast Members Passed Out On Set And Had To Be Taken To Hospital
If you watch any episode of SOA, it looks like it was filmed in extreme hot conditions – and it was. The days were long and sweltering – sometimes reaching 100 degrees in the Sun Valley, Los Angeles area.
In fact, it was so hot that the cast members would pass out and occasionally needed to go to hospital due to heat stroke. Kim Coates said, “We used to call it doing ‘the timber.’ We’d lose a crew member a week from passing out. Boom. Gone.”
Reportedly, Tommy Flanagan also had to be taken to hospital to get an IV once due to dehydration. Heck, there were even designated umbrella holders whose sole responsibility was to protect the stars in between takes. Taking this into account, we’re pretty certain that no cast member misses those long and sweaty days on set.
11. The Parents Television Council Went After An Episode
To be clear, there were more than a few episodes that upset the censors and networks. How some of this stuff made it past the bigwigs at the studio is still surprising, but it’s sure fun to see the Parents Television Council (PTC) squirm at the content.
In the tenth episode of the seventh season, titled “Faith and Despondency”, SAMCRO members decided to get over the death of Bobby Munson by getting jiggy with it. In typical SOA form, the episode opened up with approximately two-and-a-half minutes of several couples sleeping together.
The montage rattled the PTC, which deemed it inappropriate and called it the most explicit content it had ever documented on basic cable. Weirdly enough, the organization didn’t have an issue with Jax Teller tearing out someone’s eye in the episode.
10. Kurt Sutter Swore At The Studio When It Tried To Interfere
In case you haven’t noticed, Kurt Sutter isn’t shy of letting his true feelings be known. Keeping it diplomatic, however, is something that he struggles with (or excels at, depending on your stance).
In one of what we presume to be hundreds of blowouts with the studio, Sutter raged on his keyboard and sent a stinking email to a studio employee, stating, “Crawl out of my a** and let me do my f***ing job.” It was certainly more effective than a “no, let’s agree to disagree on this topic here.”
Unfortunately, this little faux pas led to him being slapped with a hostile-work-environment claim, which we don’t think bothered him one bit. It wasn’t the first time that he was accused of being abrasive – and we don’t think it’ll be the last.
9. Marilyn Manson Insulted Courtney Love On Twitter
In the final season of the show, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson appeared as a school teacher and white supremacist respectively. While it’s common for musicians to cross the divide to the TV world, the pairing of these two was interesting considering the fact that Manson never missed a beat to take a potshot at Love.
As expected, it didn’t take him too long to insult Love once again. After crossing paths at the red carpet premiere of the final season, Manson tweeted out a photo of the two of them with the caption: “This is what prison r**e looks like in my nightmares.”
Love responded, less controversially, “Hmm @marilynmanson nice to see you haven’t changed! #hilarious”
8. Season Two’s Opening Episode Caused Tension Between Katey Sagal And Kurt Sutter
While as viewers we gasped at some of the lengths that SOA went to, the actors were equally affected by the controversial moments too. In the opening episode of season two titled “Albification”, Katey Sagal’s Gemma Teller Morrow is attacked and assaulted by a group of men in a truly disturbing and uneasy scene.
Naturally, such a part can cause trauma to anyone and Sagal admitted that it wasn’t easy at home with her husband Kurt Sutter after filming it.
“In the second season and what transpired in the first episode, it actually was – I call it – it was a rough six weeks. The commitment you want to make with material like this, as an actor, you have to shake the stuff off, but this was a particular experience where it was difficult,” she said to Digital Journal.
7. Kurt Sutter Fought With Tommy Flanagan
Is there anyone whom Kurt Sutter didn’t fight with? After having arguments with pretty much everyone involved in the production of Sons of Anarchy, Sutter didn’t want to leave Tommy Flanagan out.
Reportedly, the two got into a heated shouting match on set back in 2012. While there was no physical altercation or the need for the police (despite what one source suggested), the emotions spilled over between the creator and actor.
Later in the day, Sutter cryptically tweeted, “Very hard day in Charming. It’s my job to be the adult in the room. Unfortunately, today that adult was my father. Al was an angry man.” Nonetheless, neither Flanagan nor Sutter left the show after this incident, so they must’ve kissed and patched things up eventually.
6. Ron Perlman Was Scared Of His Bike
It might be hard to fathom, but the big and burly Ron Perlman, who played the tough guy Clay Morrow on the show, was originally afraid of his Harley-Davidson. In fact, before the series started production, Perlman had never been on a motorcycle and knew nothing about the bike culture.
Perlman took many riding lessons and suffered several mishaps as he attempted to grow accustomed to his two-wheels. However, this didn’t stop Kurt Sutter from having a laugh at his expense and labeling his falls as “near-death experiences.”
Fortunately, for Perlman and the show, he overcame his fear and learned how to control his bike just in time. Still, we’d pay good money to see the behind-the-scenes footage of him falling down while trying to ride his motorcycle.
5. Scott Glenn Was Originally Clay Morrow, But The Studio Canned Him
When Sons of Anarchy was ready to shoot its pilot, it wasn’t Ron Perlman in the shoes of Clay Morrow, but rather Scott Glenn. However, once the show got the green light, a decision was made to replace Glenn with Perlman.
Speaking to The A.V. Club, Glenn said, “Yeah, I did the pilot, and then they called me up – I remember my agent called me up and said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘The network is going to go ahead with the series, but not with you playing that part.'”
“So essentially, ‘You’re fired,’ but, ‘We liked the series, but we don’t want you for whatever reason.’ And I have my own ideas about why that was, but what is it they say? When one door closes, another one opens? It was ultimately probably one of the better things that could’ve happened to me,” he said.
4. Tommy Flanagan’s Scars Are Real
Tommy Flanagan’s Chibs Telford is one tough guy on Sons of Anarchy and his facial scars look like the mark of a warrior who survived a war. The truth here is that Flanagan did survive an attack in real life.
Flanagan grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. One night, as he was leaving the nightclub where he worked as a DJ, he was attacked by a group of thugs. Flanagan fought back but was stabbed. The attackers slashed his face from ear to ear, leaving him with a Glasgow Smile and left for dead. Flanagan pulled through and then decided to pursue an acting career.
3. Kurt Sutter Had Beef With Charlie Hunnam
Kurt Sutter had issues with another actor? We’re so surprised to hear this — not. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Charlie Hunnam appeared to criticize the show’s creative process, saying, “There’s a philosophy here, which I don’t always agree with as an actor, that it’s better for actors to know as little as possible.”
“I actually don’t agree with that because most of my experiences in acting are in film, where you know all of the answers going in, and you make your choices accordingly,” he stated.
As expected, Sutter shot back at him on Donald Trump’s favorite platform. “I regret some of my cast feel that the writers are conspiring to ‘keep actors in the dark.’ I love my cast and try to challenge their talent with quality writing and deep, three-dimensional stories … that effort requires focus and time. Perhaps if they were doing a network procedural they’d have a show-runner who could tell them everything and assuage their apprehension,” he said.
2. It’s Not Charlie Hunnam’s Back In The Opening Credits
One of the constants of the series was Charlie Hunnam’s Jax Teller taking off his kit to the delight of his fans. Instantly noticeable was the MC’s logo that was tattooed across his back, which we all saw in the end shot of the show’s opening sequence.
However, that shot isn’t of Hunnam’s back, but a double’s. Tyler Sullivan got the gig as Hunnam’s body double for the shot and even for the part where we see a hand opening a knife and revving the bike in the credits.
It’s surprising that a double was used for these shots since Hunnam opted to do many of the show’s more intimate scenes, but not the opening sequence. Was he really that self-conscious of his hand and back at the time?
1. Tig’s Fear Of Dolls Is Inspired By Kurt Sutter’s Real Fear
Tig Trager was one of the more interesting characters in the series. He strayed away from many stereotypes of motorcyclists and his relationship with transgender adult worker Venus Van Dam was groundbreaking for TV at the time.
While Tig didn’t have a problem with getting his hands bloody, he certainly wouldn’t be the first person in line to watch Annabelle, as he suffered from acute pediophobia, which is the irrational fear of dolls.
It might seem like a bizarre character trait, but it’s inspired by Kurt Sutter’s real-life fear. Speaking to Complex, Sutter said, “It’s dolls with life-like features. Dolls have always creeped me out. In fact, when Katey [Sagal] and I first started dating, she had these weird dolls in the living room of her house. I’d always get up and turn them the other way whenever she left the room because I felt that they were watching us.”
Do you know any other secrets about Sons of Anarchy that we might’ve missed? Let us know in the comments section!
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