Charlie Hunnam dropping out of Pacific Rim 2 was like a giant ball and chain to the face of the film.
Photo: Universal

When Pacific Rim Uprising director Steven DeKnight found out that Charlie Hunnam wasn’t coming back for the sequel, everything changed. io9 spoke to the director about what exactly happened behind the scenes when he lost his star, and it’ll have fans clamoring for what could have been.

“There were actually three different scripts that developed previously at Legendary, all vastly different,” DeKnight explained. “So I read all three. I took some inspiration, a little bit here, a little bit there, But really it was a new story originally developed with Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh as the main character.”

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Uprising is DeKnight’s feature directorial debut, but the executive producer of Spartacus and Daredevil brought some of that TV experience with him to get the script just right.

“I put together a writers room for two weeks,” DeKnight said. “From that room I chose two of the writers [Emily Carmichael and Kira Snyder] to co-write the script. We all kind of dogpiled on it and wrote the Raleigh draft, the infamous Raleigh draft! We finished it, handed it in, Legendary loved it and the next morning I saw on Deadline Hollywood that Charlie was doing his passion project, the remake of Papillion, that shot at exactly the same time this movie had to shoot. So we had to throw that out.”

DeKnight and his team kept the basic structure of the film but changed the main characters into a brother and a sister.

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“We finished [the script] and nobody liked it, including me, and I helped write it,” DeKnight said. “And then [producers] Mary [Parent] and Guillermo [del Toro] came up with this idea of the son of Stacker Pentecost.”

Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba, was one of the supporting heroes in the first film who sacrificed himself to save the world. That’s a tough thing for a son to live up to and the idea excited everyone involved. Armed with this fresh take, DeKnight brought in T.S. Nowlin, writer of the Maze Runner movies, to do a new pass and everyone was happy. Then, it was just about finding someone to take on the role of Jake Pentecost.

John Boyega’s addition to Pacific Rim Uprising saved the movie.
Photo: Universal

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“Mary suggested, ‘What do you think about John Boyega?,’ DeKnight said. “And I said ‘I love him but there’s no way he’s going to do this movie. He’s already in a huge scifi franchise.’”

So they hatched a plan. Boyega was scheduled to come in for a general meeting with Legendary and Parent decided to put all the Pacific Rim concept art in a conference room and just walk him by it.

“It turns out he’s a huge giant monster and anime fan,” DeKnight said. “He loved it and signed on. That was really the make or break for the movie.”

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Pacific Rim Uprising comes out March 23. We’ll have more soon.