NEW YORK -- Charlie Hunnam is dropping out of the highly anticipated big-screen version of "Fifty Shades of Grey" just weeks after being cast as the lead, citing his busy schedule.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features announced Saturday that the British actor who was to play Christian Grey will depart the project. The studio called it a mutual decision because Hunnam's preparation time was limited by his television schedule. He stars in the FX series "Sons of Anarchy."
It's an abrupt and embarrassing switch for a high-profile film. Fans of E L James' erotic best-seller are eagerly awaiting the movie adaptation, which will be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.
Dakota Johnson remains in the co-starring role of Anastasia Steele. A replacement will be sought for Hunnam, who last month said he initially turned down the role.
When his casting was announced in September, many vented online that the "Pacific Rim" actor was ill suited to play the seductive billionaire. Producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca took to Twitter to defend the choice, maintaining their two leads had good chemistry together.
Representatives for Hunnam didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle
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