Tony-nominated actor Billy Magnussen is among a small group of men who have begun testing for the role of Christian Grey in the big-screen adaptation of EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features restarted their efforts to fill the male lead after Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnamdropped out of the project Oct. 12. Their shortlist of possibilities includes Magnussen and British actor Jamie Dornan.
Sources say that both Dornan, the 31-year-old star of the U.K. series The Fall, and the 28-year-old Magnussen, who was nominated for a best featured actor Tony this year for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, tested with director Sam Taylor-Johnson on Friday. They read opposite female lead Dakota Johnson.
The studio is looking to move fast, given that the film is scheduled to begin production Nov. 1 in order to meet an Aug. 1, 2014, release date.
Magnussen, an American actor, is scheduled to shoot HBO’s David Milch pilot The Money in the next few weeks, but sources say his schedule could be worked out for Fifty Shades. He would be a departure for the mostly British production. James, Taylor-Johnson and writer Kelly Marcel all are U.K. natives, as is Hunnam.
Magnussen isn’t afraid to take over a project after another actor falls out. He replaced Jake Gyllenhaal as Rapunzel’s Prince in Disney’s musical Into the Woods.