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Charlie Hunnam is returning to television in the new Apple TV+ series Shantaram. Hunnam is, of course, best known for playing outlaw biker Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy for seven seasons. But in his new series, the 42-year-old Brit is playing a real-life outlaw.

shantaram charlie hunnam
Charlie Hunnam in ‘Shantaram’ | Apple TV+

Charlie Hunnam plays a real-life outlaw in the new AppleTV+ series ‘Shantaram’

Shanataram is based on a 2003 international best-selling novel of the same name from Australian author Gregory David Roberts. The former heroin addict told his story in Shantaram and the sequel novel The Mountain Shadow

In the new series, Hunnam plays convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict Lin, who escapes from Pentridge Prison and flees to India “to get lost in vibrant and chaotic 1980s Bombay.” Once there, he reinvents himself as a doctor in a slum before embarking on a number of crazy adventures.

In the book, those adventures include working as a Bollywood extra, forging counterfeit passports in Mumbai, drug smuggling, and arms trafficking for the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The book was initially marketed as a “true story.” But Roberts later reframed the book and its sequel — The Mountain Shadow — as “novels, not autobiographies.”

“Some experiences from my life are described pretty much as they happened, and others are created narratives, informed by my experience,” Roberts said in 2015, per Entertainment Weekly.

Shantaram is now described as a “thrilling and profound” story that explores love, forgiveness, and courage on the “long road to redemption.”

This bizarre story was told in a 933-page ‘autobiographical’ novel

When Roberts’ 933-page “autobiographical” novel first came out nearly two decades ago, it was a best-seller in both Australia and India. But the origins of the book date back much further. 

He says he was in the philosophy department at Melbourne University in 1976 when he developed a drug habit. That led to him committing a string of robberies — with a toy gun in hand — that landed him in a maximum-security prison.

Roberts says that three years into his sentence he managed to escape, and that’s when his adventures told in Shantaram begin. Eventually, he was recaptured and sent back to prison. In 1991, while still behind bars, he started writing Shantaram. However, he says the manuscript was destroyed twice before he was able to finish it.

”I was about 400 pages in when I came back from an exercise period and discovered that a prison officer had torn my manuscript into tiny fragments and that they were flowing out of the toilet bowl. He was a very harsh critic. If you get past something like that, you can take some criticism when you get it from book reviewers,” Roberts told Entertainment Weekly.

‘Shantaram’ was in the works for years as a movie before development as a TV series

Shantaram immediately attracted some of the biggest names in Hollywood when it was released in 2003. Russell Crowe was the first to express interest in starring in a film based on the book. But when a film project went into development in 2004, it had Johnny Depp attached as the star. 

However, the project ended up stuck in development hell for over a decade. Nothing ever came of it. And by 2015, Warner’s rights to the project had expired. This left the project open for someone else to scoop up. And in January 2018, US production company Anonymous Content acquired the rights and hired Hunnam as the lead. According to Roberts, Hunnam is the perfect actor to portray him.


Everything ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Star Charlie Hunnam Has Said About Returning as Jax Teller

“I wish that in my young life I’d been more like Charlie, because I know I’d have avoided so much harm that I did to others and myself,” Roberts said after meeting Hunnam. “He’s an inspiration, a terrific actor, and a profoundly spiritual man as well.”

Shantaram starring Charlie Hunnam premieres October 14 on Apple TV+.