Charlie Hunnam announced over the weekend that he was dropping out of the film adaptation of “50 Shades of Grey” and the search has begun for a new leading man. Rumors are that Irish actor James Dornan is the new favorite to play Christian Grey. Relative unknown Dakota Johnson is still set to star as leading lady Anastasia Steele.

The 31 year old Co Down native recently played a serial killer in the drama “The Fall.” He starred in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and has been on the TV series “Once Upon a Time.” Dornan has also appeared in several modeling campaigns including Dior, Armani, Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein.

Hunnam stepped out of the film after scheduling conflicts with the TV series “Sons of Anarchy” came up. Some rumors suggested that Hunnam left the project after getting cold feet from all the media attention. A statement from Universal Pictures said that Hunnam left because of his “immersive TV schedule which is not allowing him to adequately prepare for the role of Christian Grey.”

Garrett Hedlund was informally offered the role, but is busy working on “Unbroken” with Angelina Jolie. Other actors rumored for the part include Alexander Skarsgard, who stars in TV series “True Blood,” Christian Cooke and Theo James. Cooke and James were both originally considered for the role before Hunnam signed on.

The change in casting is a pleasant surprise for fans of the book the movie is based on. Fans had created a petition on that received 87,000 votes for Matt Bomer to play the part. Bomer was recently seen in the summer blockbuster “Magic Mike.”

Sam Taylor-Johnson is directing and Oscar nominated screenwriter Patrick Marber is rewriting the script. “50 Shades of Grey” is based on the erotic novel by British author EL James. It is the first novel in the Fifty Shades trilogy about business tycoon Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steele. “50 Shades of Grey” is popular with women and word of mouth helped boost it to a best seller. Conversely, the book has been criticized for violence and outdated treatment of women.

Filming is expected to start in Vancouver, British Columbia in November and the film is expected to be released in the United States in August 2014.