There were a few unexpected hiccups during pre-production, but the Fifty Shades of Grey movie has officially begun shooting, nearly a year and a half after producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips) secured the screen rights to E.L. James’ best-selling erotic novel. Dakota Johnson (Ben and Kate) is playing (ahem) inexperienced college student Anastasia Steele in the film, starring opposite Jamie Dornan (Once Upon a Time) – the replacement for original star Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) – as the brooding and mysterious billionaire, Christian Grey.

Since the first day of filming was delayed (and the project pushed back to 2015), Fifty Shades of Grey has gained character actor Max Martini (Pacific Rim) as a cast member, along with actress Eloise Mumford (The River). They have joined a supporting cast that includes award-winner Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) as Anastasia’s mother, as well as Luke Grimes (True Blood) as Christian’s brother and Victor Rasuk (Godzilla) as José Rodriguez, the requisite third wheel in the movie’s Twilight-inspired love triangle.

Fifty Shades of Grey began principal photography in Vancouver, Canada, over the Thanksgiving weekend, as James revealed through her Instagram account. The first set images from the production – with Johnson and Dornan filming a scene where Anastasia and Christian get coffee together (try and contain your excitement now) – have dropped online, showing the pair in character at a cafe in the city’s GasTown District. You can see one such photo over at EW, which includes Anastasia’s inner-monologue during this event (as described in James’ book).

Here is the pic that James posted, from the Fifty Shades of Grey set:

While the Fifty Shades of Grey cast is a blend of eye candy actors/actresses and seasoned acting vets, the team behind the camera is quite respectable in every regard.

In addition to Brunetti and De Luca as producers (they also backed titles like The Social Network and Moneyball), the film’s production crew includes director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy), cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina), Oscar-winning costume designer Mark Bridges (The Master) and screenwriter Kelly Marcel, who penned the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks (which has been generating legitimate Oscar buzz) and has seen her original script draft doctored by Patrick Marber (Closer, Notes on a Scandal) then further revised by Mark Bomback (The Wolverine).

So why, exactly, are these highly-profile talents working on a movie like this (which many have already dismissed as a mainstream skin flick for women) – besides $$$, that is? Well, both Taylor-Johnson and Marcel have said they view Anastasia and Christian – the latter being a masochistic control freak in the bedroom – to be fascinatingly multi-dimensional characters. As such, a drama like Fifty Shades of Grey presents a chance for the storytellers to examine physical attraction and sexual desire in a high-minded, artistic fashion (minus the pulp and satire of, say, a Basic Instinct-type film).

Whether you buy into that or not, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie is very much on its way to becoming a reality. Now we just have to wait for the inevitable red-band trailer, to find out what kind of monster this film is shaping up to be (though, it probably won’t give Lars von Trier’s upcoming Nymphomaniac a run for its money in the whacked-out artsy sex exploration film department).

Fifty Shades of Grey opens just in time for Valentine’s Day on February 13th, 2015.

Source: E.L. James, EW