The Fifty Shades of Grey movie has been courting a lot of attention (not all of it good) since Universal sent it down the production pipeline with acclaimed director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) at the helm. The story – about a college senior who meets a sexually eccentric young billionaire and begins a strange BDSM relationship with him – has been a bestselling book trilogy and was (for a moment) a serious cultural fixation – which is why the question of the lead actors in the film version has been a big one.
Aside from those now-defunct Emma Watson rumors, or the more credible whispers that Arrow star Stephen Amell could take the role of the titular Christian Grey, a more recent report pointed to Social Network actress Dakota Johnson and Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam being our principal pair for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. And now that looks to be the case, officially.
Deadline dropped the confirmation about Johnson, while the more controversial casting of Hunnam was confirmed by Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James via Twitter. There’s not much to say about this bit of news, other than to discuss what would normally be a very crass topic, but is wholly relevant in this rare case: Are these the two people we want to see naked onscreen sexing each other in between handcuffing, whipping, and other forms of S&M play?
In the case of Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, BTW): aside from that somewhat memorable panty-shot scene with Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, few moviegoers are likely to be overly familiar (or smitten) with the actress’s looks – but that doesn’t mean she’s not a fit for the role. In books, Anastasia Steele (Johnson’s character) was initially insecure about her own looks when compared to the handsome Christian Grey – and one could see that dynamic playing out in believable fashion between Johnson and Charlie “Heartthrob” Hunnam. She certainly had charm in her lead role in Fox’s freshman sitcom Ben & Kate – and people do remember that rear shot from Social Network - so she should do alright, “ahem,” pleasing both hardcore fans of the books and casual moviegoers alike.
In the case of the Hunnam, the discussion is much simpler: Ladies (both inside and outside of the film screen) were swooning when the actor went shirtless in Pacific Rim - so the notion of Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy getting down and dirty in the buff is going to be BIG motivation (no pun) for a large female demographic to buy tickets – whether they like the Fifty Shades of Grey novel or not.
With the leads now secured, it falls on Taylor-Johnson and her screenwriter Kelly Marcel (Terra Nova) to create a cinematic experience that is more than a exploitative skin-flick – while possibly having to elevate the questionable storytelling abilities of E.L. James, as well. That’s not to mention the mountain of stigma facing this property, or the task of selling a highly-explict (possibly NC-17) film to the masses.
How do you feel about this casting?
Fifty Shades of Grey will be in theaters on August 1, 2014.