From its origins as a Twilight fan fiction called “Master of the Universe” (sadly, He-Man wasn’t in the original draft), E.L. James’ erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey was successfully retooled and published to an eager audience, becoming a huge success practically overnight and winning the hearts of a predominantly female reader base.

Fifty Shades of Grey broke records as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, and has already sold well over 70 million copies, but its popularity alone isn’t enough to guarantee interest from big-name actors. Due to the nature of the story, the film will almost certainly require its stars to sign nudity clauses, and to perform in some pretty kinky sex scenes.

Harry Potter star Emma Watson responded to rumors of her involvement scornfully, asking, “Who here actually thinks I would do 50 Shades of Grey as a movie? Like really. For real. In real life.” Other actresses who have reportedly turned down the role of Anastasia Steele include Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina).

According to The Wrap, director Sam Taylor-Johnson and the producers at Universal currently have their eye on Dakota Johnson, a model who has already begun making the move into acting with roles in The Social Network, 21 Jump Street and The Five-Year Engagement. Johnson is described as a “serious contender” for the role of protagonist Anastasia Steele, an English Literature student who is sent to interview rich CEO Christian Grey, and finds her love life quickly turned upside-down.

The response from critics was mixed, with some reviewers praising it as enjoyable, saucy fun and others condemning it for its awkward dialogue and repetition of the same words or phrases, as well as the weakness of the plot and characters. Members of the BDSM community have also criticized Fifty Shades of Grey for being a poor representation of sado-masochism and bondage, romanticizing an unhealthy relationship and insinuating that an interest in handcuffs and leather is a sign of childhood trauma (Christian explains to his beloved Ana that he enjoys whipping girls like her because “you all look like the crack whore – my birth mother.”)

The role of Fifty Shades of Grey‘s charming ladies man will not be decided until Ana has already been cast, but Arrow actor Stephen Amell has confirmed that he was called in to audition. Joining Amell in the running, according to Twitch, is Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam, who is apparently the producers’ current top choice to play the role. This doesn’t mean that Hunnam has expressed an interest, however, and considering Hunnam is moving on to Guillermo del Toro’s horror film Crimson Peak, the production schedules may end up clashing. The Guardian reports that Hunnam’s representatives have already denied any involvement with Fifty Shades of Grey.

With the scheduled shooting date a scant couple of months away, the chosen actors will no doubt be confirmed before too long. In the meantime, we don’t recommend telling women that they look like crack whores; that line probably doesn’t work as well in real life as it does for Christian Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey opens in theaters on August 1st, 2014.

Source: Twitch, The Wrap, The Guardian