How, exactly, Universal and Focus Features are planning to market Fifty Shades of Grey – based on the E.L James best-seller, which originated as erotic Twilight fan-fiction (not kidding) – is a question we’re all wondering what the answer is to. The studios neglected to touch on the subject matter in a press release confirming screenwriter Kelly Marcel; at this point, one can only imagine trailers are either be very misleading (and make the film look like a Nicholas Sparks romance) or go the Evil Dead red band trailer route and show the shock-inducing visuals in store for moviegoers.
Indeed, Universal might choose the second option, especially if Marcel has her way and Fifty Shades of Grey is released with an NC-17 Rating. More on that after the jump.
Marcel created the short-lived Terra Nova TV series and wrote Disney’s upcoming Saving Mr. Banks, but Fifty Shades of Grey is the project that’ll put her name on the map (good or bad). She refers to the book as a “modern love story” during an interview with Style Magazine (via The Telegraph) and insists that, yes, there is more to recommend James’ literary phenomenon than kinky sex appeal.
“Regardless of what you may think of [James'] writing, this is a modern love story, involving two complex characters, and that’s what I’m interested in. You have to work at it and talk about s— and figure it out, regardless of what that s— may be. I don’t care what anybody says, there is something about Christian [Grey] that is old-fashioned and romantic.”
Interestingly, I was discussing Fifty Shades of Grey with a friend recently (as you do) and our discussion turned to Secretary, a 2002 film starring James Spader as (no joke) Mr. Grey: a successful lawyer who, like Christian Grey, has a twisted side and engages in a dominance and submission/sadomasochistic relationship with his secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal). That film likewise approaches the sex subject from a female writer’s perspective and uses humor to tell the story, without also shying away from the troubling aspects of its characters’ personalities (or the “WTF?” factor of their behavior).
Secretary, at the end of the day, is more about damaged souls discovering genuine intimacy (through the most socially-unacceptable of ways) as expressed through wit and tenderness, rather than serving soft-porn thrills; hence, it works so well as it does. The Fifty Shades of the Grey movie, on the other hand, is gearing up to feature as much swooning melodrama and crazy sex-capades from James’ book as possible, if Marcel gets her way.
“Well, there is going to be a lot of sex in the film,” she said. “It will be NC-17 [the equivalent of a British 18 certificate]. It’s going to be raunchy. We are 100 per cent going there…We did go through and decide which are our [favorite moments] and which are not. Most of them are in there, but I can’t say more than that.”
Universal has since issued an official statement clarifying “A screenplay has not yet been written, a rating has not been designated, and we have no further comment.” Still, if the whole idea is to just go for it (and not find a more palpable approach, a la Secretary), then would studio heads allow for a theatrical cut that’s Rated NC-17? Focus Features did it with Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and Momentum Pictures did it last year with Shame; then again, one look at their box office returns (or those for any Rated NC-17 flick) and you’ll understand just why Universal might prefer to release an R-Rated version for theaters instead.
… That is, before unveiling an Unrated cut on DVD and Blu-ray (as a surefire way to guarantee better home video disc sales).
We will keep you up-to-date on Fifty Shades of Grey.