Jennifer Ehle may be best known for starring in the chaste romance Pride & Prejudice but she’s set to appear in what could be the raunchiest love story to hit the screen. Following the controversial decision to cast Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam as the two leads, Ehle has been tapped to take on a supporting role in Fifty Shades of Grey.
The news comes just as the highly anticipated flick is set to begin production.
Deadline is reporting that the British actress has signed on to appear in the screen adaptation of the Twilight–inspired novel. The 43-year-old will star as Anastasia Steele’s mother Carla. Written by E.L. James, the BDSM tale centers on a naive college student (Dakota Johnson), who agrees to become the sexual submissive of a confidant, but emotionally damaged billionaire (Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam). Released in 2011, the book has sold over 70 million copies worldwide. There’s no denying that the novel and its two followups, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, are now bound (no pun intended) in pop culture history.
While the book is filled with eye-rolling exchanges and a rambling internal narrative about Anastasia’s “inner goddess,” the screen version is being handled by an esteemed creative team–who could potentially turn the story into something intriguing for non-fans as well. Earlier this year, it was announced that the Oscar-nominated team behind The Social Network, Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, had been chosen to produce the film while Saving Mr. Banks scribe Kelly Marcel was selected to pen the script. In June, Sam Taylor-Johnson, best known for her effecting John Lennon bi0pic Nowhere Boy, was announced as the drama’s director. The award-winning Ehle’s involvement serves as further proof that Fifty Shades of Grey could be a film of depth and substance that will outshine the book.
In addition to the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, which is credited with turning Colin Firth into an object of desire for woman everywhere, the Tony-winning Ehle is also known for acclaimed stage work in both London and New York. Over the last few years, she’s appeared in a slew of high-profile projects, like the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech, The Ides of March and Contagion. Most filmgoers will remember her best as a doomed CIA officer in last year’s riveting Zero Dark Thirty.
Those who have read the Fifty Shades know that Carla does not feature prominently in the story, though that may not be true in Marcel’s script. Though, the project should allow Ehle to juggle the many projects she has in the pipeline – and she’ll surely bring something intriguing to the role of the thrice married Southerner (regardless of screen time).
Next year, the actress will appear in Jose Padilha-directed remake of RoboCop as well as the ensemble drama A Little Chaos, opposite Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman and Stanley Tucci.
Fifty Shades of Grey is set to hit theaters on August 1, 2014.