Fifty Shades of Grey, an extremely popular novel written by a woman and read by millions of women, was also a rare case where the film adaptation was likewise both written and directed by women. However, it now appears that the second film in the series will be both written and directed by men, instead.
Niall Leonard – the husband of Fifty Shades book author E.L. James- has been locked in as the screenwriter of the second Fifty Shades adaptation for months - and now, it appears that James Foley is on track to direct the sequel, titled Fifty Shades Darker.
Variety reported Monday that Foley, best known as the director of Glengarry Glen Ross, has been formally offered the directing job by Universal, with negotiations on an official deal beginning shortly; Foley’s name had surfaced as the frontrunner for the job earlier this month. Mark Wellington and Tanya Wexler were the other finalists, after Sam Taylor-Johnson bowed out of the franchise in March, shortly after the release of the first Fifty Shades film. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are already locked in to return for the next chapter in Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey's (twisted) love story.
Foley’s past directing work, which in addition to Glengarry includes Fear, Confidence, and 12 episodes from throughout the run of House of Cards, would seem to jibe with the comments from Universal executive Donna Langley, back in April, that the studio views the second film as “more of a thriller,” - something which could add a fascinating wrinkle to the mind games and explicit sex of the first movie. That film, which earned over $560 million worldwide, has been a big part of Universal's tremendous 2015 box office performance.
That being said, Foley hasn’t directed a feature film since the 2007 Bruce Willis/Halle Berry critical bomb Perfect Strangers. Nonetheless, he’s an unquestionably talented director who is quite acquainted, most recently from his House of Cards work, with the themes of sex intersecting with power with which Fifty Shades is synonymous. (And Foley knows something else about dysfunctional relationships: In 1985, he was the best man when Madonna married Sean Penn.)
Box office success for the second Fifty Shades film seems like a slam dunk, due to the built-in fan base of the book series and the first movie. And even with a pair of men writing and directing, it seems pretty clear that, thanks to great power she enjoys behind the scenes, the true auteur of the Fifty Shades franchise remains E.L. James.
Fifty Shades Darker opens in U.S. theaters on February 10th, 2017. Fifty Shades Freed arrives a year later on February 9th, 2018.