Given its subject matter, Fifty Shades of Grey was never intended for mainstream audiences (read our review). In fact, the film adaptation of E.L. James' best-selling erotic novel was always aimed squarely at the legions of fans who devoured the book trilogy about the complicated relationship between billionaire Christian Grey and the bookish Anastasia Steele.
So when the film debuted to record-breaking box office totals ($558 million worldwide and counting!), it only solidified plans to fast-track the remaining two entries in the series. Stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson are already signed to return and are, in fact, seeking pay raises for the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker. However, it looks like the film has hit a bump on the road to production.
In a statement to Deadline, director Sam Taylor-Johnson has officially announced that she will not return for the Fifty Shades of Grey sequel. Here's what she had to say:
"Directing Fifty Shades Of Grey has been an intense and incredible journey for which I am hugely grateful. I have Universal to thank for that. I forged close and lasting relationships with the cast, producers and crew and most especially, with Dakota and Jamie. While I will not be returning to direct the sequels, I wish nothing but success to whosoever takes on the exciting challenges of films two and three."
Rumors have been running rampant that Taylor-Johnson was unlikely to direct Fifty Shades Darker, with creative clashes with James the most likely culprit for her departure from the project. James is reportedly demanding to write the film, and it's been heavily expected that neither Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel would be back for the sequel.
Prior to helming Fifty Shades of Grey, Taylor-Johnson's only feature-length directing credit was the 2009 indie Nowhere Boy. Now that she's officially cut ties to the franchise she helped bring to life on the big screen, it will be interesting to see if she will parlay that film's success into another high-profile project, or if she will return to the world of independent cinema.
In any case, this leaves the Fifty Shades Darker producers with a director's chair to fill. Fortunately, production doesn't begin until next year, leaving the producers and Universal ample time to find a replacement.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for the latest details on Fifty Shades Darker as this story develops.