The much-talked about adaptation of E.L. James’ erotica novel Fifty Shades of Grey dominated the box office in its opening weekend (grossing $81.9 million domestically), though critical reception of Fifty Shades of Grey hasn’t been quite as warm. However, due to its international success - it's already passed the $300 million mark in worldwide box office sales - talk of sequels began quickly following the film’s release.
Despite the financial success of Fifty Shades of Grey, Universal Pictures has yet to officially announce production on adaptations of James’ other novels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. New reports indicate this may be due to a reshuffling behind the scenes of the franchise.
Variety is reporting that James is meeting with Universal to discuss increased creative control over the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey in the form of writing the next film’s script. According to Variety, Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel are not expected to return to the franchise. Furthermore, since James has no previous experience writing a film script, this may delay production on Fifty Shades Darker.
James contract with Universal in regard to the Fifty Shades of Grey films already offers her a hefty amount of creative control - possibly to the detriment of the first installment. The author was listed as a producer on the first film and exercised her control in many aspects of the filmmaking process, from approving the casting of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) to having final say in many costume choices.
Hollywood has seen a variety of productions behind books adapted to films in recent years. Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) both wrote the adapted scripts from their novels, while authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer had much less creative control.
James is, of course, very familiar with the Fifty Shades of Grey series and would ensure Fifty Shades Darker stayed as true to the novel as possible. However, staying true to the source material of Fifty Shades of Grey is perhaps the first film’s biggest weakness, limiting the movie’s potential to overcome what is commonly believed to be a poorly written novel.
Should Universal give screenwriting duties to James, a Fifty Shades Darker film will likely be a much stricter adaptation of the novel. Additionally, it will most likely only appeal to fans of the book series (that is, not anyone who read the novels ironically or out of simple curiosity), which may again limit the movie’s potential to draw in a wider audience.
That being said, Universal has not yet agreed to James writing the script of Fifty Shades Darker and has given no indication whether this is real possibility or not.
Fifty Shades of Grey is now playing in theaters.