Universal Pictures' Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation became a box office success earlier this year (grossing $570 million worldwide), despite reportedly having more than it fair share of tension behind the scenes. As such, the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, will feature both a different screenwriter and director than its predecessor; the former of those has already been found, in Niall Leonard - the husband of Fifty Shades book author E.L. James.
Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson officially bowed out from the franchise shortly after the first film's release, though leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan remain onboard for the second and third installments. Now, it appears the search for her replacement is down to three candidates (one of which is the current front-runner).
THR is reporting that Universal, along with James, have zeroed in on three potential directors for Fifty Shades Darker: James Foley, Mark Pellington, and Tanya Wexler. Foley is (for the time being) the frontrunner for the job, according to THR's sources.
Foley has had a long and varied career, going back to the early 1980s, and his big screen credits include At Close Range, Glengarry Glen Ross, Fear and Confidence. His most recent directorial credit for a movie was the Bruce Willis/Halle Berry bomb Perfect Strangers back in 2007, although he has been busy directing TV shows (including 12 episodes of Netflix's House of Cards). Pellington’s past movies include Arlington Road, The Mothman Prophecies, Henry Poole is Here and I Melt With You, along with a long list of music videos. Wexler directed the 2011 comedy Hysteria - about the invention of the vibrator - and is the only woman on the director shortlist.
Of the directors under consideration, Foley has the most impressive resume, and House of Cards has occasionally touched on the intersection of sex and power in the same way that the Fifty Shades franchise does. Fifty Shades Darker has also been described as more of a thriller than its predecessor (or so says Universal Chariman Donna Langley), so the project could well lie in Foley's wheelhouse. Box office success seems assured, regardless of who direct, admittedly.
Then again, if there’s anything we can probably expect from another Fifty Shades film (given reports of E.L. James' desire to maintain a lot of creative control over the franchise), it’s more behind the scenes drama.
Fifty Shades Darker will open in U.S. theaters on February 10th, 2017; Fifty Shades Freed arrives a year later on February 9th, 2018.