More than a few of our readers probably did a double-take, when last we reported that Universal wants the Fifty Shades of Grey movie - based on E.L. James' Twilight fan-faction-turned best-selling erotic novel - to be directed by a filmmaker with serious arthouse cred, such as Atonement and Anna Karenina director Joe Wright (among other rumored candidates).
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk) is reported to have even submitted a demo reel while bidding for the Fifty Shades directing job; one which featured Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike) playing the handsome, but (really) troubled, 27-year old billionaire Christian Grey, no less. However, James' steamy book - which, let's be honest, is almost too easy to mock - is going to be realized on the big screen by another indie cinematic storyteller altogether.
Universal has announced that Sam Taylor-Johnson - who is an award-winning photographer, indie filmmaker, and the wife to actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass 2) - is going to direct the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, based on the adapted script written by Kelly Marcel (who, like the director, is a resident of the UK).
The film's Oscar-nominated co-producer Micahel De Luca (Moneyball) released a formal statement:
“Sam’s unique ability to gracefully showcase complex relationships dealing with love, emotion and sexual chemistry make her the ideal director to bring Christian and Anastasia’s relationship to life,” said De Luca. “E L James’ characters and vivid storytelling require a director who is willing to take risks and push the envelope where needed and Sam is a natural fit.”
Johnson echoed the sentiment expressed by Marcel - who claims she is quite sincere about doing justice by the Fifty Shades of Grey book and expects that the movie will land an NC-17 Rating - with her own statement on the matter, saying that she intends to "honor the power of Erika's book and the characters of Christian [Grey] and Anastasia [Steele]. They are under my skin too.”
What's fascinating about all this is that E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey novel - between its (seemingly) universally-mocked cornball dialogue and souped-up romance storyline that introduces novices to the world of BDSM (i.e. hardcore sex play) - is one of those pop cultural fixations that kind of boggles the mind... and yet, the film adaptation has managed to attract some undeniably strong creative talent.
Johnson, for instance, was responsible for the well-received young John Lennon biographical pic Nowhere Boy (she met her younger husband while directing him in the film); meanwhile, Marcel co-created Terra Nova and wrote Disney's upcoming Oscar bait flick, Saving Mr. Banks. Up to now, actresses like Emma Watson have been quick to dismiss any rumors about them even giving consideration to joining the Fifty Shades of Grey movie cast - but will that change, given the talent now involved?
After all, Johnson seems like the kind of director who would make a genuine effort to elevate James' extra-pulpy source material into high art cinema; that could, in turn, help to snag an up-and-coming actor or actress. Maybe not someone like Arrow's Stephen Amell - who revealed a while back that he was approached to play Mr. Grey - but the director's husband could fit that bill. (Talk about a joke writing itself...)
Then again, all of these same argument could have been made about Oscar-winner Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), when he agreed to direct the final two Twilight movies - and we all saw how that eventually turned out, right?
Fifty Shades of Grey could still reach theaters as soon as Summer 2014, but no official release date has been set yet. As always, we'll keep you posted on the situation.