2015 is going to be a big year for genre movies (superhero, sci-fi, fantasy), yet the first major release of the year will involved bondage and handcuffs, rather than explosions or space battles. Yes, Universal has moved the Fifty Shades of Grey movie away from the dog days of Summer 2014, to the start of the Valentine's Day frame the next year (not long after confirming that the production start date has been delayed by a month).
Fifty Shades of Grey is based on the novel by E.L. James, who refashioned her popular Twilight erotica fan-fiction in order to produce the mega-best-seller (the first installment in a Fifty Shades trilogy). Several well-established young actresses either publicly and/or privately took a pass on the project, before the lesser-known Dakota Johnson (The Social Network, The Five Year Engagement) accepted the lead role of inexperienced college student Anastasia Steele.
Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam was originally recruited to play Christian Grey, but he ended up dropping out and was replaced by Jamie Dornan, who has a history of playing handsome gents with a twisted hidden nature (see: The Fall TV series with Gillian Anderson) that arguably makes him a better fit than Hunnam to play Anastasia's (more than a little) troubled lover. Indeed, even in the newly-released Fifty Shades cast images, Dornan exudes a sense of quiet menace that is difficult to imagine being matched by Jax Teller (i.e. the 'Patrick Bateman re-imagined for the age of Twilight' look, so to speak).
Check out Johnson and Dornan as Anastasia and Christian in the 50 Shades photos, below (for more, head over to EW):
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Acclaimed indie filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) is directing Fifty Shades of Grey, drawing from a script written by Kelly Marcel (the writer on next month's Oscar-friendly release, Saving Mr. Banks). Not only does Johnson comes from a background of more raw and gritty cinematic storytelling, but Marcel also previously claimed that the film will easily be NC-17 Rated. Of course, most people brushed that suggestion aside, since that adults-only rating tends to be the kiss of death for movies at the box office (pardon the wording).
Fifty Shades producer Dana Brunetti (The Social Network, Captain Phillips) told Collider that he has no doubt that the regular theatrical cut will be Rated R, but he also teased the possibility of a special NC-17 version hitting theaters down the line:
“It’ll be R, obviously it has to be R. This is just my opinion and this doesn’t mean this is going to happen, but I always thought it would be really cool if we released the R version and then we had an NC-17 version that we released a few weeks later. So everybody could go and enjoy the R version, and then if they really wanted to see it again and get a little bit more gritty with it then have that NC-17 version out there as well. It’d be great for the studio too because they’d get a double dip on the box office… What we’re kind of hearing from the fans is they want it dirty, they want it as close as possible [to the book]. We want to keep it elevated but also give the fans what they want.”
Brunetti makes a solid (or, rather, $olid) argument, though that doesn't at all guarantee that Universal will go for it. The bigger concern might be that Fifty Shades of Grey will no longer be the major cultural fixation that it currently is, by the time the movie adaptation hits theaters. Of course, there will certainly be an audience no matter what, extending to those beyond the fan base (like those who are merely curious to see if Johnson, Marcel and the film's leads can elevate the low-grade source material into high art).
Then again, when it comes to Fifty Shades of Grey, where's the harm in a little more controversy (like releasing a special NC-17 version in theaters)?
Fifty Shades of Grey opens in U.S. theaters on February 13th, 2015.