Sam Taylor-Johnson to Direct FIFTY SHADES OF GREY; Felicity Jones in the Mix for Female Lead

     June 19, 2013

After first being first put into motion last year, a director has finally been set for Universal and Focus Features’ Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  In case you live in a hole and have somehow managed to remain blissfully unaware, the film is based on an erotic trilogy of books by author E.L. James that tracks the relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and a young business magnate, Christian Grey.  After rumors swirled about the likes of Gus Van Sant and Joe Wright being interested in taking the helm, a bit of a surprise choice has been settled on to direct the Fifty Shades of Grey movie: Nowhere Boy helmer Sam Taylor-Johnson.  Hit the jump for more.

sam-taylor-johnson-fifty-shades-of-greyWhile most assumed that producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca would rope in a somewhat well-known helmer to direct the anticipated (?) adaptation, Universal and Focus have announced that Sam Taylor-Johnson has come away with the job.  Taylor-Johnson is best known for helming the 2009 film Nowhere Boy, which starred Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Sam’s husband) as John Lennon and tracked the artist’s younger years.

Taylor-Johnson is certainly an interesting choice to bring Fifty Shades to the screen, but hopefully she can turn the source material into something other than shock-value BDSM fantasy.  Given that James is heavily involved in the feature creatively, though, one imagines that the pic will skew pretty closely to the source material.  The script was written by Kelly Marcel.

Interestingly enough, Sam’s husband Aaron was singled out as a top choice to play the male lead Christian Grey early on, but The Wrap adds that he is not expected to pursue the role.  Additionally, Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) is reportedly in the mix to play Anastasia, but nothing firm has materialized.  The actress does some outstanding work in the Sundance drama Breathe In and has a mysterious role in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but Fifty Shades would certainly be a major project for her as a lead actress.  As a bit of trivia, Darren Aronofsky was apparently offered the directing gig a month ago but he subsequently passed.

felicity-jones-fifty-shades-of-greyRead the full press release regarding Sam Taylor-Johnson’s involvement below.

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, June 19, 2013—Universal Pictures and Focus Features today announced that Sam Taylor-Johnson will direct the highly anticipated film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti are producing the film based on E L James’ #1 bestselling book, alongside James.  The announcement was made by Universal Pictures Co-Chairman, Donna Langley and Focus Features’ Chief Executive Officer, James Schamus.

“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.”

Taylor-Johnson most recently directed 2009’s Nowhere Boy, the story of John Lennon’s childhood in Liverpool, where his fledgling genius found a kindred spirit in the teenage Paul McCartney.  The film garnered two BAFTA nominations, including “Outstanding British Film” and “Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.”  Taylor-Johnson also directed the critically acclaimed short Love You More which was nominated for the Palme D’Or in 2008.  She is currently in development on a film for Columbia Pictures based on the novel by Robert Goorlick, “A Reliable Wife,” which is also being produced by De Luca.

“I am excited to be charged with the evolution of Fifty Shades of Grey from page to screen,” said Taylor-Johnson.  “For the legions of fans, I want to say that I will honor the power of Erika’s book and the characters of Christian and Anastasia.  They are under my skin too.”

Universal Pictures and Focus Features acquired the rights to the three books in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy in March 2012.  Focus Features will market and distribute the first film in partnership with Universal.  “Fifty Shades of Grey” has become a global phenomenon and the trilogy has been translated in 50 languages worldwide since its release.  To date, the “Fifty Shades” trilogy has sold over 70 million copies worldwide in e-book and print, making it one of the fastest selling book series ever.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” follows the relationship of 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steele.  Subsequent novels in the series, “Fifty Shades Darker” (September 2011) and “Fifty Shades Freed” (January 2012) explore the couple’s deepening relationship.  For more information please see the official Fifty Shades of Grey Facebook page:

Taylor-Johnson is represented by WME, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and attorneys Sloane, Offer, Weber, Dern.

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