Producer Dana Brunetti Talks FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, the Difficult Casting Process, the Film’s Rating, and More

     November 15, 2013


While genre fans are understandably eager to hear anything and everything about Star Wars, Batman vs. Superman, and pretty much all the upcoming Marvel movies, there’s an in-development project of a different sort that’s generating an incredibly high amount of buzz as well: Fifty Shades of Grey.  The feature film adaptation of E.L. James’ racy novel has been in the works for over a year now, but with a director (Sam Taylor-Johnson) and cast (Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson) finally set, production is gearing up to begin in just a few weeks.  In fact, the first images of Dornan and Johnson in character were released by EW a few days ago.

Steve recently sat down for an extended interview with producer Dana Brunetti, and during their wide-ranging conversation he spoke extensively about Fifty Shades of Grey.  Brunetti discussed the competitive process of landing the job as the film’s producer along with his partner Michael De Luca, collaborating with James, the difficult casting process, why they’re filming in Vancouver, and he talked about the possibility of releasing an NC-17 cut of the film in theaters.  Hit the jump for much more.

jamie-dornan-dakota-johnson-fifty-shades-of-greyFrom the get-go, the main worry on Fifty Shades fans’ minds has been casting.  It happens with every popular book adaptation, but the passionate opinions from Fifty Shades fans has been intense.  Initially, Ben & Kate star Dakota Johnson and Sons of Anarchy lead Charlie Hunnam were announced as the film’s Anastasia and Christian, but Hunnam subsequently left the project.  Brunetti discussed the difficult casting process and why landing a newcomer like The Fall’s Jamie Dornan may work out better in the end:

“No matter who we cast, people were gonna be angry about it.  And then we obviously had the one that we cast that ultimately didn’t work out.  We have to meet the ideas of the fans to an extent and make them happy—although you’re not gonna make them happy because they’re thinking of somebody else in their mind.  And I always thought it would be better if we went with somebody unknown so then everyone can discover them together, that’s where I really think we are now with Jamie and Dakota.”

Brunetti also talked about the difficulty in landing certain actors, noting the project scared some off for a few different reasons:

“You have to get actors that really want to do it as well, and that was a really difficult process because a lot of them didn’t want to do it just because of what they either thought that it would require or what it will require, or what it will make them into; it’s gonna make them into huge stars but known of a certain thing.  So some actors might not be able to break out of that in their career when they wanna do other projects either in between the productions of the [Fifty Shades] films or beyond the films.”

fifty-shades-of-grey-daktota-johnson-jamie-dornanAdapting James’ book also provided its own set of challenges:

“For any book it’s distilling all of the moments in the book that are either fan favorites or pivotal that you have to have in there, and how you tie that all up into a two hour movie is not the easiest job.  That’s any book, and this one has all the inner monologue of Anastasia where you learn a lot about her from her Inner Goddess.  Obviously we can’t, otherwise the whole movie would be all voiceover, so that was a big problem how we were gonna deal with that as far as the script and still convey a lot of that without voiceover.”

Finally, what’s on everyone’s minds is just how far the Fifty Shades of Grey movie will go in depicting the book’s explicit sex scenes.  Brunetti admitted that the film will definitely be rated R, but he has an idea of how to please fans that are asking for the no-holds-barred version:

“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.”

That being said, Brunetti and his team very much want to bring a tastefulness to the proceedings:

“We’ve been able to attract fantastic team as far as our department heads, everyone that’s gotten involved have very good resumes.  Which I think is shocking to a lot of people who label it ‘mommy porn’ or say ‘it’s gonna be trash,’ I think the team that we’re assembling should be already deafening that.”

fifty-shades-of-grey-book-coverFor more on the film, watch the portion of Steve’s video interview with Brunetti concerning Fifty Shades below.  Fifty Shade of Grey will open in theaters on February 13, 2015.

  • :06 – How did they land the job of producing Fifty Shades of Grey? Talks about first going to meet author E.L. James’ agent and not knowing whether he’d be a right fit for the material.
  • 3:35 – Talks about trying to stop the press release announcing them producing 50 Shades while they were out on the ocean shooting Captain Phillips.
  • 4:31 – Working with E.L. James. Talks about collaborating with her on the development of the film. “She’s a producer on [the film] as well, she’s a great collaborator.  She’s a really fun person to hang out with and just a genuinely good person and has a lot of really good ideas.  Obviously she created this world so she’s the ideal person to have as the producer with it.  And we learned that they really liked the movies that Mike and I had done together.  It’s kind of gotten labeled in the press to be a certain type of book which it really isn’t, and I think they wanted to kind of raise the profile and the quality of it to an extent.”
  • 5:23 – Says they start filming in Vancouver on December 2nd. Talks about why they’re filming in Canada.  “The book takes place in Portland and Seattle so it’s just ideal because it’s very cost effective and efficient to shoot in Vancouver where there’s crews and there’s a lot of production already happening there, and it only being two hours from Seattle it just makes sense.  You have the same type of weather you have the same look in a lot of ways, and it’ll make it easier for when we have to get exterior, establishing shots, second unit shots.”
  • 6:27 – The challenge of getting the adaptation off the ground when there’s a giant spotlight on the production.  Talks about the difficult casting.
  • 8:01 – The difficulty of adapting the book into a feature film and filming the risqué scenes.  Talks about the film’s impressive crew.
  • 9:31 – Avoiding paparazzi set photos and working against the “mommy porn” label.
  • 10:44 – The film’s rating and the possibility of an NC-17 cut.  Says there’s not a plan for how they’re going to do it but the theatrical release will be R and he personally would want to release an NC-17 rating in theaters a few weeks later.


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