Joe Wright 50 Shades of Grey

After a lengthy search, Universal and Focus Features seem to be closer to starting production on their much-anticipated adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Several sources tell Variety that while no deal is in place, Joe Wright is the choice to helm the feature adaptation of the steamy E.L. James novel.

Though some reports say Wright has not won the job, one insider very close to the production says he is the man.

Universal had no comment.

U, Focus and producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti had been looking for some time for a director who could bring prestige to a book described by many as “mommy porn.” It’s a tricky project since following the book closely would inevitably result in an commercially undesirable NC-17 rating, while going easy on the sensuous elements of the story could disappoint fans of the runaway bestseller that started as an e-book derived from “Twilight” fan fiction.

The other directors considered for the job included “Monster” helmer Patty Jenkins, Bill Condon, Bennett Miller and Gus Van Sant. Sources said Steven Soderbergh was also considered for the gig before eventually deciding on Wright.

Though Kelly Marcel is still working on the script and Wright’s deal has to be negotiated, nailing down a director would allow them to focus  next on the important job of casting the parts of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

Wright is repped by CAA and most recently helmed “Anna Karenina,” which was also distributed by Focus. Given his relationship with the studio on films like “Atonement” and “Pride and Prejudice” and his experience directing thesps such as Keira Knightley and Saoirise Ronan, the hire seems to be a logical choice.

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