With ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Casting in Place, Universal and Focus Can Start to Stoke Marketing Heat

Dakota Johnson Charlie Hunnam

Studios took time putting together the highly-anticipated adaptation

More than a year after acquiring rights to the racy bestselling novel that gave popularized to the term “mommy porn,” Universal and Focus have finally put the main elements in place to start shooting in October.

While some observers thought it was risky to wait so long to finalize the cast before the projected October start date, the filmmakers were more focused on getting the right chemistry for the romance.

Fifty Shades of Grey” author E.L. James announced the casting of Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Charlie Hunnam as Christian Grey Monday morning via Twitter, the final major pieces needed before the film could go into production next month.

While the book has a handful of other characters, namely Steele’s roommate Kate, the sexy romance is a virtual two-hander since the other characters contribute only minimally to the storyline.

Variety reported that Johnson was in the mix among a handful of actresses more than a week ago and that Hunnam was meeting for the part, but at the time decisions had still not been made on filling the roles.

While James and the studios are said to consider the project as a “serious love story,” it follows a typical romance novel plot: A young, virginal woman meets a dominating slightly older man; the two become obsessed with each other while he tries to get her to accept a lengthy list of sexual activities that turn him on.

The involvement of Focus and producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti would seem to put a veneer of respectability on the project, but it remains unclear how the filmmakers will portray the nearly non-stop light S&M scenes in order to keep the film from veering too close to the porn realm.

Major releases with NC-17 ratings remain few and far between; there are still issues with advertising and acceptance by some exhibitors. Focus and Universal will have to decide on whether to try a wide release in order to quickly capitalize on the book’s enthusiastic fanbase or start with a platform release that’s more typical for an explicit film. Either way, it’s likely to be the highest-profile explicit film in many years.

The filmmakers understandably wanted all the right elements in place, but with two and a half years between the time the book became a phenomenon and the film’s release, the challenge will be to rekindle the heat behind the ‘Fifty Shades’ name.

Universal and Focus won the rights at the end of March 2012 but didn’t name  De Luca and  Brunetti as producers till early July because Universal wanted to hear pitches from several top-level producers before making a decision. When Kelly Marcel was selected to write the screenplay in October 2012, the studio did not give her a drop-dead deadline specifically because producers wanted to make sure she and James would have time to work together on the best adaptation of the book.

Artist and newbie director Sam Taylor-Johnson wasn’t announced as helmer until June of this year because execs wanted to make sure a close-to-final script was ready before starting meetings with directors.

‘Fifty Shades’ is dated for release Aug. 1, 2014, which takes it out of the way of earlier summer tentpoles and gives it room to breathe in female-friendly August, when films like “Julie and Julia” and “The Help” have found success.

 

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  1. There are a lot of people who are happy that Charlie was chosen to play christian grey. People are so upset but haven’t even tried to give these actors a chance. Just because the people they wanted to be in the film were not chosen. Well some of the actors turned down the role like Felicity Jones and Yes even Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel. People have to be mature and not throw temper tantrums just because their favorite actor wasn’t cast for a certain part. I understand that he may not fit everyone’s standards but we have to give these actors a chance. Like Robert Pattinson in twilight no one was exactly thrilled about him either. There were a lot of petitions to recast, but look how that turned out people loved him. Like the saying goes don’t judge a book by its cover, you might like it. All I’m saying is lets give them a chance, you might like it.

  2. Lyn says:

    I don’t know why all the haters want to try to ruin movies for the rest of us. If you don’t want to see it, fine. You don’t have to blow up every site with your hating.

  3. Jessie Paul says:

    I think this cast and the movie will be great. Has anyone seen Dakota Johnson as an actress? She is very appealing and charismatic. I was excited they picked actors that have chemistry too. Did anyone read that part? Yes, Matt Boomer has the looks to be a Christian Grey but what kind of chemistry would he bring with the actress in the role of Ana? I really do hope all the haters and disappointed fans will not show up to see the movie, more room in the theatre for me and my girlfriends, but I think they are all fooling themselves and will still show up. I did for the Twilight movies (hated the cast / loved the books)!!

  4. Mel says:

    Felicity Jones was offered the role originally but turned it down because they wanted full frontal nudity. Other actresses also turned it down after her, then it went to Dakota. Dakota was obviously not one of their top choices, thank God, but it still sucks that she’s been cast when we could’ve had Felicity Jones! Felicity actually looks like Ana and is petite and delicate with big eyes and pretty features. Dakota look old, is too tall, has small eyes and not attractive features. She is overall the complete opposite of Ana!

  5. Cara says:

    Wow they really butchered this one. Especially with Dakota. So awful.

  6. Maya says:

    I, too, will not be seeing the movie after these casting choices. It’s not that I feel as if my absence will render the movie any less successful (and I’m sure its success will be absolute), nor do I feel the need to punish the directors for making what is in my mind a poor casting decision. It’s simply that I prefer the beautiful people such as E.L. James has described, and such as I have envisioned in my head, to these two. I wouldn’t want the image of either Charlie or Dakota tainting my idea of Ana and Christian. So I’m sticking with my imagination. It beats the alternative (in this case, massively so).

  7. Mel says:

    This cast is so bad, especially Dakota! I can live with Charlie as Christian. No matter how you work her she will never look like the Ana Steele described in the books. Ana is tiny and delicate with pretty features, assets, and big eyes. Dakota is the opposite. I’m shocked by this casting choice. I’ll never warm up to her because she’ll never add up to the true character in the books physically. How could the team bypass this as if its not a big deal? I won’t be seeing this in the theatre and paying to contribute to a 2nd and 3rd film with this cast. They really should just not make this film at all. They’ve already butchered the cast, I’m sure the story line will be the same. Stop putting shame to these awesome books!

  8. katemath60 says:

    ugh no copper colored hair, no drop dead good looks, no steel gray BLUE eyes…WOW! way off from the book already…WILL NOT be seeing it!

  9. Catherine Mostly says:

    It’s hysterical. It’s just like when Robert Pattinson was cast in Twilight. Everybody hated the idea until the first marketing images were released – then BOOM, head over heels in LOVE, LoL! How do you suppose ’50 Shades of Grey’ POSSIBLY be inspired by Twilight? Check this out: Why is Twilight So Addictive to Read as a Book or Watch as a Movie. ;) hub.me/afKNf

  10. Debbie says:

    well you are one of a very few who feel that way. So stay home. I loved the books and am looking forward to the movie. I was hoping for Henry Cavil or Matt Bomer not really a blond playing Christian although I am sure they can work with that. Charlie Hannam does have a certain sexy appeal. I hope the movie is as good as the book. Cant Wait.

    • Kel says:

      Um, have you read the comments all over the web and on Twitter? Clearly not…I am afraid you are in the minority…

      • There are a lot of people who are happy that Charlie was chosen to play christian grey. People are so upset but haven’t even tried to give these actors a chance. Just because the people they wanted to be in the film were not chosen. Well some of the actors turned down the role like Felicity Jones and Yes even Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel. People have to be mature and not throw temper tantrums just because their favorite actor wasn’t cast for a certain part. I understand that he may not fit everyone’s standards but we have to give these actors a chance. Like Robert Pattinson in twilight no one was exactly thrilled about him either. There were a lot of petitions to recast, but look how that turned out people loved him. Like the saying goes don’t judge a book by its cover, you might like it. All I’m saying is lets give them a chance, you might like it.

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