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Fifty Shades of Disarray: Where Do Universal and Focus Go From Here?

'Fifty Shades of Grey' release not expected to be delayed by loss of Charlie Hunnam but several questions linger

With Saturday’s news that Charlie Hunnam has fallen off “Fifty Shades of Grey,” all eyes are on Universal and Focus to decide whether or not to delay production on the high-profile feature next month.

Playing out like a dramatic episode of “Entourage,” Saturday’s announcement that Hunnam and studio executives couldn’t work out the actor’s “Sons of Anarchy” schedule was immediately met with speculation around town. While it’s unknown what, if anything else, went into Hunnam’s decision, a handful of sources believe his schedule would have been figured out long before it was publicity announced that he was joining the film, leading some to suggest the actor was dissatisfied with the sexy part.

Based on the best-selling novel by E.L. James, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a hard R film that requires plenty of onscreen nudity and lots of patience offscreen, in terms of dealing with the hardcore fan base.

SEE ALSO: Patrick Marber to Rework ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Script As Charlie Hunnam Exits Racy Project

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Co-star Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele in the pic, is still committed to play the female lead.

One studio insider said Universal hasn’t opted to delay next month’s production, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, especially if the search for another male lead takes longer than expected.

Universal is still expected to make its release date of August 1, 2014, since the shoot itself isn’t too long.

“This film isn’t something like a ’47 Ronin’ where there is a long production followed by a lot of post,” one source said. “It should be pretty straight forward once it’s up and running.”

As for the replacement Christian Grey, U and Focus are in the unique position now where they can either choose to fork over big bucks for a high-profile actor or go the testing route and try to find an unknown that better fits the part.

Robert Pattinson was originally sought after for the role but passed on the project.

No other names are known at this time.

Whomever the studio and producers Michael de Luca and Dana Brunetti decide on, the process will involve testing with Dakota Johnson to make sure the chemistry is right and that could take weeks, leading the studio to go the new, discovery route since most established actors aren’t looking to waste their time reading for roles.

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