Well, it looks like Universal is serious about a “50 Shades Of Grey” movie.
Obviously, when they spent the money to buy the books for film, they were serious, but I have trouble taking the material seriously. Whenever I go to Costco and see a table with about 10,000 copies of this thing, I guess that means people are buying it, but I’ve tried three times now to read it, and I keep running into the brick wall of how painful the writing is.
Still, it’s connecting with someone. I’m amazed how often I see people reading it without any sense that it might not be appropriate in a public place. Every time I see one of the moms at baseball practice reading it, I wonder what they’d do if I broke out a Hustler and gave it a once-over. I had trouble imagining a classy version of this film, and was ready to tune it out as one of those things that just isn’t for me.
Then they announced that Kelly Marcel will be writing the script.
The press release just went out, and now I find myself curious about what happens when you put a writer that talented on a piece of material like this. It’s like “Twilight” hiring Bill Condon to direct the final two films, a case of someone way beyond the weight class of the material. For those not familiar with Marcel, you will be. Her script “Saving Mr. Banks” is currently in production, and it’s a truly wonderful piece of writing that tells the true story of Walt Disney’s two-decade attempt to get the rights to make a film based on the P.L. Travers novel “Mary Poppins.” Tom Hanks is playing Disney and Emma Thompson is playing Travers, a combination that seems very promising.
The thing that Marcel brings to the table is a sterling sense of character writing and a knack for dialogue that is both naturalistic and memorable. She took the basic bones of the Disney/Travers story and turned it into a rich, interesting, emotionally powerful piece. In hiring her, Universal and Focus have established that this is something they are going to treat as a major property, and I’m guessing we’ll see more announcements along the same line.
The books (there are three in total) deal with the relationship between billionaire Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, a college student who meets him when she steps in for a friend to conduct an interview with him. It literally began as “Twilight” fan fiction that then got tweaked and rewritten by author E.L. James so it could stand alone. Whoever they hire for director is going to have a very tough gig, because the MPAA is notoriously skittish about sexually-themed material, and this is going to be one of the biggest mainstream treatments of a bondage-and-domination based relationship that anyone’s ever attempted. There’s pretty much no way to approach this without getting an R, and there’s no way Universal is going to want this to end up with an NC-17. Even if Focus did release “Lust, Caution” with that rating, it’s not something they’re going to be willing to do with a property as high-profile as this.
It will be fascinating to see what happens with this, and Marcel’s got a lot of expectation landing on her with this job. I know she’s up to the task, and now it’s just a matter of seeing what other choices they make.
There is no release date currently scheduled.