Fifty Shades author wants to whip sequel into submission
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Whatever we may think of it, Fifty Shades of Grey is an unqualified hit, with $300 million at the worldwide box office and counting. In some respects, that’s a good thing: A movie by women, about women, for women is a monster success. Every time we clock a win like this, it gets that much harder to deny that movies by and about women can’t be profitable, or are somehow “risky”. (In a perfect world, we’d be talking about the runaway success of The Duke of Burgundy, which is far better than Fifty Shades, both as erotica and as a film.) But in other respects it’s not a good thing, because it’s led to a behind the scenes squabble for control that’s going to end up resulting in a complete creative makeover for the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker.
Despite Grey’s success, Universal has yet to actually greenlight Darker, and Variety is reporting that that’s because the studio and author EL James are locked in a death spiral. At this point, it looks like director Sam Taylor-Johnson won’t return—she has not prevaricated about how difficult working with James was—but it also looks like screenwriter Kelly Marcel is probably done, too (Marcel has been completely absent from promotions for the movie). I’ll go ahead and assume that Patrick Marber, who did an uncredited pass on the script, won’t repeat, either. Which means that Universal is going to have to find an entirely new creative team to shape the sequel, and James would like them to start with her by letting her adapt her own book.
You know what? Let her. It’ll be a disaster, but sometimes, touching the hot stove is the only way to learn. Undoubtedly, Universal is pointing to the dismal reviews and lousy C+ CinemaScore as proof that people didn’t actually like Fifty Shades, and James will counter that if they’d hewn more faithfully to the books, that would not be the case. They’ll go round and round, blaming each other for the movie’s problems, turning an already rocky working relationship downright toxic. So let James write her script. Let her exercise too much creative control and torment another director. Let’s see what that movie looks like, see if audiences like it any better. And then maybe we can learn a lesson about giving authors with no film experience too much creative control to begin with.