Sam Taylor-Johnson’s film swept past $300m worldwide this week, despite some derision from critics, and Hollywood misgivings about James’s reported right of veto over its script. It has been suggested that the author threatened to withdraw her support unless her original dialogue was retained for the much-hyped big screen adaptation, as well as stepping in to persuade Taylor-Johnson to “spice up” the £27m film’s sex scenes.
With the James-approved version having proven a box office triumph, Variety reports that the author now wants to rewrite the screenplay for Fifty Shades Darker herself. Discussions with studio Universal are reportedly holding up the official announcement that the sequel has been greenlit.
If James were to pen her debut screenplay there would almost certainly be no return for Taylor-Johnson, who has admitted to multiple on-set spats with the author over the first film’s direction, nor original screenwriter Kelly Marcel. It also seems unlikely that the award-winning playwright Patrick Marber, whose reputedly elegant rewrite was apparently jettisoned by James in favour of her original dialogue, would be involved in the sequel.
Officially, Universal is keeping quiet. “The studio had always intended to sit down with the author after the film opened and discuss next steps, and that has not yet happened,” a spokesperson told Variety.
The delay means Fifty Shades Darker, based on the novel published by James in 2012, will most likely not hit cinemas until late 2016 or the first quarter of 2017. But Universal may have little say in the matter, with James reportedly maintaining full control over her properties as a result of a deal struck when the studio optioned her books.
Given the novels have sold more than 100m copies worldwide and the studio hopes to make two more movies based on the British author’s trilogy about kinky Seattle billionaire Christian Grey and blushing virginal paramour Anastasia Steele, there could be severe financial penalties for incurring James’ discontent. It’s an unusual situation in Hollywood, with neither Harry Potter’s JK Rowling nor Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer having taken such a determined role in the movie adaptations of their books.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 20th February 2015 10.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010