BDSM romance Fifty Shades of Grey has passed the $500m mark at the global office, a remarkable return for a movie which cost just $40m (£26m) to make and will not screen in conservative countries such as China and India.
Since its release last month, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s film, which stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as kinky lovers Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, has broken a slew of records across the world. It is Universal’s highest-grossing ‘R’ rated film of all time globally, and also the UK’s highest-grossing 18-rated movie.
The film’s first week take of $248m was followed by a dramatic drop-off in its second week, especially in the US. But with similarly performing blockbusters costing up to six times as much to make, it remains on course to be one of Hollywood’s most profitable big screen outings of 2015. Sequels are inevitable, with James’s follow-up books Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed already optioned by Universal. Reports suggest the author, who reputedly had the final say over the dialogue for Fifty Shades of Grey and stepped in at the last minute to spice up sex scenes, is likely to write the screenplay for the next film herself.
Taylor-Johnson, the one-time artist and director of critically acclaimed 2009 John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, has not yet signed on for the sequels. The film-maker reportedly clashed with James on set, and has described her experience as “difficult”. She told Porter magazine: “I’m not going to lie. We definitely fought, but they were creative fights, and we would resolve them. We would have proper on-set ‘barneys’ ... It was about finding a way between the two of us: satisfying her vision of what she’d written as well as my need to visualise this person on screen.”
Fifty Shades of Grey faced protests from campaigners against domestic violence at its UK premiere on 12 February, with activists holding up placards and banners reading “Fifty Shades is abuse” and “Mr Grey is a rapist”. Natalie Collins, who started the campaign two years ago when James first published her novel, told the BBC: “We felt really concerned about the way the books romanticise abuse and glamorise an abusive person.”
The film has been banned in Malaysia, Indonesia and India, and is unlikely to screen in the Middle East or China, the world’s second largest box office. It has proven most popular in countries such as the UK and other nations where the book was a bestseller. But South Korea, where the novel has not sold well, bucked the trend with a strong opening bow of $1.8m.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 6th March 2015 09.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010