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We Read It: Picking A Director & Cast For The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Movie

We Read It: Picking A Director & Cast For The 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Movie

Fifty Shades Of Grey,” along with sequels “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” is a publishing phenomenon the likes of which haven’t been seen since “Twilight.” The book, by EL James (a pseudonym for British TV executive Erika Leonard), actually started as fan-fiction for characters from Stephenie Meyer‘s books, entitled “Master Of The Universe,” later reworked, extended and republished as a stand-alone piece, and released as an e-book over three volumes between May 2011 and January 2012. It became a word-of-mouth hit, picked up by Vintage Books for a wider commercial release this April, and has, in a little over a year, sold 20 million copies across the three books — accounting for one in every five hardback fiction novels sold, with Leonard said to be earning $1 million a week for her troubles. It’s all the more impressive considering that the story is unashamed, and reasonably explicit, erotica, not a genre that’s led to blockbuster sales figures.

And inevitably, despite the dangers involved, film rights were swiftly snapped up, with Universal‘s indie arm Focus Features winning the bidding war, ahead of the likes of Warners, Sony and Paramount, with the prestige of James Schamus‘ company, behind films like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” apparently swinging it, although James apparently retains virtually unheard-of creative control over the adaptation. The film(s) isn’t being fast-tracked, but Variety reported this morning that producers have spent the last week pitching to be put in charge of the project, so clearly movement is happening.

And as such, we thought it might a good opportunity to do what your mom’s been doing for weeks, and what you’ve been thinking about getting up the courage to do, and actually reading the thing, thinking about who might be decent candidates to direct and star in the eventual film (Angelina Jolie was mentioned at one point as director, but it seemed to have been nothing more rumors). It’s clear from Leonard’s demands that we’re looking at something that will at least have the veneer of prestige; indeed Focus head James Schamus has suggested that he might write the screenplay himself, as he did for “The Ice Storm,” “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and “Lust, Caution,” among others.

As for the book itself, it’s safe to say it’s not going to be in consideration for the Pulitzer or anything. There’s only really about one-and-a-half book’s worth of story across the three novels (an adaptation would be wise to make one or two films, rather than three, but that would pretty much be a case of throwing money away, so it’s unlikely to happen), and the prose is mostly of about the level you’d expect for something that started as fan fiction (for a fun way to put yourself into a coma, drink a shot every time the words “inner goddess” appear) and things slow to a boring, boring crawl every time the central couple aren’t fucking.

There is however, plenty of fucking (spiced up with a dash of S&M) and this is obviously the stuff that’s made the book sell into the millions. There’s undoubtedly sexier, better-written erotica out there, but as a sort of gateway, a not-too-threatening, not-too-chaste “Twilight” with nipple clamps, we can probably see the appeal. What’s interesting is how it makes it to the screen; even done without “Shortbus“-style real sex, the book as written is pretty much a guaranteed NC-17, and yet to tone it down would be to risk losing what everyone liked about it in the first place.

And it’ll also affect the kind of filmmakers and actors it can attract. Stars resistant to nudity or sex scenes can pretty much be counted out of the running, and ideally you’d need a filmmaker with some experience in that field too — the risk is that the visual isn’t always going to live up to what the reader imagines (something which Leonard herself seems to be worried about) and could be a little prosaic on screen. We’d also argue that being told through a woman’s point of view is a fairly crucial part of the book’s success (anecdotally, several friends have told us that’s part of what hooked them), and perhaps having a female director might be a way of retaining that perspective and sensitivity on the big screen, as well as hopefully ironing out some of the more questionable gender issues.

But preamble aside, below you’ll find our view on who would be sensible hires for Focus not only to direct the film, but also star as the two leads, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey (we’re leaving the supporting cast alone for now, mainly because it’s pretty much a two-hander, in the first book at least). Obviously, there’s a certain amount of projection going on with fan-casting of this kind, so you’re likely to disagree; feel free to weigh in with your own picks in the comments section below.

The Director
The position’s still wide open, and aside from Schamus, there are no writers in the mix, so we could well see a writer-director on board, and that might be preferable, in order for someone to stamp a particular vision on a text that could need it. A Focus Features budget means we’re unlikely to see a bona-fide A-lister.
Our Pick: New Zealand helmer Jane Campion. The director has shown a sure hand with female sexuality in the Oscar-winning “The Piano,” and delved into a darker, S&M happy side of sexuality with “In The Cut.” That film was poisonously received (in part thanks to a miscast Meg Ryan, who replaced Nicole Kidman), but it’s more interesting than its reputation suggests. If Campion can make a film as chaste as “Bright Star” so sexy, than she could certainly bring genuine eroticism to “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” and could probably use a studio-endorsed hit at this point; her current project is the BBC miniseries “Top Of The Lake.”
Other Choices We Like: The involvement of Schamus makes his regular collaborator Ang Lee a genuine possibility, and we can absolutely see him being a good choice, particularly after the risque “Lust, Caution,” one of the biggest-grossing NC-17 releases ever. Sarah Polley‘s “Take This Waltz” recently explored similar territory in terms of the awakening of female sexuality, and she’d do a spectacular job, but we can’t realistically see her being interested. It’d be fascinating to see Paul Verhoeven‘s take, but we’re not sure Focus would trust him with the material. A safer pair of hands would be Ben Lewin, whose sexually-frank “The Sessions” looks to be a major awards player later this year, although that film’s considerably warmer.
Other Possibilities: In terms of more studio-friendly names, Steven Soderbergh might be feasible if he wasn’t retiring, while Adrian Lyne made his name on this kind of fare, he’s hasn’t made a film for a decade, but is currently gearing up to return with “Back Roads.” From the indie world, Dee Rees, Debra Granik, Lynn Shelton, Julia Leigh, Sofia Coppola or Paul Schrader would all be interesting choices, but probably unlikely ones, while the riskiest, will-never-happen-but-would-be-perfect choice would be French auteur Catherine Breillat. A good compromise would be Philip Kaufman, who’s been in this kind of territory before with “Henry & June” and “Quills,” and recently made something of a comeback with HBO‘s “Hemingway & Gellhorn.”

Anastasia Steele
The Role: A virginal 22-year-old university grad who wants to work in publishing, Anastasia (or Ana), covers for her roommate Kate to interview Christian Grey, and finds herself drawn to him, discovering sides of herself she never knew existed. She’s described as a “pale, brown-eyed girl” with “eyes too big for her face”
Our Pick: Analeigh Tipton. The former model (who came to fame thanks to “America’s Next Top Model” has made an impressive transition to screen acting, first thanks to rom-com “Crazy Stupid Love” and then Whit Stillman‘s “Damsels In Distress.” A good match for the physical description and age, and a talented actress who’s unlikely to make the part as much of a pushover as some might. But despite some risque moments in her modeling, and in a recurring role on HBO‘s “Hung,” would she sign off on the nudity required?
Other Choices We Like: Felicity Jones has become a bit of a fan favorite for the part, and we can certainly see why; although she’s 28, she looks significantly younger, and could pull off the inherent innocence of the character easily. But again, she might resist a part quite as explicit as this one, especially as she’s being offered everything in town these days. Perhaps more open to it, given some of their past work, are Elizabeth Olsen (although she’s equally in demand) or “Game Of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke, if the latter wouldn’t be too constricted by her HBO obligations to sign on to a trilogy of movies. Jones’ “Albatross” co-star Jessica Brown-Findlay might be a possibility, although the actress oozes sexuality, and we wonder if she could pull of the repressed nature of the role early on.
Other Possibilities: Kristen Stewart, inevitably, has been much talked about by fans, while names like Lily Collins, Anna Kendrick and Shailene Woodley have come up too, though most have more wholesome images. Either Teresa  Palmer or Emily Browning feel like good, if very different fits, while British actress Imogen Poots and rising star Bella Heathcote are very plausible as well. Another offbeat suggestion we like: Samantha Barks, who has a plum role in “Les Miserables” that looks to make her a star.

Christian Grey
The Role: A 28-year-old billionaire from a troubled background, who’s used an interest in dominant sexuality and S&M to avoid opening up emotionally to anyone, who picks Anastasia to be his new submissive. He’s described as “tall, well dressed” with “copper-colored hair and intense green eyes.” For what it’s worth, an academic recently released a photo composite of what women had told him they thought the character looked like, and you can see that here. Spoiler: it doesn’t resemble Paul Giamatti.
Our Choice: Fast-rising star Tom Hiddleston. At 31, he’s as close to the age required, has his star firmly on the rise thanks to “The Avengers” (which let him be brooding and dark), and is a good fit for the character’s description. Has displayed his romantic stripes in “The Deep Blue Sea,” and pulled off a strong American accent as F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Midnight In Paris.” But would the shackles of his Marvel contract, which likely still has several films to go even after “Thor 2“, mean he might resist another franchise for now?
Other Choices We Like: Another Brit, Henry Cavill, could be a good fit for the part, but again, he could be tied up with superhero business for the immediate future, unless “Man Of Steel” tanks. Armie Hammer is another one who springs to mind, but is he too old-money to come off as the son of a crack addict? We like the idea of Joel Kinnaman in the part too, who has a certain exoticism, and likely isn’t yet too big to take the role. One chocie that might seem unlikely until you think about it: Benedict Cumberbatch, whose fervent female fanbase has a lot of cross over with a target audience, and has a certain dark sexuality to him (see: “Sherlock“). But is he too old at 35?
Other Choices: Fans have brought up the names of Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Andrew Garfield, but we can’t see any of the three, arguably the most sought-after actors around, being willing to do it, and the same likely goes for Channing Tatum.  Alexander Skarsgard is a more plausible choice, while Justin Timberlake could arguably work too if he tones down certain aspects of his personality. Ian Somerhalder is a serious favorite among fans, but we suspect more for the looks than his acting skills…  For a younger take, rising star Sam Claflin (“Snow White & The Huntsman“) might be be possible. And for our curveball: porn star James Deen, currently making his straight acting debut in Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis‘ “The Canyons.”

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Brielle Foster

Enjoy the film but have been recommended to try the book which is apparently much better :)
50 shades of grey movie

Alexia Tessier

Thank you so much for the wonderful book! I finished it a few days ago and cannot get it out of my head. It is pure magic. It was everything I hoped it would be and much more….
Fifty Shades Movie

Susan Heckmann

I like the look of the top girl on the list. Can she act? However, and it's a big however, Ian Somerhalder is the only Christian Grey.


As I type this, 89 comments !? I suggest a Part 2: More Thought on Casting.


Michelle trachtenberg? For Anastasia Steele….she is petite, pale, amd her eyes are big….she looks like the girl next door….but can pull off sex appeal very very well….hmmm

stephanie Landry

I think Emmy Rossum or perhaps Mila Kunis for the role of Anastasia…


Thos is possibly the most uninteresting and boring eroticas out there! To make it more interesting and compelling, they need to change Anastasia to Anthony, cast Tom Hiddleston as Christian, and a baby faced actor as Anthony and voila! A good time for all!


I will be very disappointed if Ian Somerhalder is not cast as christian grey. He is gorgeous and sexy as hell and I think the fact that he is a little older makes the story more covincing. To cast someone who is 27 years would make him seem to ridiculous to be a CEO. Please don't cast someone like Ryan Gosling who I wouldn't look at once never mind twice. Christian Grey has to be gorgeous I hope your casting choices don't spoil the film


Every single choice mentioned is too good. Let a couple of C-list television actors do this and get it over with.


Ian Somerhalder for Christian Grey, Emmy Rossum for Ana.

Amber Heard for Kate, Paul Walker (older but does not look age, so Christian's older bro Elliot), Tom Hardy-Taylor, Jessica Stroup-Mia, Diane Lane-Grace, John Schneider-Carrick, Zac Efron-Ethan, Chace Crawford-Paul Clayton, Jesse Metcalf-Jose, and Robin Wright Penn for "Mrs. Robinson," Taylor Kitsch-Jack Hyde, Rupert Evans-Dr. Flynn, Madeline Stowe-Carla, Scott Patterson-Ray Steele


What about Jared Leto??? I think he would be good for the role of Christian.


i really think ANNE CURTIS fits the role of anastasia steele. she's really pretty, wholesome at first look, then sexually attractive in every point. i don't know, just a suggestion. but see, whenever i check out anne's twitter updates, i always think of anastasia steele. i think she's perfect for the role.


I think Henry Cavill is the only one man enough to play the part. Ian Somerhalder and Matt Bomer still look like little boys to me. Everyone has their own version of Christian Grey and when it comes time to name who gets the part someone somewhere will be disappointed. I will still watch it either way.


I'm praying that Ian Somerhalder gets the part of Christian Grey. I've read all 3 books and see only Ian for this role. I've seen lots of other actors thrown into the mix, but seriously? I mean, they are ALL yummy, but Ian has the hair and the eyes that scream Christian! Everyone else has very short hair. How are they supposed to run their hands through their hair? Everyone has their own opinion; but mine will always be Ian Somerhalder. As far as Ana is concerned, hopefully ANYONE but Kristen Stewart will get the part. I can see Mila Kunis or maybe Minka Kelly playing Ana. Kate? Maybe Katie Cassidy. Elliot? Paul Walker. Mrs. Robinson (Elena)? Charlize Theron. But Ian Somerhalder for Christian; PLEASE!!! Love him. Will only watch the movie if he gets the part.


I just can't see Matt Bomer who has openly admitted to being gay plays the part of Christian Grey… no matter how good of an actor you are. In the campus paper interview that brought Anastasia to Christian Grey, she asked him if he were gay. This is a very intense moment that will essentially set the tone for both lead characters. It's hard to imagine and be captivated by a Christian Grey who can never fall in love with Anastasia because they are on the same team! I think Ian Somerhalder is the perfect Christian Grey!!!


Cam gigandet
Should be christian grey! When reading the books this is the only person I imagined through the description


Alex. Pettyfer. is. Christian. Grey. I'm more convinced than ever after seeing him in "Magic Mike". Also, I think Kate Mara would be PERFECT for the role of Ana. Check out her performance as Hayden McClaine in American Horror Story season one!


kaya scodelario and christian bale


I want Tom Hardy as Mr. Grey. And Emmy Rossum as Ana.
NO to Kristen Stuart.

Robbi Meckley

Personally, I think Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Channing Tatum would make an incredible pairing for Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. If not, I also thought Australian born actress Indiana Evans would be make another terrific Anastasia Steele (hair would need to be darker), but I am not sure about Christian Grey… maybe Alex Pettyfer???

mary grace hynes


mary grace hynes

For sure Channing Tatum as Christian Grey. He could pull it of easily


Matt Bomer for Christian Grey. 'nuf said. Can't believe you didn't even mention his name.




Not in this movie.


Chemistry between the two actors is more important than the actors themselves. You can't fake chemistry. Both actors need to hot, straight and single for what they r going to do


Matt Bomer is beautiful but gay. Did u not see Magic Mike.
Ryan Gosling is to old and doesn't have the hair
Ian doesn't have the acting chops
HENRY CAVILL….perfect as Christian
Emmy Rossum for Ana. She can act just watch Shameless

Name scoo

I think Ryan Gosling would be perfect. Some of your picks are terrible. Henry Cavill would be second choice.

Most actresses wouldn't do the nudity required. I've found most males don't care about doing nudity unless they are married.

Name scoo

Matt Bomer is gay — horrible choice for Christian! He even looks gay and like he's scared of women ..I like Ryan Gosling. Nobody listed is good for Ana.


Ryan Gosling definitely, excellent actor shows versatility in his films and has had many similar characters, the look is not important is Hollywood!! can change the color of your hair and go.


I see a serious contradiction in this article: It begins by portraying the book as a funny phenomenon with no literary value whatsoever and not even very good as erotica and then goes on to suggest the best people to "do it justice". Like every good self respecting director in the world is trying to get the job! Did the writer ask Jane Campion if she wants to direct what he essentially described as trash literature?


Ian Somerhalder would make a great Christian Grey and not just for his looks. Ian is a very talented actor who would be a perfect fit for the role.


Universal and Focus aren't going to cast a big name here, so as good as Ryan Gosling or Michael Fassbender may be in the role of Christian Grey, their busy schedules coupled with their high quotes are going to make sure its someone with less of a profile. The same goes for Ana unless Kirsten Stewart wants to do it so bad she takes a pay-cut

Oogle monster

Another AWESOME curveball casting: Rupert Grint as Christian and Gemma Arterton as Anna.

Oogle monster

Curveball: Jared Leto as Christian and Lena Dunham as Anna. BOOM!


I totally didn't like any of the cast listed…yes some are unknown and new but nothing what they described in the book! Ian somerhalder is perfect for Christian because of his acting!! And Ana Lucy hale comes to mind none of the listed above! But that's my opinion…


Are you KIDDING me?! Ian Somehalder only because his looks rather than acting skill???!! Get real people! Just because an actor is on a CW show doesn't mean they don't have the chops to pull off big roles. Damon Salvatore practically IS Christian in vampire form. Dark, broody, self-loathing, heart of gold beneath a tough exterior, and NEED I mention Ian has the required "smoldering gaze" NAILED to a tee! When I read the books, all I see is Ian written all over it :)


Matt Bomer should absolutely be Christian, and I am still rooting for Emmy Rosum as Ana, I completely disagree with the list mentioned above and if Kristen Stewart got the role it would ruin it for me completely.

Jenna Carson

Matt Bomer is the perfect Christian Grey!


Matt Bomer would make the perfect Christian Grey and he really needs a good breakout role to getaway from White Collar and into more movies.


I suggest Lena Dunham, Jack Black and as director, Tommy Wisseau. : )


Couldn't agree with you less Playlist! Tom Hiddleston completely ruined Deep Blue Sea for me – was stiff and not sexy or charming at all!


Christian: Channing Tatum
Anastacia: Taylor Swift (looks ?)… Erica Dasher (my choice)


Ryan Gosling as Christian and Ashley Greene as Anastasia Steele!!


Silas from Weeds should play Christian!!!! So hot, and fits the character!


Alexander Skarsgard!!!!!! No questions asked! I feel they need to look no further. And, he has already said and i quote "i was born to play Mr. Grey". Im sure he would have no problem dying his hair either. Just look at him!!!! He is perfect!!!!!


Want Ian Somerhalder badly but will settle for Henry Cavill as Christian. Could Katie Holmes pull off Anna?


Colin Egglesfield as Mr. Grey!

Claire M

Matt Bomer – Please! Whenever I read the book his face/style etc fit the whole thing exactly!
Have a look below!


Wow, I REALLY like Henry Cavill for the role of Christian!!!


Has the guy who wrote this article ever even read this book? Anastasia is described as having big BLUE (not brown) eyes too big for her face. And Christian is supposed to be a drop dead gorgeous GREY (not green) eyed man. None of these picks match the characters appearances at all. Honestly, I would ditch all these big named actors and go with no name ones.


Chris Hemsworth, Henry Cavill or Ian Somerhalder would be good picks.
As far as Ana that is going to be the toughest. I think Emmy Rossum would be good. Alexis Bledel would be good because she has that innocent, good girl role. I kind of like the idea of it being a nobody because I can't think of anyone that would fit perfectly.


Chris hemsworth for sure. No kstew…. and alexis bledel as anastasia


How about Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart? Directed by Michael Bay.

The books are bad, and started as a twilight fan fiction. So why waste acting and directing talent on them?


the awkward moment when you forget to mention matt bomer as christian grey…..


Chris Hemsworth as Christian Grey for sure!


Ian Somerhalder as Christian Grey and Lucy Hale as Ana


I think a totally different girl that perfectly describes the looks of Ana should be Ana…not anybody else mentioned below!


Henry cavils is the perfect christian grey young and handsome


EMMY ROSSUM as Ana!!!!!!!!!!!!


Ryan Gosling is perfect as Christian Grey…if its not him, i wont even bother watching the movie-as always the books are better than the movies.


Henry Cavill is Christian Grey. He is Perfect


kaya scodelario for anastasia steele
pta for director this could be his lolita…

jacqui lewis

I think Matt Bomer should be cast as Christian.


this piece of shit is advertisment for abusive relationships sold as S&M kinky fantasy.


Henry Cavill as Christian and Emmy Rossum as Ana


Think both characters need to be unknowns, un associated with other roles and as closely matching Ana and Christians as possible. The trouble with any film adaptation is, it is only the director or casting teams take on the story and characters and not necessarily how you saw them when you read the book.


christian bale would be a great christian grey


I'm reading it right now. Really crap book. It would be a miracle if the film turned out to be any form of good. As for the leads. I want Benedict to play Christian. As for Ana, I went for Nina Dobrev against Anna Kendrick or Emmy Rossum. Director I really can't decide. Paul Thomas Anderson, but that is because of The Master Trailer being so good.


I could really care less who they cast for everyone, EXCEPT Christian. Please, please, PLEASE consider Chris Evans. He's got it all going on . . . perfection!


Analeigh Tipton. Casting PERFECTION


Anastasia steele= Rooney Mara
Christian Grey= Henry Cavill


As terrible as this book sounds (haven't read it), I'd totally watch some arty sex movie directed by Campion, starring Tipton and Hiddleston. Great picks, Playlist!


Please let it be K-Stew. She needs to get NEKKID

Katie Walsh

"for a fun way to put yourself into a coma, drink a shot every time the words "inner goddess" appear" LOL Oli, I am literally obsessed with you.

Love the picks here, definitely would lift it out of cheap smut territory and into more lofty air. James Deen is probably, ahem, the most experienced with the material, but no idea of his acting skills.

Also, Bret Easton Ellis won't shut up about writing this screenplay on Twitter.

Stephen B

Did Leonard turn down Bret Easton Ellis? He's been tweeting about his desire to script the adaptation for about a month now and appears to have taken meetings.


"We read it"

I feel so sorry for you.


No actor with any sense of self-worth would ever sign on to do this garbage.

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