When everyone wants to buy the rights to your erotic bestsellers, you get to make the rules on any deals. And so, in 2012, when Universal and Focus Features landed the rights to the “Fifty Shades Of Grey” trilogy, they were willing to make some major concessions to get the contract signed, namely giving author E.L. James rare power of approval over the film’s script, casting, and director. Even though the movie is a massive financial success, we wonder if Universal and Focus aren’t having some pangs of regret. Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson hasn’t made secret her clashes with E.L. James, while the author has reportedly fought for everything, including the literal last word in the movie. And it appears James is asserting herself on the sequel too.
Variety reports that development on “Fifty Shades Darker,” which seems like a no brainer to get the green light already, is hitting a rough patch because James wants to write the script herself. For the first film, she co-wrote alongside Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks“), and that draft was rewritten by Patrick Marber (“Notes On A Scandal“). But James wants to go solo, and according to the trade, this likely means production on ‘Darker’ won’t start until the first quarter of 2016 at the earliest.
It’s certainly understandable why Universal is cagey on giving James free reign with her own material. No one read ‘Fifty Shades’ for its literary value, and the movie wisely ditched a lot of the book’s worst writing, leading many to give the finished film the faint praise that it was better than the source material. But given how much James fought with everyone during the production of the first movie, it’s clear why she wants to make sure the details she feels are important are right from the first step.
As for Sam Taylor-Johnson, she’s not expected to return to direct, even if the official word at the moment is that no discussions have taken place. Again, not exactly a surprise that she might not be interested in reliving her experience on the first movie.
So, you might be waiting a while to get tied up again. But maybe Universal and James will find the safe word to make everyone happy and proceed naughtily with making this thing happen sooner rather than later.