Earning over $525 million worldwide, it’s safe to say that movie audiences have been eager to get kinky with “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” but Universal might be feeling they’ve been whipped and tied every step of the way with this potential franchise. From on set battles between author E.L. James and Sam Taylor-Johnson, to more wrangling with the writer over who gets to pen “Fifty Shades Darker,” keeping momentum moving on the successful series has been difficult. And now, the studio is getting ready to have a potential fight on their hands.
THR reports that the film’s leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are looking for pay raises for “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed.” And who could blame them? Both were paid $250,000 for the first film with no back end compensation (though they did get bonuses tied to box office results) ensuring Universal had a very healthy profit on the drama that cost a mere $40 million. Reportedly, the actors are looking for an increase not dissimilar to what Jennifer Lawrence received following “The Hunger Games” — she went from $500,000 to $10 million. The difference though is that Lawrence, in the same year the YA franchise starter came out, also starred in “Silver Linings Playbook,” which bagged her an Oscar and solidified the actress as a major box office draw. The same can’t be said for either Johnson or Dornan.
Meanwhile, Universal is eager to keep costs down and profit margins high, while producer Dana Brunetti seems to suggest they should be capitalizing on the success of ‘Fifty Shades’ elsewhere. “That was the great thing about this film — we knew we were going to be able to make stars,” he told the trade. “Now it’s their opportunity to get paid on other projects. It’s been a breakout role for both of them. I’m sure they are getting tons of offers on other things.”
The plan right now is to shoot the sequel in early 2016 for a 2017 release… but in order to do that, Universal and co. will have to get a script, find a director, and satisfy E.L. James along with the film’s leads. There’s still a very long road ahead.