As has been well documented by now, the production of “Fifty Shades Of Grey” was troubled, to put it mildly. Almost every step of the movie was hobbled by author E.L. James who wielded considerable creative power over the erotica blockbuster, and butted heads with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel. And in a recent podcast with Bret Easton Ellis, the latter was candid about the promises she received from Universal and Focus Features about the creative freedom she would have versus the reality of how it all played out.
“I very much wanted to do something different with the screenplay, and when I spoke to the studio and the producers and made that quite clear, they were very enthusiastic about that and kind of loved the things I wanted to do,” she explained. “I didn’t want the story to be linear; I wanted it to begin at the end of the film, and for us to meet in the middle. So you start with the spanking, and you have these sort of flashes that go throughout the film. … I wanted to take the inner goddess out, and all of Ana’s inner monologue. … I wanted to remove a lot of the dialogue. I felt it could be a really sexy film if there wasn’t so much talking in it.”
That’s a very different structure indeed, and it seems that studio executives were talking out of two sides of their mouths, particularly after the screenplay was finished.
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“When I delivered that script was when I realized that all of them saying, ‘Yeah, absolutely this is what we want!,’ and, ‘You can write anything you like and get crazy and artistic with it’—that was utter, utter bullshit. Rightly so. Erika was like, ‘This isn’t what I want it to be, and I don’t think this is the film the fans are looking for.’ … She ended up coming into my house for a week, and we kind of wrote side-by-side and put things back in,” Marcel said. “She would always let me argue and fight for things that I felt passionate about. In the end, I think we ended up with a draft that was a halfway compromise, but she had still been very brave about what she had let go. Ultimately, Erika did have all of the control.”
And it’s that last sentence is perhaps key. When Focus Features landed the rights to ‘Fifty Shades,’ E.L. James was given approval over “script, director and lead cast.” And while Marcel did witness the struggles between James and Taylor-Johnson, she also concedes, “I would argue that it was very clear that that was the way it was going to be.”
Still, it’s an experience that has still left Marcel with a sour taste, and she has no desire to watch what the finished movie turned out like. “My heart really was broken by that process, I really mean it. I don’t see it out of any kind of bitterness or anger or anything like that. I just don’t feel like I can watch it without feeling some pain about how different it is to what I initially wrote,” she says.
It’s not a shock that Marcel won’t be returning for the sequels, and perhaps telling that James’ screenwriter husband Niall Leonard has been hired for “Fifty Shades Darker.” Listen to the full podcast with Marcel below. [via Vulture]