Universal has finally found a director for the “Fifty Shades of Grey” sequel to follow Sam Taylor-Johnson, who announced earlier this year that after tussles with powerful writer E.L. James she would not be returning.
And yes, it’s a man, ladies and gentlemen. Which marks a risk for Universal chairman Donna Langley, who has been overseeing this series from the start. Variety reports that Langley has offered director James Foley “Fifty Shades Darker,” which reunites Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as the original’s kinky lovers. And he directs a script by James’ husband, Niall Leonard, who presumably works closely with his producer/author wife.
James produces the high-stakes sequel with Dana Brunetti and new Universal in-house producer Michael De Luca, who left his Sony production gig to join the house of Langley. She’s on a roll this summer as the studio is enjoying record-breaking box office–“Straight Outta Compton” is their latest hit. You have to go back to Warner Bros in the era of Bob Daly and Terry Semel to find a comparatively consistent run. Universal was also the most profitable studio in 2014–without any comic-book franchises.
Can Foley, who directed lurid ’80s and ’90s thrillers including admittedly sexy “After Dark, My Sweet” as well as David Mamet talkfest “Glengarry Glen Ross,” handle intimate S & M –and get along with James? (The deal is still being sorted out.) Putting the male gaze on Anastasia and Christian’s tumultuous lovemaking risks not steering clear of those inevitable awkward moments –the way Taylor-Johnson sensitively managed to do.
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The sequel to the $567 million global grosser should start production in early 2016, with the film bowing February 14, 2017.