E.L. James' Control Over the Fifty Shades of Grey Film Was Unprecedented

Posted on January 22, 2015

The release date for the film adaptation of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey is fast approaching, and tales from the set are starting to leak out. James's contract with the studio reportedly gives her an amazing amount of control for an author.

She had final say over the casting, the director, and the script just for starters. Vanity Fair Vanessa Grigoriadis wrote a very an interesting article about the shoot entitled "The Rocky Road to the Making of the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie." The piece examines how the film came to be made and take a look into how the author's extensive creative control shaped the film. Grigoriadis talked with director Sam Taylor-Johnson, as well as a number of other people associated with the production. It seems pretty clear that James was involved in every single detail of the film.

Everyone is very nice when talking about James, but it's clear the shoot was challenging. Usually on a set the director is in charge, but on this set Grigoriadis observes, "everyone on set balanced two masters: Taylor-Johnson and James." Mark Bridges, the film's costumer designer said that James sent him "friendly emails" about which outfits her fans would expect to see in the film. She let him know that Anastasia's "gray chiffon graduation dress" and her form fitting wine-colored dress needed to be in the film. She even sent him photos of the exact jeans Christian wears in his playroom, with details about how the jeans had to fit.

According to producer, Michael De Luca (The Social Network), "there were ups and downs" over the course of the shoot. He explained that James is very protective of her work and her fans and that she worries how the fans will receive the film. He said, but "sometimes what works in a novel doesn't work in a movie, and vice versa. There were some spirited debates."

Taylor-Johnson admitted that she and James got into it a number of times, but they seem to have eventually come to terms. The disagreements must have been intense, as she said people asked her during filming if she was going to quit, but she says she never considered quitting at all. Taylor-Johnson and James apparently had different visions of of what Christian's playroom looks like, as well as how many sex scenes should be in the movie.

Meanwhile the PR machinery is kicking into high gear. A video for one of the film's songs, "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)," has been released. It features Canadian R&B artist Abel Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, watching women in bondage gear dance on a stage, while Dakota Johnson hangs from a ceiling trussed like a Christmas turkey.

More than 100 million copies of the books have been sold around the world, so there definitely is a built in audience for the film. But will it work on film without seeming silly? We'll find out soon enough. The film hits theaters on February 13, 2015.

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