Though Gus Van Sant apparently wanted it really badly and Joe Wright's name was thrown around, the coveted job of directing the 50 Shades of Grey movie adaptation has gone to Sam Taylor-Johnson, Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr reports. For a relatively unknown English director like Taylor-Johnson, it's a coup, and for the rest of us, it's heartening to know that a studio believes in a female director to carry a movie based on a book with a massive female fan base. But... who? She's really quite cool. Trust us.
Taylor-Johnson only has one feature film to her name: Nowhere Boy, a 2009 biopic about the young lide of John Lennon. Before then, she was best known as a photographer and a video artist. A 2009 profile of her in The Guardian by Simon Hattenstone explained how "her work was fixated on decay, madness and death." Hattenstone points to "Hysteria," which features a woman laughing, and "Breach," which features a woman crying. Taylor-Johnson's book Crying Men features famous actors crying.
For a very commercial movie like 50 Shades, Taylor-Johnson is a very un-commercial choice, despite her roster of celebrity friends. In that same Guardian profile she told Hattenstone about how she walked out of meetings in Los Angeles. "It was when someone said, 'We're interested in making dramadies,'" she said. "I said, 'What the fuck's a dramady?' 'It's a drama comedy.' The combination of the two words made me think: I'm in the wrong place. It's all motivated by box-office returns, and I'll never be able to make the kind of film I want to make next."
And while clearly 50 Shades is looking to make big bucks, the producers seem unafraid of this impulse, considering many of the names surrounding the project were more on the artistic side. According to Fleming at Deadline, Michael De Luca, a producer, said: "Sam's unique ability to gracefully showcase complex relationships dealing with love, emotion and sexual chemistry make her the ideal director to bring Christian and Anastasia’s relationship to life." Aside from Taylor-Johnson's credentials, the choice is already being cheered because of the mere fact that this particular director, as opposed to some of those other names that had been bandied about in the trade press, is a woman. Which would only make sense, right? 50 Shades is a film based on a book written by a woman that was a big hit with women. But Hollywood doesn't work that way, so Taylor-Johnson's new job can be seen as a victory for women in the industry.
Picking Taylor-Johnson as director might also offer some new casting hints. Johnson is married to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the actor known for his roles in Anna Karenina, Savages, and Kick-Ass, and who starred in Nowhere Boy. They got together around the time she was 42 and he was 19, providing fodder for tabloids. But Aaron's star has only continued to rise and his name has already been mentioned as someone people would like to see playing 50 Shades' Christian Grey.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.