Speculation around casting for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie may not have been as heated around here as it was for Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars: Episode VII, but even the haters have to admit that this is the kind of movie that can change lives. Just ask Robert Pattinson. He was a relatively unknown actor most famous for dying at Lord Voldemort's hands at the end of the fourth Harry Potter film, but landing the lead role in Twilight changed his life forever. Even if those four films weren't all that great, they made Pattinson extremely famous and able to get all kinds of work he wouldn't have otherwise-- including in some movies that even vampire-haters might see.
Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction, and though the movie adaptation may skew a lot older thanks to its famous sex scenes, it will be trying to capitalize on the similarly huge audience that devoured the books. So even if you won't see Fifty Shades of Grey, a ton of people probably will-- and that will be more than enough to transform the lives of the newly announced leads, Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam. But how much? Let's look at them one by one before they become famous forever as a pair.
Dakota Johnson Born to the Hollywood royalty of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, Johnson may now be set up to eclipse both of her parents, at all of 23 years old. She's been earning an outsize amount of attention ever since her first grown-up screen role, which was essentially a cameo as the cute girl in Justin Timberlake's bed early on in The Social Network. Not to be shallow about it, because she handled the fast-paced Sorkin dialogue pretty well, but if you remember her, it's for the Stanford underwear she was wearing:
That led her to slightly larger but still supporting roles in 21 Jump Street-- as one of the other undercover cops-- and The Five Year Engagement--as Jason Segel's energetic young girlfriend-- and then what should have been a huge breakout on Ben & Kate, the beloved but short-lived Fox sitcom in which she played a single mom. Who knows if it was the relatively high profile of Ben & Kate or just those Stanford underwear that got her the Fifty Shades audition, but according to The Wrap it all came down to the chemistry between her and Hunnam.
Johnson, unlike her co-star who we'll get to below, pretty much has everything to gain from the role. Anastasia is very much a surrogate for the author and therefore the reader, a naive and likable girl who is brought into the seamy world of S&M and learns the ropes right alongside us. And as fans of the book have described it, Anastasia has almost no sense of humor and very little of a defined personality-- which gives Johnson a lot of room to make the character her own and get audiences on her side even more. If Fifty Shades is a hit, she'll be as famous as Kristen Stewart-- and probably also subject to the same intense hate that Stewart gets, especially if she doesn't manage to work a sense of humor in there. If it's a flop, she may have to deal with embarrassing scenes on YouTube for a few years. But for a girl who became famous by showing her butt, that might not be the worst thing after all.
(Dakota Johnson image via Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com)