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It was a few weeks back that we first reported on the occasionally contentious relationship between author E.L. James and director Sam Taylor-Johnson on the set of Fifty Shades of Grey. At that time, the filmmaker was quoted saying that she and the writer found themselves at odds at times making the film, debating the creative direction of the feature in relation to the book. While you might think that this would simmer after the immensely successful release of the film last week, apparently the behind-the-scenes conflict is only getting deeper, as James is now reportedly working hard to gain creative control of the upcoming sequel, Fifty Shades Darker.
This news comes to us from Variety, which says that E.L. James is working to try and get a stronger voice in the filmmaking process with the upcoming sequel by adapting her own book into the next screenplay. Unfortunately, the higher-ups at Universal Pictures don't seem to be too keen on this idea, and it's causing a bit of drama. The trade report quotes from an unnamed source close to the project saying that a shuffle in the creative team is expected in the coming weeks, as right now it looks like neither Sam Taylor-Johnson nor screenwriter Kelly Marcel will be coming back for part two of what is presumably going to be a three-part franchise.
When reached for comment, a representative from Universal Pictures said that no decisions have officially been made regarding Taylor-Johnson or Marcel's future with the Fifty Shades series. They toed a similar line when discussing how E.L. James will fit into the plans for future movies, saying,
The studio had always intended to sit down with the author after the film opened and discuss next steps, and that has not yet happened.
While James didn't write the script for Fifty Shades of Grey, Variety notes that she did have a surprising amount of creative influence in the filmmaking process - especially compared to writers like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, who were both "hands-off" when it came to the big screen versions of their work. James contract with the studio allowed her access to creative meetings, and, according to sources, "would at times hold up the creative process by offering input that wasn’t in line with the filmmakers’ vision."
It will be fascinating to see how this story develops, if not only because E.L. James interests may eventually come into serious conflict with the interests of the studio. Variety's article suggests that the author wasn't happy at all about the sexual content of her story being toned down for the big screen adaptation, and one would imagine that she will fight hard to get more of it in the sequel. This creates a problem, because the studio can't allow that much sexual content and risk an NC-17 rating that would really destroy most distribution options. This has all the makings of a stand-off, and one could see it winding up doing serious harm to the future of Fifty Shades Darker.