Universal Sees 50 Shades Of Gray

Erotic novel gets movie deal

Once in a while, a book comes along that has all of Hollywood’s executives type salivating, consumed with the thoughts of snagging the movie rights and turning it into a huge film hit. We like to imagine the book itself strutting down the halls of a high school, a wind machine fluttering its crisp white pages as suited studio types gape in slow-motion. Well, the latest walk-through has just concluded, and the rights to EL James’ controversial erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey are now in the hands of Focus Features and Universal.

The book – which began life as Twilight fan fiction and evolved into the steamy tale of a BDSM relationship between 21-year-old college student Anastasia Steele and wealthy late-20s entrepreneur Christian Grey – has been a huge bestseller with crucial appeal to an influential, largely female readership.

According to Deadline, the exact figure for the deal was not announced (Hollywood turning coy for once, we suppose), but it does include JK Rowling-style control over scripts, casting and director for James. But though there are two other books in the series, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, she didn’t insist that all three get made. However, you can bet they will be if the first movie makes it through development hell and is a success.

Whether that will happen is a big question. The book certainly has appeal, but the seemingly racy material could be a stumbling block for a high-profile pic. For every Basic Instinct, there are several duds (Colour Of Night among them). This one will likely depend on the team assembled to bring it to the screen…