We've been burned with "Joe Wright is directing..." stories before: a couple of years ago the internet was confident he was doing a remake of My Fair Lady, until the man himself revealed he wasn't and never had been. So it's with caution that we report Variety's apparent scoop that Wright is the man tied (sorry) to Universal's adaptation of Fifty Shades Of Grey. He's filmed Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy and Ian McEwan in the past: is he really up for E. L. James?
Anna Karenina, Atonement and Pride & Prejudice were all produced under the Focus Films banner however, and given that Focus is now the home of Fifty Shades, you can see how Wright might be in favour there. Variety are careful to say that "no deal is in place", but "one insider very close to the production says Wright is the man". There's been no official comment from Focus or Universal yet. Variety reckon Wright is perfect for his "handling of young actresses". Matron!
A true publishing phenomenon, Fifty Shades of Grey (and its sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed) began life as Twilight slash fiction, before James refitted it into a story about the sexual awakening of virginal, just-graduated Anastasia Steele, who gets seduced into all sorts of steamy sado-masochist bondage shenanigans with the suavely devilish billionaire Christian Grey.
Many have suggested that its success is the one of the first to be explicitly down to the E-Reader/Kindle market: you can read filth on the tube on one of those things without people knowing. Detractors have dubbed it “mommy porn” (meaning that it’s enjoyed by mums, not that it’s about MILFs). You can read our take on it here.
One of the most fraught rights auctions in recent history saw Universal emerge victorious. Co-chairman Donna Langley is cracking the whip for the studio, while the screenplay is being teased out by Kelly Marcell. Marcell comes from film and TV (Terra Nova, Bronson) but started out in the theatre with the UK version of Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical. So Fifty Shades is right up her alley (sorry).
There's no cast yet, but if there's now a director aboard, that can finally be the project's major focus. Previous names bandied about have been the obvious Twilight re-teaming of Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson; Alexander Skarsgard; Chris Pine' The Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder; and Ashley Benson, who's already been trying to drop her good-girl image in Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Many of those names have already distanced themselves from the proposal. Perhaps Wright will try to bring in his frequent star Keira Knightley?
Certainly Wright could give the project a much-needed touch of class and reassure would-be stars that it won't just be smutty, but this is all so much rumour and net-gossip though. For boner-fide (sorry) updates, watch this space.