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We Read It: Picking A Director & Cast For The 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Movie

by Oliver Lyttelton
July 9, 2012 3:12 PM
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"Fifty Shades Of Grey," along with sequels "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" is a publishing phenomenon the likes of which haven't been seen since "Twilight." The book, by EL James (a pseudonym for British TV executive Erika Leonard), actually started as fan-fiction for characters from Stephenie Meyer's books, entitled "Master Of The Universe," later reworked, extended and republished as a stand-alone piece, and released as an e-book over three volumes between May 2011 and January 2012. It became a word-of-mouth hit, picked up by Vintage Books for a wider commercial release this April, and has, in a little over a year, sold 20 million copies across the three books -- accounting for one in every five hardback fiction novels sold, with Leonard said to be earning $1 million a week for her troubles. It's all the more impressive considering that the story is unashamed, and reasonably explicit, erotica, not a genre that's led to blockbuster sales figures.

And inevitably, despite the dangers involved, film rights were swiftly snapped up, with Universal's indie arm Focus Features winning the bidding war, ahead of the likes of Warners, Sony and Paramount, with the prestige of James Schamus' company, behind films like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Moonrise Kingdom," apparently swinging it, although James apparently retains virtually unheard-of creative control over the adaptation. The film(s) isn't being fast-tracked, but Variety reported this morning that producers have spent the last week pitching to be put in charge of the project, so clearly movement is happening.

And as such, we thought it might a good opportunity to do what your mom's been doing for weeks, and what you've been thinking about getting up the courage to do, and actually reading the thing, thinking about who might be decent candidates to direct and star in the eventual film (Angelina Jolie was mentioned at one point as director, but it seemed to have been nothing more rumors). It's clear from Leonard's demands that we're looking at something that will at least have the veneer of prestige; indeed Focus head James Schamus has suggested that he might write the screenplay himself, as he did for "The Ice Storm," "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" and "Lust, Caution," among others.

As for the book itself, it's safe to say it's not going to be in consideration for the Pulitzer or anything. There's only really about one-and-a-half book's worth of story across the three novels (an adaptation would be wise to make one or two films, rather than three, but that would pretty much be a case of throwing money away, so it's unlikely to happen), and the prose is mostly of about the level you'd expect for something that started as fan fiction (for a fun way to put yourself into a coma, drink a shot every time the words "inner goddess" appear) and things slow to a boring, boring crawl every time the central couple aren't fucking.

There is however, plenty of fucking (spiced up with a dash of S&M) and this is obviously the stuff that's made the book sell into the millions. There's undoubtedly sexier, better-written erotica out there, but as a sort of gateway, a not-too-threatening, not-too-chaste "Twilight" with nipple clamps, we can probably see the appeal. What's interesting is how it makes it to the screen; even done without "Shortbus"-style real sex, the book as written is pretty much a guaranteed NC-17, and yet to tone it down would be to risk losing what everyone liked about it in the first place.

And it'll also affect the kind of filmmakers and actors it can attract. Stars resistant to nudity or sex scenes can pretty much be counted out of the running, and ideally you'd need a filmmaker with some experience in that field too -- the risk is that the visual isn't always going to live up to what the reader imagines (something which Leonard herself seems to be worried about) and could be a little prosaic on screen. We'd also argue that being told through a woman's point of view is a fairly crucial part of the book's success (anecdotally, several friends have told us that's part of what hooked them), and perhaps having a female director might be a way of retaining that perspective and sensitivity on the big screen, as well as hopefully ironing out some of the more questionable gender issues.

But preamble aside, below you'll find our view on who would be sensible hires for Focus not only to direct the film, but also star as the two leads, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey (we're leaving the supporting cast alone for now, mainly because it's pretty much a two-hander, in the first book at least). Obviously, there's a certain amount of projection going on with fan-casting of this kind, so you're likely to disagree; feel free to weigh in with your own picks in the comments section below.

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  • Brielle Foster | August 28, 2013 10:20 AMReply

    Enjoy the film but have been recommended to try the book which is apparently much better :)
    50 shades of grey movie

  • Alexia Tessier | August 28, 2013 6:24 AMReply

    Thank you so much for the wonderful book! I finished it a few days ago and cannot get it out of my head. It is pure magic. It was everything I hoped it would be and much more....
    Fifty Shades Movie

  • Susan Heckmann | June 26, 2013 9:45 PMReply

    I like the look of the top girl on the list. Can she act? However, and it's a big however, Ian Somerhalder is the only Christian Grey.

  • kitcon | March 15, 2013 11:49 AMReply

    As I type this, 89 comments !? I suggest a Part 2: More Thought on Casting.

  • thinking | January 19, 2013 8:33 PMReply

    Michelle trachtenberg? For Anastasia Steele....she is petite, pale, amd her eyes are big....she looks like the girl next door....but can pull off sex appeal very very well....hmmm

  • stephanie Landry | January 19, 2013 10:56 AMReply

    I think Emmy Rossum or perhaps Mila Kunis for the role of Anastasia...

  • Susan | June 26, 2013 9:48 PM

    Emmy, yes for syrem but Mila after 'The Black Swan' and the new Oz movie showing how badly she can act is a NO!

  • Bored | January 17, 2013 6:59 AMReply

    Thos is possibly the most uninteresting and boring eroticas out there! To make it more interesting and compelling, they need to change Anastasia to Anthony, cast Tom Hiddleston as Christian, and a baby faced actor as Anthony and voila! A good time for all!

  • MBR | January 10, 2013 6:40 PMReply

    I will be very disappointed if Ian Somerhalder is not cast as christian grey. He is gorgeous and sexy as hell and I think the fact that he is a little older makes the story more covincing. To cast someone who is 27 years would make him seem to ridiculous to be a CEO. Please don't cast someone like Ryan Gosling who I wouldn't look at once never mind twice. Christian Grey has to be gorgeous I hope your casting choices don't spoil the film

  • Susan | June 26, 2013 9:52 PM

    I'm so with you on this. Ian Somerhalder is Grey and Ryan Gosling would be horrid nevermind the guy on the top of this play and half the other ones are horrid. I like the look of the female at the top. I would like to know more about her. Can she acts because I think she looks the part.

  • dana | January 8, 2013 4:17 PMReply

    Every single choice mentioned is too good. Let a couple of C-list television actors do this and get it over with.

  • Erin | December 21, 2012 10:39 PMReply

    Ian Somerhalder for Christian Grey, Emmy Rossum for Ana.

    Amber Heard for Kate, Paul Walker (older but does not look age, so Christian's older bro Elliot), Tom Hardy-Taylor, Jessica Stroup-Mia, Diane Lane-Grace, John Schneider-Carrick, Zac Efron-Ethan, Chace Crawford-Paul Clayton, Jesse Metcalf-Jose, and Robin Wright Penn for "Mrs. Robinson," Taylor Kitsch-Jack Hyde, Rupert Evans-Dr. Flynn, Madeline Stowe-Carla, Scott Patterson-Ray Steele

  • Susan | June 26, 2013 9:56 PM

    That sound like a good cast other Madeline Stowe. I'd rather seen Robin Wright. Also, Zac Efron could play Christian in a pinch. I'm learning to appreaciate him.

  • Nikki | November 21, 2012 6:56 PMReply

    What about Jared Leto??? I think he would be good for the role of Christian.

  • kim | November 11, 2012 9:12 AMReply

    i really think ANNE CURTIS fits the role of anastasia steele. she's really pretty, wholesome at first look, then sexually attractive in every point. i don't know, just a suggestion. but see, whenever i check out anne's twitter updates, i always think of anastasia steele. i think she's perfect for the role.

  • humpz | November 20, 2012 4:36 AM

    i suspect u'r a filipino :) atlast i found an ally. i totally agree with u, she's perfect to be ana. let's support her

  • Angela | August 12, 2012 10:18 PMReply

    I think Henry Cavill is the only one man enough to play the part. Ian Somerhalder and Matt Bomer still look like little boys to me. Everyone has their own version of Christian Grey and when it comes time to name who gets the part someone somewhere will be disappointed. I will still watch it either way.

  • Angel* | August 5, 2012 11:23 PMReply

    I'm praying that Ian Somerhalder gets the part of Christian Grey. I've read all 3 books and see only Ian for this role. I've seen lots of other actors thrown into the mix, but seriously? I mean, they are ALL yummy, but Ian has the hair and the eyes that scream Christian! Everyone else has very short hair. How are they supposed to run their hands through their hair? Everyone has their own opinion; but mine will always be Ian Somerhalder. As far as Ana is concerned, hopefully ANYONE but Kristen Stewart will get the part. I can see Mila Kunis or maybe Minka Kelly playing Ana. Kate? Maybe Katie Cassidy. Elliot? Paul Walker. Mrs. Robinson (Elena)? Charlize Theron. But Ian Somerhalder for Christian; PLEASE!!! Love him. Will only watch the movie if he gets the part.

  • ianne | August 3, 2012 1:16 AMReply

    I just can't see Matt Bomer who has openly admitted to being gay plays the part of Christian Grey... no matter how good of an actor you are. In the campus paper interview that brought Anastasia to Christian Grey, she asked him if he were gay. This is a very intense moment that will essentially set the tone for both lead characters. It's hard to imagine and be captivated by a Christian Grey who can never fall in love with Anastasia because they are on the same team! I think Ian Somerhalder is the perfect Christian Grey!!!

  • nicole | August 2, 2012 6:06 PMReply

    Cam gigandet
    Should be christian grey! When reading the books this is the only person I imagined through the description

  • Kickadeee | August 2, 2012 4:12 PMReply

    Alex. Pettyfer. is. Christian. Grey. I'm more convinced than ever after seeing him in "Magic Mike". Also, I think Kate Mara would be PERFECT for the role of Ana. Check out her performance as Hayden McClaine in American Horror Story season one!

  • Lola | July 27, 2012 11:39 AMReply

    kaya scodelario and christian bale

  • Sooners | July 25, 2012 8:30 AMReply

    I want Tom Hardy as Mr. Grey. And Emmy Rossum as Ana.
    NO to Kristen Stuart.

  • Robbi Meckley | July 21, 2012 5:09 PMReply

    Personally, I think Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Channing Tatum would make an incredible pairing for Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. If not, I also thought Australian born actress Indiana Evans would be make another terrific Anastasia Steele (hair would need to be darker), but I am not sure about Christian Grey... maybe Alex Pettyfer???

  • mary grace hynes | July 21, 2012 12:29 AMReply


  • mary grace hynes | July 21, 2012 12:23 AMReply

    For sure Channing Tatum as Christian Grey. He could pull it of easily

  • SHARONA | July 16, 2012 10:37 PMReply

    Matt Bomer for Christian Grey. 'nuf said. Can't believe you didn't even mention his name.

  • humpz | November 20, 2012 4:39 AM

    yer right. Matt Bomer all the way

  • Shienna | July 16, 2012 12:20 AMReply


  • Max | July 12, 2012 4:54 PMReply

    Not in this movie.

  • Marty | July 11, 2012 7:56 PMReply

    Chemistry between the two actors is more important than the actors themselves. You can't fake chemistry. Both actors need to hot, straight and single for what they r going to do

  • Marty | July 11, 2012 7:39 PMReply

    Matt Bomer is beautiful but gay. Did u not see Magic Mike.
    Ryan Gosling is to old and doesn't have the hair
    Ian doesn't have the acting chops
    HENRY CAVILL....perfect as Christian
    Emmy Rossum for Ana. She can act just watch Shameless

  • d | July 11, 2012 8:01 PM

    FYI, gay actors can play straight, just as straight actors routinely play gay.

  • Name scoo | July 11, 2012 4:20 PMReply

    I think Ryan Gosling would be perfect. Some of your picks are terrible. Henry Cavill would be second choice.

    Most actresses wouldn't do the nudity required. I've found most males don't care about doing nudity unless they are married.

  • Name scoo | July 11, 2012 4:14 PMReply

    Matt Bomer is gay -- horrible choice for Christian! He even looks gay and like he's scared of women ..I like Ryan Gosling. Nobody listed is good for Ana.

  • Kari | July 11, 2012 3:20 PMReply

    Ryan Gosling definitely, excellent actor shows versatility in his films and has had many similar characters, the look is not important is Hollywood!! can change the color of your hair and go.

  • Petros | July 11, 2012 7:07 AMReply

    I see a serious contradiction in this article: It begins by portraying the book as a funny phenomenon with no literary value whatsoever and not even very good as erotica and then goes on to suggest the best people to "do it justice". Like every good self respecting director in the world is trying to get the job! Did the writer ask Jane Campion if she wants to direct what he essentially described as trash literature?

  • Lyndsey | July 11, 2012 12:09 AMReply

    Ian Somerhalder would make a great Christian Grey and not just for his looks. Ian is a very talented actor who would be a perfect fit for the role.

  • JDM | July 10, 2012 10:42 PMReply

    Universal and Focus aren't going to cast a big name here, so as good as Ryan Gosling or Michael Fassbender may be in the role of Christian Grey, their busy schedules coupled with their high quotes are going to make sure its someone with less of a profile. The same goes for Ana unless Kirsten Stewart wants to do it so bad she takes a pay-cut

  • Oogle monster | July 10, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    Another AWESOME curveball casting: Rupert Grint as Christian and Gemma Arterton as Anna.

  • Oogle monster | July 10, 2012 10:16 PMReply

    Curveball: Jared Leto as Christian and Lena Dunham as Anna. BOOM!

  • Mandy | July 10, 2012 1:45 PMReply

    I totally didn't like any of the cast listed...yes some are unknown and new but nothing what they described in the book! Ian somerhalder is perfect for Christian because of his acting!! And Ana Lucy hale comes to mind none of the listed above! But that's my opinion...

  • Ashley | July 10, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    Are you KIDDING me?! Ian Somehalder only because his looks rather than acting skill???!! Get real people! Just because an actor is on a CW show doesn't mean they don't have the chops to pull off big roles. Damon Salvatore practically IS Christian in vampire form. Dark, broody, self-loathing, heart of gold beneath a tough exterior, and NEED I mention Ian has the required "smoldering gaze" NAILED to a tee! When I read the books, all I see is Ian written all over it :)

  • Britta | July 10, 2012 4:08 PM

    I couldn't agree more Ashley!

  • Meriah | July 10, 2012 12:42 PMReply

    Matt Bomer should absolutely be Christian, and I am still rooting for Emmy Rosum as Ana, I completely disagree with the list mentioned above and if Kristen Stewart got the role it would ruin it for me completely.

  • Jenna Carson | July 10, 2012 11:58 AMReply

    Matt Bomer is the perfect Christian Grey!

  • shannon | July 10, 2012 8:25 AMReply

    Matt Bomer would make the perfect Christian Grey and he really needs a good breakout role to getaway from White Collar and into more movies.

  • JD | July 10, 2012 7:51 AMReply

    I suggest Lena Dunham, Jack Black and as director, Tommy Wisseau. : )

  • Badchoicesplaylist | July 10, 2012 5:22 AMReply

    Couldn't agree with you less Playlist! Tom Hiddleston completely ruined Deep Blue Sea for me - was stiff and not sexy or charming at all!

  • nankurunaisa | July 10, 2012 4:05 AMReply

    Christian: Channing Tatum
    Anastacia: Taylor Swift (looks ?)... Erica Dasher (my choice)

  • Justine | July 9, 2012 10:05 PMReply

    Ryan Gosling as Christian and Ashley Greene as Anastasia Steele!!

  • Oogle monster | July 10, 2012 10:15 PM

    LOL the day Ashley Greene will be cast, even as an extra, in a film with Ryan Gosling is the day Hollywood implodes.

  • Awebb | July 9, 2012 9:46 PMReply

    Silas from Weeds should play Christian!!!! So hot, and fits the character!

  • Mary | July 9, 2012 9:43 PMReply

    Alexander Skarsgard!!!!!! No questions asked! I feel they need to look no further. And, he has already said and i quote "i was born to play Mr. Grey". Im sure he would have no problem dying his hair either. Just look at him!!!! He is perfect!!!!!

  • CR | July 9, 2012 9:18 PMReply

    Want Ian Somerhalder badly but will settle for Henry Cavill as Christian. Could Katie Holmes pull off Anna?

  • Ahw | July 9, 2012 9:15 PMReply

    Colin Egglesfield as Mr. Grey!

  • Claire M | July 9, 2012 9:13 PMReply

    Matt Bomer - Please! Whenever I read the book his face/style etc fit the whole thing exactly!
    Have a look below!

  • N.K. | July 9, 2012 9:08 PMReply

    Wow, I REALLY like Henry Cavill for the role of Christian!!!

  • Samantha | July 9, 2012 9:00 PMReply

    Has the guy who wrote this article ever even read this book? Anastasia is described as having big BLUE (not brown) eyes too big for her face. And Christian is supposed to be a drop dead gorgeous GREY (not green) eyed man. None of these picks match the characters appearances at all. Honestly, I would ditch all these big named actors and go with no name ones.

  • Chase | July 9, 2012 11:23 PM

    Contact lenses, fool. There's a reason why there's a makeup department.

  • Laura | July 9, 2012 8:43 PMReply

    Chris Hemsworth, Henry Cavill or Ian Somerhalder would be good picks.
    As far as Ana that is going to be the toughest. I think Emmy Rossum would be good. Alexis Bledel would be good because she has that innocent, good girl role. I kind of like the idea of it being a nobody because I can't think of anyone that would fit perfectly.

  • angela | July 9, 2012 8:30 PMReply

    Chris hemsworth for sure. No kstew.... and alexis bledel as anastasia

  • DArtagnan | July 9, 2012 8:27 PMReply

    How about Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart? Directed by Michael Bay.

    The books are bad, and started as a twilight fan fiction. So why waste acting and directing talent on them?

  • ruby | July 9, 2012 8:20 PMReply

    the awkward moment when you forget to mention matt bomer as christian grey.....

  • Jameson | July 13, 2012 10:31 PM

    Get your head out of your ass and go see Cosmopolis and then come back and apologize. Pattinson can act, Cronenberg thought so, after watching him in Little Ashes, and so did Francis Lawrence. He's way too good to be involved with this trashy novel, which is unsalvagable as a movie. The book caters to the dumbest, lowest common denominator, and the film will do the same, and not be worth watching. KStew was horribly miscast as both Bella and Snow White, as the critics have amply pointed out. SWATH is rotten on RT, and 50 Shades of Grey will also be rotten, there's no way to skim cream from slop.

  • Trina | July 9, 2012 8:09 PMReply

    Chris Hemsworth as Christian Grey for sure!

  • Julie | July 9, 2012 8:09 PMReply

    Ian Somerhalder as Christian Grey and Lucy Hale as Ana

  • Mandy | July 10, 2012 1:39 PM

    I agree with ur choices totally! Ian and Lucy would be perfect!

  • Lisa | July 9, 2012 7:47 PMReply

    I think a totally different girl that perfectly describes the looks of Ana should be Ana...not anybody else mentioned below!

  • Chey | July 9, 2012 6:31 PMReply

    Henry cavils is the perfect christian grey young and handsome

  • Ana | July 9, 2012 6:28 PMReply

    EMMY ROSSUM as Ana!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lily | July 9, 2012 6:21 PMReply

    Ryan Gosling is perfect as Christian Grey...if its not him, i wont even bother watching the movie-as always the books are better than the movies.

  • Lisa | July 9, 2012 6:12 PMReply

    Henry Cavill is Christian Grey. He is Perfect

  • Edie | July 10, 2012 3:11 AM

    Henry Cavill IS Christian Grey! His Dunhill ads on youtube SCREAM Fifty!he has the looks,the eyes,the body,boyish smile & sexy smirk. On Tudors he played charming,sweet,domineering,seductive & had no problems with the nudity or steamy scenes. He has the LOOK ,the resume. & he is not afaraid of the steamy scenes. He has it all. Not to mention he LOOKS LIKE A GREEK GOD AS ana describes. He is the only one with the resume that proves he is Christian. As for Ana yes she has blue eyes not brown & Alexandra Daddario of Percy Jackson fits the description. Long brown hair BLUE eyes to big for her face & alabaster skin also the lips for biting. She has an innocent beauty requiring no makeup which Ana rareky uses. At 26 she looks 22 yet will have the maturity for the steamy scenes. They would be perfect together.

  • Lisa | July 9, 2012 7:43 PM

    Yes, Henry Cavill is the best choice, he's not the other guys mentioned that are already over-cast in other movies...

  • kris | July 9, 2012 6:09 PMReply

    kaya scodelario for anastasia steele
    pta for director this could be his lolita...

  • jacqui lewis | July 9, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    I think Matt Bomer should be cast as Christian.

  • 7 | July 9, 2012 5:42 PMReply

    this piece of shit is advertisment for abusive relationships sold as S&M kinky fantasy.

  • Marty | July 9, 2012 5:41 PMReply

    Henry Cavill as Christian and Emmy Rossum as Ana

  • Jakqe | July 9, 2012 6:11 PM

    COMPLETELY AGREE with Emmy Rossum she can act & Shameless sure shows her ability for playing Ana but my man choices are Alexander Skarsgard or Ryan Gosling..... Yumm

  • Sam | July 9, 2012 5:21 PMReply

    Think both characters need to be unknowns, un associated with other roles and as closely matching Ana and Christians as possible. The trouble with any film adaptation is, it is only the director or casting teams take on the story and characters and not necessarily how you saw them when you read the book.

  • zoë | July 9, 2012 5:04 PMReply

    christian bale would be a great christian grey

  • Connor | July 9, 2012 4:57 PMReply

    I'm reading it right now. Really crap book. It would be a miracle if the film turned out to be any form of good. As for the leads. I want Benedict to play Christian. As for Ana, I went for Nina Dobrev against Anna Kendrick or Emmy Rossum. Director I really can't decide. Paul Thomas Anderson, but that is because of The Master Trailer being so good.

  • Audra | July 9, 2012 4:55 PMReply

    I could really care less who they cast for everyone, EXCEPT Christian. Please, please, PLEASE consider Chris Evans. He's got it all going on . . . perfection!

  • C | July 9, 2012 4:39 PMReply

    Analeigh Tipton. Casting PERFECTION

  • 3:53 | July 9, 2012 3:54 PMReply

    Anastasia steele= Rooney Mara
    Christian Grey= Henry Cavill

  • bedtimebonzob | July 9, 2012 3:42 PMReply

    As terrible as this book sounds (haven't read it), I'd totally watch some arty sex movie directed by Campion, starring Tipton and Hiddleston. Great picks, Playlist!

  • Tom | July 9, 2012 3:36 PMReply

    Please let it be K-Stew. She needs to get NEKKID

  • ew | July 10, 2012 11:47 PM

    No she doesn't!

  • Katie Walsh | July 9, 2012 3:32 PMReply

    "for a fun way to put yourself into a coma, drink a shot every time the words "inner goddess" appear" LOL Oli, I am literally obsessed with you.

    Love the picks here, definitely would lift it out of cheap smut territory and into more lofty air. James Deen is probably, ahem, the most experienced with the material, but no idea of his acting skills.

    Also, Bret Easton Ellis won't shut up about writing this screenplay on Twitter.

  • Stephen B | July 9, 2012 3:30 PMReply

    Did Leonard turn down Bret Easton Ellis? He's been tweeting about his desire to script the adaptation for about a month now and appears to have taken meetings.

  • Marko | July 9, 2012 3:25 PMReply

    "We read it"

    I feel so sorry for you.

  • Liz | July 9, 2012 3:23 PMReply

    No actor with any sense of self-worth would ever sign on to do this garbage.

  • Taylor | July 13, 2012 10:35 PM

    +2. Anyone who signs on for this piece of trash deserves whatever they get.

  • Milla | July 9, 2012 11:35 PM

    Ditto, and leave Ang Lee alone, please.

  • caro | July 9, 2012 4:15 PM


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