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As 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Heads Toward Release, Universal Is Calling Shots (FIRST LOOK)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 18, 2014 at 6:00PM

As the movie version of the bestselling erotic novel "50 Shades of Grey" heads for release on February 13, 2015, the Focus Features marketing is starting to roll out. The sexy Interview cover and less provocative headshot of Jamie Dornan, the Northern Irish actor ("Once Upon a Time") finally cast as S & M master Christian Grey, were duly unveiled on Facebook.
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Jamie Dornan in '50 Shades of Grey'
Jamie Dornan in '50 Shades of Grey'
Dornan Interview

As the movie version of the bestselling erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" heads for release on February 13, 2015, the Focus Features marketing is starting to roll out. 

The sexy Interview cover and less provocative headshot of Jamie Dornan, the Northern Irish actor ("Once Upon a Time") finally cast--after Charlie Hunnam backed out--as S & M master Christian Grey, were duly unveiled on Facebook. 

But as the marketing hits, the driving force behind it comes from parent studio Universal, whose chairman Donna Langley is hugely invested in making her baby a hit. She landed the property amid a fierce bidding war partly by steering it through specialty subsidiary Focus Features, which was able to produce the film on a modest budget without having to hit it out of the park on a big-studio level.

Langley and British author E.L. James hand-picked the producing team behind "A Social Network" and "Captain Phillips," Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, to shepherd the film. They all agreed on "Saving Mr. Banks" writer Kelly Marcel, director Sam Taylor-Johnson and casting Grey (Dornan) and Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). 

So they're not about to give up control now that the film is in post-production and heading for release. A realligned Focus Features, which has been finding its footing under new management led by Peter Schlessel, will execute marketing plans, I hear, under marching orders from the parent studio. 

This article is related to: 50 Shades of Grey, Jamie Dornan, Universal, Universal/Focus Features, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, Marketing


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.