'Fifty Shades of Grey': What Kind of Movie Could It Be, With What Cast?

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by Anne Thompson
May 4, 2012 10:26 AM
52 Comments
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It's easy to see why this erotic trilogy is a huge bestseller, but the first book, at least, is often repetitive and silly. How much intimacy will audiences tolerate? It will take a clever writer and director and charismatic actors to pull this off. There are so many ways this could go wrong.

There are ideas buried in this book about the power dynamics between men and women and the potency of S & M role playing that could prove fascinating in the right hands. Also, intimate sex described in detail in a novel can be shown in a movie--and much can be implied.

I could see fearless Ryan Gosling, who mined similar terrain in "Blue Valentine" and "Crazy Stupid Love," as the controlling but vulnerable master, with coltish tomboy Jennifer Lawrence ("Hunger Games") as the awkward innocent submissive with strongly-held values, ready to rock her sexual world. Chris Pine and Blake Lively also come to mind.

Part of the book's fantasy fun is Grey's Cinderella makeover of the penniless college grad, who blossoms under his attentions, flying in his personal jet and helicopter, as well as being gifted with a snazzy new wardrobe, computer and car. This is a case where a mediocre book (see: "Twilight," "Bridges of Madison County," "Love Story," or "The Notebook") could be much improved in movie form. "Pretty Woman" is one watered-down model of how this movie romance could go.

These were mainstream offerings, though, and I suspect this will not go that route. Movie crowds tend to avoid movies that make them sexually uncomfortable. That's another reason why this NC-17 material should go upscale and arthouse--that's the group that can handle this stuff, and might even appreciate it. Many women, especially, are starved for movies about emotional relationships.  Those who assume that this will be cheesy smutty trashy porn may be surprised.

On Facebook, Chris Willman asked me: "Would a halfway-self-respecting actor like these two do this project? (I probably don't want to know the answer.)"
        
Anne Thompson: "Well, it depends on who Focus Features (a classy label) puts together as a creative team. They'd have to be top notch to land those actors. If done well this could be box office hit. It's a risky high-wire act at best."

Willman: "No matter how popular the books are, wouldn't this be a losing proposition for A-list talent, if the perception is that it's soft-core smut for over-30 ladies? How much can Focus class it up? Who would be the modern-day equivalent of Adrian Lyne?"

Thompson: "Many bad books have been turned into better movies--it's an age-old Hollywood tradition. The romance is alive and well. The torrid language and even the explicit sex in the book need only be shown or implied on film."

Glenn Kenny: "So, Anne, unless I'm mistaken, what you're saying is, that there's a good movie to be made from "50 Shades of Grey," and that, IF that good movie is made, it will be a spectacular domestic box office flop. Day-um."

Thompson: "It's risky but it could go either way. 'Sex and the City' was a hit, when they hit it right. Many variables."        

Willman: "I'm trying to think of examples of a trashy novel being made into a good or great prestige movie (not to be argumentative, but just as an exercise). What I'm coming up with is... "Bridges of Madison County." And I'd have to watch it again."
        
Thompson: "'Gone with the Wind,' 'Bridget Jones Diary,' 'Fried Green Tomatoes,' 'The Notebook,' 'The Shining' and 'Carrie' (among the movies adapted from Stephen King novels), 'The Hunt for Red October' and 'Patriot Games,' among the movies adapted from Tom Clancy novels, and the 'Twilight' films were better than their source, if not exactly good."
        
Kenny: "Hmm. What if the precise appeal of the material is such that 'classing it up,' or applying a level of refinement, is precisely what needs NOT to be done in order to retain the popularity that calls for a movie version?"

Here's the inevitable parody.

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52 Comments

  • RIPOpie | January 6, 2013 10:38 PMReply

    CHARLIE HUNNAM, Please oh please!!!
    Runners up- Chris Hemsworth or Iam Somerhalder
    For girls... I could see Jennifer Lawrence pulling it off.
    Did I mention Charlie Hunnam?

  • silver | October 29, 2012 3:58 AMReply

    my absolute favorites for the roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele of Fifty Shades of Grey are Bradley Cooper and Renne Zellweger. irrespective of their present ages' they are well in a position to look much younger, besides the dialogues/emails are almost as if written for them.

  • wew | September 18, 2012 1:48 AMReply

    camilla belle for anastasia

  • amy | August 30, 2012 4:20 PMReply

    soooo Charlie Hunnam! woot woot!

  • Nat | August 29, 2012 3:34 PMReply

    Definitely Charlie Hunnam

  • Dustin | August 16, 2012 4:41 PMReply

    Armie Hammer always shows up in my head as Christian for some reason...

  • leya | August 10, 2012 3:24 PMReply

    felicity

  • LEYA | August 10, 2012 3:23 PMReply

    MATT BOMER AND FELICIA JONES. Hes simply beautiful has the perfect hair, perfect jaw line, body and felicia is perfect for the role

  • natalie | August 8, 2012 4:35 AMReply

    when i read the book, i was thinking of Camilla Belle to be Anatasia and Ryan Phillipe to be Christian..please dont let Kristen Stewart plays the role of Anatasia.. she's less emotional..she never cry before.. i supposed.

  • Sue | July 31, 2012 8:26 PMReply

    I think Henry Cavill will be a fitting Christen Grey

  • Lrhill | July 21, 2012 7:27 PMReply

    If they take the high road, it was useless. The reason people like it is the down and dirty.

  • kimberley4garrett | July 18, 2012 3:01 PMReply

    garrett hedlund for christain !!!!!perfect sexy, cute, intense eyes ,

  • qrsmom | July 18, 2012 9:34 AMReply

    I agree Charlie Hunnam. Yum. He is the only face I saw when I read the books.

  • Lotte | July 16, 2012 3:41 AMReply

    Henry Cavill by the looks of it.... Superman!!

    http://henry-cavill.info/index.php/henry-cavill-in-discussions-with-fifty-shades-of-grey-producer-michael-de-luca/

  • Therese | July 10, 2012 3:23 AMReply

    I have just finished the trilogy and I must say that the only male actor that came to mind was Scott Speedman. The eyes, the hair, the body, the everything!!! Even though he is older then Christen Grey's character, he could still masterfully pull this one off. I'm not to sure if he would be up for full on nude scenes as suggested by some producers, but if done tactfully and suductively suggestive "OH MY' . I can just visualize his torso in old faded torn jeans; with the button undone……”MY OH MY”

  • Natalie | June 22, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    Henry Cavill...hands down! He's proven in his past roles he can play all the fifty shades of Grey. Plus he has the gorgeous looks, perfect body, has the grey eyes and he's 28yo. Need I say more? Oh, and he's not too widely known which is good. Once an actor is known as a vampire or any other famous role it will just ruin the movie.

  • Edie | July 4, 2012 7:22 AM

    Yes! Henry Cavill IS Christian Grey! His Dunhill ads on youtube says it all. They run like a mini 50 shades movie. He has the looks,the eyes. The body that boyish smile & sexy smirk. On Tudors he has played seductive,classy,domineering.pained & had no problems with the nudity or sex scenes. He has done it all. He has the looks & his resume & roles prove he can do all 50 shades of Christian. Other actors mentioned either have the look but not the resume or vice versa. He is the only one who has both. He also looks & has played a greek god as Ana describes. He looks great 8in a suit & can also be a classy businessman. He is also close to Christians age at 29. As for Ana, I think Alexandra Daddario of Percy Jackson is perfect. She has the long brown hair,alabaster skin,& piercing blue eyes to big for her face & lips perfect for her biting as described. She has an innocent beauty thta

  • Loren | June 18, 2012 12:18 AMReply

    I pictured Scott Speedman as my Christian Grey.

  • Nicole | June 13, 2012 4:08 PMReply

    I think Bradley Cooper is a beautiful Christian Grey

  • Jill | August 14, 2012 12:50 PM

    Oh my while reading this book i always picture Bradley Cooper as Christian Grey.. The Most Beautiful Man Alive.. Bradley it is!

  • Lucy | August 7, 2012 7:58 PM

    So glad im not the only one..... I love the idea of having bradley cooper as christian grey, just a little copper hair dye and thats it.

  • Claudia | July 6, 2012 9:32 PM

    I agree!!! I picture Bradley Cooper as Christian Grey!!!!

  • Kaj | June 9, 2012 10:27 PMReply

    Chris Pine is perfect for it. He is godly. He perfectly reflects the physical characteristics of Christian Grey, and he can be dominating, funny, strong, soft, sexy, all FIFTY. I've read all three books and I knoe he's the one for the fucked-up CEO madly in love.

  • SUSIE | June 1, 2012 12:14 PMReply

    WOW, I JUST REALIZED THAT HENRY CAVILL WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR TWILIGHT, BUT HE WAS DEEMED TOO OLD BY THE TIME THE MOVIE TOOK OFF. IT IS PERFECT BECAUSE FIFTY SHADES OF GREY WAS BASED OF TWILIGHT FANFICTION. I HAVE ALSO SEEN HENRY BE SWEET AND NAUGHTY IN THE TUDORS. HE HAS THE HAIR, EYES, FACE, BODY, CHEST HAIR, AND HE IS RIPPEEEEEEDDDDD. HE IS AMAZING!

  • Natalie | June 22, 2012 11:40 AM

    Susie, don't forget Henry Cavill not only has the looks but most importantly the talent to pull it off... ;)

  • MONICA | June 1, 2012 12:08 PMReply

    CHRIS PINE IS OK, BUT HENRY CAVILL IS KING. HE MAKES ME SWOON!!!!! HE HAS THE HAIR, THE EYES, THE CHEST HAIR. HE IS DREAMY CHRISTIAN GREY!

  • MACY | June 1, 2012 12:04 PMReply

    http://www.google.com/imgres?um=1&hl=en&client=firefox-a&sa=N&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1680&bih=828&tbm=isch&tbnid=7Cq6wMC5f9TohM:&imgrefurl=http://www.johnbierly.com/category/movies/page/2&docid=yNJ1L8VLvInFPM&imgurl=http://www.johnbierly.com/wp-content/uploads/Henry-Cavill-new-superman_320.jpg&w=320&h=480&ei=fOfIT8j7OoK29QT619GuDw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=389&vpy=421&dur=52&hovh=275&hovw=183&tx=103&ty=173&sig=104888852895219014085&page=1&tbnh=142&tbnw=95&start=0&ndsp=34&ved=1t:429,r:27,s:0,i:131


    I AGREE HENRY CAVILLLLLLLLLLLL! SO SEXY. FELICITY JONES WOULD BE AWESOME TOO.

  • Jess | June 1, 2012 12:06 PM

    OMG, That is exactly who I pictured when I read the book. HENRY CAVILL IS AMAZING. HE HAS ALREADY DONE NUDE SCENES FOR THE TUDORS!!!!!!

  • LELY | June 1, 2012 12:01 PMReply

    DEFINITELY HENRY CAVILL, HE IS PURE PERFECTION. HE HAS THE NAUGHTY THING GOING FROM THE TUDORS AND HE LOOKS SWEET AS WELL. HE HAS EVERYTHING. FOR ANASTASIA, I LIKE FELICITY JONES, BELLA OR HEATHCOTE.

  • MJ | May 31, 2012 9:57 AMReply

    How about Scott Speedman for the part of Christian???

  • JESSIE | June 1, 2012 12:07 PM

    SCOTT SPEEDMAN IS TOO OLD AND HE IS NOT NEARLY AS ATTRACTIVE AS HENRY CAVILL.

  • Becky | May 29, 2012 1:04 AMReply

    I think Chris Pine would make the perfect Christian Grey
    http://www.listal.com/viewimage/860453

  • Tracy | May 24, 2012 7:34 AMReply

    Jonathan Rhys Meyers from the series The Tudors.

  • lynnett | May 22, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    This is who I think should play Christian,Ian Somerholder and for Ana,Nadia Bjorlin she fits Ana description perfect....

  • MARTHA | June 1, 2012 12:11 PM

    NADIA IS TOO OLD. MOREOVER, SHE IS TOO ATTRACTIVE FOR THE ROLE. I THINK BELLA HEATHCOTE AND FELICITY JONES ARE PERFECT! I LIKE ALEXIS BLEDEL TOO. I LOVED FELICITY IN "LIKE CRAZY." OMG, I ALSO LOVE HENRY CAVILL. HENRY IS FAR MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN ANY OTHER CHOICE. HE ALSO IS RIPPED BECAUSE OF THE SUPERMAN ROLE.

  • Theresa | May 20, 2012 8:55 PMReply

    It should definately be a hbo series. Shelley Hannig should play Ana Steele (from The Secret Circle) and Charlie Hunnam should play Christian Gey (from Sons of Anarchy) MMMH!

  • Kimmi | May 14, 2012 6:25 PMReply

    Josh Duhamel as Christian and Emmy Rossum as Anastatia.

  • April | October 13, 2012 12:06 PM

    Josh Duhamel definitely!!!!! I just had to look up Emmy Rossum..and she really would make a good Anastasia!!

  • sammie | May 10, 2012 3:57 AMReply

    i think they should cast people that we haven't heard of. that way we see them as these characters and not as the actors they are.

  • steph | May 9, 2012 2:11 PMReply

    NO MOVIE !!!!! make it into a series on HBO or MAXX - the books are AMAZING nd too exclusive for the big screen !! in my opinion.. i would like Matt Bomer or Ian Somerhalder as Mr. Grey !! <3
    nd as for Anastasia Steele - someone like Emmy Rossum would be nice !!

  • djhgeh | June 6, 2012 1:43 PM

    i agree!!matt bomer would be perfect as christian grey

  • Nel | May 8, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    Ian Somerhalder would be without a doubt a perfect Christian Grey and Kristen Stewart she already has the lip biting down.

  • Tonya | May 14, 2012 1:39 PM

    Kristen Stewart is a horrible actress. To put her with Ian, who is an awesome actor, would be just plain wrong. She did a horrible job in the Twilight series, just awful.

  • Tabitha | May 8, 2012 12:55 AMReply

    Bradley Cooper would be a GREAT Christian Grey.

  • Beth | May 8, 2012 12:24 AMReply

    Garret Hedlund would be perfect for Christian Grey - he has the look and even copper colored hair!

  • jacmartol | May 7, 2012 11:31 PMReply

    MATT BOMER! He has such duality on White Collar - he can play the serious and silly Christian Grey so effortlessly. I don't think the casting of Ana is really on my mind because I feel like her character in the book is so lackluster. I think Shailene Woodley would be great for Ana - she's got the young naivety thing going on. But Matt would just sell Christian Grey. And he's so delicious. (yes I know he's gay - who cares - its ACTING!)

  • Felicia | May 7, 2012 2:11 AMReply

    Henry Cavill or William Levy for Christian and Lily Collins, Camilla Bell, or Christian Serratos as Ana. My top pick are Henry Cavill and Lily Collins. They would be perfect for these roles!

  • flower | May 6, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    Jim Sturgess for Christain! He was hot in Across the Universe.....

  • ARJUNA | May 6, 2012 10:43 AMReply

    As far as director, how about Patty Jenkins, or Same Mendes.....or Darren Aronofsky or, maybe Lisa Cholodenko. Simon Beaufoy to write the screenplay. Susanne Bier would also be a great choice to direct. All of these people along with Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Gosling starring would elevate the source material.

  • Arjuna | May 5, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Gosling?...oh my.... YES!!. My two favorite (not to mention incredibly talented as well as hot) actors on the planet. If Lawrence and Gosling were to star I'd definetly pay good money to see it in the theater.

  • Ella | May 5, 2012 12:03 AMReply

    Henry Cavill as Christian!!

  • nia | May 4, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    The actor should be under 30,Tall,Mannerable(so british),Unassuming,Up and coming. It should not be someover over 30,too masculine,and short. I like Theo Jamesftom the british show Bedlam. He is under thirty,not too wellknown,copper-colored hair,tall,sexy,has a beautiful accentand looks stunning in a suit. He is perfect. The actress I would choose is older in real life than Ana but she looks 18,Felicity Jones.

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