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'Fifty Shades of Grey' Will Be NC-17, Says Writer

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 8, 2013 at 4:14PM

It's not shocking news exactly, but in case any of you were wondering, as far as screenwriter Kelly Marcel is concerned, yes, Universal/Focus Features' movie version of the erotic global bestseller "Fifty Shades of Grey" will be rated NC-17. Given that the film's sexy S & M content has fueled sales of the original book (to the tune of more than 65 million copies) and its two sequels all over the world, it would make sense for the studio version to hew close to the source material.
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'Fifty Shades of Grey' Writer Kelly Marcel
'Fifty Shades of Grey' Writer Kelly Marcel

It's not shocking news exactly, but in case any of you were wondering, as far as screenwriter Kelly Marcel is concerned, yes, Universal/Focus Features' movie version of the erotic global bestseller "Fifty Shades of Grey" will be rated NC-17. Given that the film's sexy S & M content has fueled sales of the original book (to the tune of more than 65 million copies) and its two sequels all over the world, it would make sense for the studio version to hew close to the source material.

“Well, there is going to be a lot of sex in the film,” Marcel told UK's The Times. “It will be NC-17. It’s going to be raunchy. We are 100 per cent going there.”

One would hope so. What does the NC-17 even mean anymore? Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics and others have suggested a new adult rating that specifically excludes exploitative pornographic content.

EL James
EL James

While NC-17 films sometimes have trouble getting booked into North American theaters, they do tend to better overseas and on home video. "Showgirls" grossed $20 million at US box office, but eventually grossed more than $100 million in the US home video market.

Produced by Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, the team behind "The Social Network," the movie is inspiring much speculation about who will play the roles of wholesome Seattle coed Anastasia Steele and her kinky Master of the Universe, Christian Grey. Among the leading candidates: "The Descendants" star Shailene Woodley, Alexis Bledel, Ashley Greene and Emma Watson, while the men include Henry Cavill, Channing Tatum, Ian Somerhalder, and Matt Bomer, as well as Marvel's Thor and Snow White's Huntsman, Chris Hemsworth, who is inside the tent at Universal. 

Universal and 49-year-old Brit E.L. James have quashed all casting rumors as premature. And Burnetti told THR that without a script in hand, how could they know the rtaing? Marcel herself told The Times: “No actor would sign up to a film without a script. That would be insane.” 

In an interview with THR, James described the characteristics the right actor would have to play Christian:

I think emotional intelligence, a sense of humor -- those kinds of things. I feel like we haven't got that far yet in the process. We're still at the script stage, so we're a long way off.

And Anastasia:

I think compassion is what she brings to the books. Her compassion. She's strong, compassionate. Those are the things I like about her.

She was surprised by the way De Luca got inside the book:

Michael is so passionate about the film and he really got it. He really got the book. He understood it was a love story, fundamentally. He said it this is about first love, and it's her first love and his first love, and I haven't thought about it like that. It's blinding stuff. He just got right underneath it. He was impressive.

And admired Marcel's wit:

She was just fascinated by the whole premise of the book, and also about the challenges of actually bringing it to the screen -- there are many. She really wants to get in there and get her hands dirty. It was her passion. Also, reading her script Saving Mr. Banks. What a fantastic piece of writing that was. I think what I really enjoyed was its warmth and wit. I was laughing with it. There were some lines that were so funny. I could see it. It really stood out on the page and as the script goes on I was at the other end of my emotions, just completely and utterly toyed with. It had some very sad elements to it, and I was practically in tears. This was someone who can pull you in both directions, who can help you experience all those emotions, which I think is what happens in the book that appeals to everybody.

This article is related to: 50 Shades of Grey


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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.