By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 9, 2012 at 10:58PM
The winners of Universal Pictures and Focus Features' bidding war to produce the movie version of EL James' erotic Number One bestseller "Fifty Shades of Grey" are "The Social Network" producers Michael De Luca ("Magnolia," "Moneyball") and Dana Brunetti ("21"), who runs Trigger Street Productions with Kevin Spacey. ("The Hunger Games" producer Nina Jacobson had never entered the running, as she was focused on the next installments of the Lionsgate franchise.)
The book is hugely popular with women; De Luca and Brunetti will devote themselves to developing a script and finding the right director to translate this delicate material to the big screen without alienating the books' huge fanbase. Vintage Books so far has sold 31 million e-book and print copies of the trilogy in English-language markets worldwide. In the U.S. alone, the “Fifty Shades” trilogy has sold over 20 million e-book and print copies.
According to Variety, Brunetti jetted to London during the July 4th holiday weekend to meet with the author and lit agent Valerie Hoskins.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” explores an unusual erotic relationship between 27-year-old S & M practitioner billionaire Christian Grey and virginal college student Anastasia Steele. Later sequels “Fifty Shades Darker” (September 2011) and “Fifty Shades Freed” (January 2012) continue to examine the couple’s evolving relationship.
“At its core, Fifty Shades of Grey is a complex love story, requiring a delicate and sophisticated hand to bring it to the big screen,” said Universal co-chairman Donna Langley, who once worked as De Luca's assistant at New Line, where he exec produced Paul Thomas Anderson's sexually candid "Boogie Nights." “Mike and Dana’s credits more than exemplify what we need in creative partners and we’re glad to have them as part of our team.”
“Michael De Luca is a dream producer, whose combination of vision, taste and fearlessness is the perfect match for Fifty Shades of Grey,” said Focus chief James Schamus.
De Luca and Brunetti are currently producing (along with "Social Network" producer Scott Rudin) Sony's Paul Greengrass true story "Captain Phillips," about a cargo ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates and rescued by Navy SEALs. At Fox, they are also developing "ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun," James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales' non-fiction expose.