Fifty Shades of Grey offers a foreboding glimpse at the future of literary pop culture phenomena. Over the past thirteen months, since E L James‘ racy romantic trilogy began titillating its way to the apex of the cultural conversation (not to mention bestseller lists), the series has already spawned a growing swarm of web videos (parodies, fan homages, celebrity dramatic readings, etc.) thick enough to rival Funny or Die’s output for a year. And then there’s the media drum beat, growing ever louder with each news break, speculative or real, as the books continue their conquest of each new medium.
Now, after this week’s significant development hit the airwaves announcing that producers Dana Brunetti (“The Social Network”) and Michael De Luca (“Moneyball”) had been chosen to shepherd Fifty Shades of Grey onto the big screen, the challenge will be for the film to make its way into theaters before any backlash or burnout sets in. But if anyone can oversee an adaptation that brings added value to a beloved book, it’s this pair of Hollywood heavyweights. Both come to the project with filmographies bearing recent Oscar-nominated films based on literary source material (see credits above). More importantly, they’re both very practiced in the dark arts of navigating the media and calibrating a highly anticipated project’s public exposure to peak just prior to an awards season release.
Judging by the timing of this announcement, Fifty Shades of Grey seems to be progressing on track for a fall 2013 debut. While it may seem a stretch to suggest that a racy page-turner like this one could claim a slot among the high-brow contenders in any Oscar race, these producers’ involvement signals an unwillingness to deliver an adaptation designed to replicate the source material and cash in on the book’s avid fan base (see: The Twilight Saga). The model here seems to be more in line with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo before producer Scott Rudin set David Fincher loose to infuse his elegant dark realism into Stieg Larsson‘s genre storytelling.
In fact, with Brunetti on board, we wouldn’t be surprised if Fincher’s name hasn’t already sprung to the top of the producers’ wish list. It’s hard to think of another filmmaker with the discipline and determination to capture the dark psychological undercurrents propelling Christian and Ana’s transgressive trysts without getting distracted by the growing din of fans’ expectations for the series. Our second choice for director: Kathryn Bigelow, who brings her background in philosophy and art theory to cerebral action films like “The Hurt Locker.”
Though Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t offer much fodder for special effects set pieces, it’s definitely an action picture in the less pyrotechnic sense of the genre. But what we like most about Bigelow is her astringent lack of sentimentality and the absence of un-nuanced heroes or villains in any of her films. We’d love to see what she or someone like Chris Nolan might do with battle scenes of the psycho-sexual variety.
Feel free to weigh in here with your thoughts on Fifty‘s two new producers and your top picks for the filmmaker best suited to do right by James’ characters.