The first word many people uttered when they heard Sam Taylor-Johnson’s name Wednesday in connection with “Fifty Shades of Grey” was: "Who?"
The next sentence was: "This will be interesting."
As my colleague Nicole Sperling reports, Taylor-Johnson has been chosen as the director of the erotic drama, which author E.L. James is heavily involved with, working alongside the producers of the “Social Network,” Mike De Luca and Dana Brunetti, and executives at Universal Pictures and Focus Features.
The Hollywood types all have pretty deep reputations. Taylor-Johnson? She isn’t widely known in filmmaking circles. She made a coming-of-age John Lennon movie called "Nowhere Boy" that played the festivals a few years back. If you know more than a few people who've seen it, you have more film-nerd friends than you realize.
She is, however, known for being an acclaimed visual artist -- she's won Britain's acclaimed Turner Prize -- which plays into the belief that Focus and, in particular, James, want this to be a tonier version of a sub-and-dom story (see under: Oscar-nominated “Social Network” producers), not the Cinemax edition. Still, it remains to be seen which actors will be willing to take the plunge with a relatively untested director.
Taylor-Johnson also attracted plenty of tabloid attention for marrying Aaron Johnson, her much-younger (by about two decades) star of “Nowhere Boy,” with the two having a child when he was 20 and she was 43. Already the speculation has begun about a potential place for Johnson in the movie, as either Christian Grey (at 23, he's just four years younger than the domineering hero) or another character. I've never met Taylor-Johnson, but it's hard to imagine any director wanting to bring that kind of drama to the set. With all the fan interest, a "Fifty Shades" movie is already enough of a hot house.
But even if the young actor stays far away, there will be intrigue. This is, after all, a movie about a taboo relationship directed by a woman who, at least to some minds, was involved in same. That might come up in an interview.
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