EXCLUSIVE: The auction is underway for author E.L. James’ steam potboiler 50 Shades of Grey. I’m told that offer sheets went out this morning. They include a strong list of approvals that studios usually don’t like to grant, but it hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm to land a title that spread like wildfire as an e-book, and which is envisioned as a movie that won’t need a high budget to pull off. I’m told that right now, Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures, Universal, Paramount, New Regency, Mandate and Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment have made it to the lightning round and were invited to bid.
This comes after the author, a TV exec from Britain, and her agent Valerie Hoskins met studios, monied production companies and producers over the past week before sending out their requests. While they listed a bunch of creative controls, they naturally did not set a price tag on the book. It’s the first of a trilogy and I’m confident that someone will be writing a seven-figure check for this one.
Yesterday, they holed up at Soho House to meet a parade of producers, but I’m not hearing that any of them are attached to the bidding at this point. It’s a fun development; the last time I’ve seen anything like this was when Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was shopped. Sony Pictures got that one and turned it into a billion dollar business, with a third film in the works. Because of its racy subject matter, the bondage and S&M and R rating, 50 Shades of Grey probably won’t be that big but it has an undeniable following.