EXCLUSIVE: In a competition that was almost as heated as the subject matter, Kelly Marcel has been chosen by Universal Pictures and Focus Features to write the script for Fifty Shades Of Grey, the E.L. James publishing phenomenon that has sold 32 million books in the U.S. alone. James had a major say in determining who got to write the script, and she made the choice along with Universal co-chairman Donna Langley (who won one of the most heated book rights auctions in recent memory); the Focus Features production team; and the film’s producers, Mike De Luca and Dana Brunetti.
Marcel got the job off of her script Saving Mr. Banks, the story of Walt Disney’s long courtship of author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins. That script is being turned into a big movie at Disney, with John Lee Hancock directing, Tom Hanks playing Disney and Emma Thompson playing Travers. Marcel is repped by WME and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates.
Marcel’s work showed an emotional maturity and grace that made the principals believe she was the right choice to write a script that is tricky. While there is steamy sex, and that has helped catapult the book to global phenomenon status, there is an intricate emotional dynamic to the principal characters, the business magnate Christian Grey and the recent college graduate Anastasia Steele. That dynamic is what the studio hopes will fuel at least three compelling films, as the studio also acquired the two follow-up novels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. The deal was made back in March for over $3 million.
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, October 8, 2012—Universal Pictures and Focus Features today announced that Kelly Marcel will write the screenplay to the highly anticipated film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti will produce the film based on E L James’ #1 bestselling book, alongside James. The announcement was made by Universal Pictures Co-Chairman, Donna Langley and Focus Features’ Chief Executive Officer, James Schamus.
Marcel wrote the 2011 Black List script, Saving Mr. Banks, the story of Walt Disney’s twenty-year pursuit of the film rights to author P.L. Travers’ novel, “Mary Poppins,” and the rocky relationship that formed between the two. The film is currently in production at Walt Disney Studios starring Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell with John Lee Hancock directing. Marcel served as the co-creator and executive producer of the Amblin/FOX-TV series Terra Nova, for which she wrote the series’ pilot episode. She will also produce The Madonnas Of Echo Park for HBO.
“Kelly’s work demonstrates her flawless structural technique and passionate commitment to emotion, humor and depth of character which is particularly visible in the celebrated screenplay for the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks,” said De Luca. “We were all taken with the depth and passion of Kelly’s engagement with the characters and world E L James has created, and we knew she was the right person to augment our Fifty Shades family,” added Brunetti.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features acquired the rights to the three books in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy in March of this year. Focus Features will market and distribute the first film in partnership with Universal. “Fifty Shades of Grey” has become a global phenomenon and the trilogy has been translated in 45 languages worldwide since its release. In the U.S. alone, the “Fifty Shades” trilogy has sold over 32 million copies in e-book and print, making it one of the fastest selling book series ever.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” follows the relationship of 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steele. Subsequent novels in the series, “Fifty Shades Darker” (September 2011) and “Fifty Shades Freed” (January 2012) explore the couple’s deepening relationship. For more information please see the official Fifty Shades of Grey Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fiftyshadesofgreymovie.
Marcel was represented in the deal by WME and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates Limited.