BREAKING: The rampant speculation that novelist EL James is adapting Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment of Fifty Shades Of Grey was off. The writer is Niall Leonard, who happens to be her husband. Director Sam Taylor Johnson fled after the first movie because she fought so hard with James over creative moves, after the author of the S&M phenomenon novel trilogy that sold over 100 million copies globally made a movie deal that brought creative controls over every facet of the movie that were unprecedented for a first time novelist. That iron grip is now firmer than a tight pair of handcuffs on the sequel.
Speculation was that James would write the first draft of the movie, but in fact that job will go to hubby, who has written such novels as Crusher, Incinerator and Shredder. He’s written teleplays and scripts as well, and perhaps appropriate to this conversation, those credits include one called Hornblower.
He apparently got the job after writing an outline for the sequel. When the rumor was that the author would write the script, word around Hollywood was that Universal would allow her to write a draft and then get an experienced scribe to come in and write the real movie, even as she would be assured script credit because she would have been the first writer on the scene adapting a book. It will be interesting to see how well this works out with the studio instead going with Leonard, who got a lot of ink with playful speculation that he was an inspiration for James’s books. He was a sounding board as she wrote the Twilight fan fiction and then turned it into the naughty trilogy of books that sold so well. It will also be interesting to see how this helps or hurts Universal’s ability to get a good director, who now not only is adapting James’s novels, with her iron clad creative control, but then has to work from a script written by her husband. It’s all so titillating, but it’s also certain that the success of the first film will tempt directors despite the creative handcuffs that seem to be in place.
It was odd to see James’s controls become the narrative for Fifty Shades, because the novelists of the Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games were actually welcomed into the creative fold by the directors of those films and the movie companies and their input wasn’t depicted as an intrusion on the creative process. Gary Ross invited author Suzanne Collins to shape the first script, and Stephenie Meyer was part of the process of the Twilight films as well.