With Foreplay Almost Over, Will Steamy Novel ’50 Shades Of Grey’ Climax In 7-Figure Deal?

50 Shades Of Grey E.L. JamesThe stampede of studios, monied production companies and producers that want to get a piece of 50 Shades of Grey grew so feverish today that author E.L. James and her British lit agent Valerie Hoskins holed up at Soho House as a parade of producers came to them — a rarity for a first-time author. There was little choice, considering so many producers are vying for the opportunity to get assigned the book and the author and her agent never would have gotten those meetings done if they’d spent the day driving all over town. The meetings end today, and studios that met earlier in the week will know tomorrow if they’ve been invited to bid. Not since the heyday of John Grisham and Michael Crichton have studios done something like this. I wrote about this unprecedented courtship Tuesday, and if I left the impression that you had to be a female to get the significance of the steamy potboiler and the opportunity here, I shouldn’t have. While Sony Pictures, Universal and Fox 2000 are all over it, a lot of male executives want it just as badly.

Everyone from Warner Bros’ Greg Silverman, Lionsgate/Summit’s Rob Friedman, Paramount’s Brad Grey, and such producers as Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Arnon Milchan, Neal Moritz, Brian Grazer, Todd Garner and Adam Shankman all are vying for the rights. The book is about a 21-year-old soon-to-be college graduate named Anastasia Steele, who starts an S&M relationship with Christian Grey, a handsome entrepreneur in his late 20s. He dominates her sexually and emotionally and makes her his submissive partner, even though he withholds his emotions. It will be an R-rated film.

It’s hardly the first erotic project to be auctioned, and it’s rare a book gets this kind of fanfare. I’m getting the impression that a big part of what has gotten everyone worked up is the organic nature in which this book has caught fire. It was not some contrived or heavily promoted title. Instead, it was written by the author and delivered online, chapter by chapter. It caught on by creating an underground buzz, and the author, a British TV executive, quietly built a following of rabid readers online before she made a giant publishing deal for a novel that hasn’t really gotten a print release. That is an unusual and forward-thinking model that has intrigued the whole town. This one is going to go for big bucks tomorrow, and it will be fascinating to watch it unfold.