Culture

From Mary Poppins to BDSM, Kelly Marcel Hired to Adapt Fifty Shades of Grey: The Argument for Casting Against Type

The race to bring pop culture's raciest literary phenomenon to the screen just passed its first milestone now that the producers shepherding Fifty Shades of Grey to the screen have hired screenwriter Kelly Marcel to adapt  E. L. James' dark erotic fantasia. It's taken over two months for producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca to settle on a scribe, after news broke that they were considering a hodgepodge of left-field contenders for the gig, whose credits ranged from the chaste climes of  rom-com-landia ("One True Thing") to the straight-laced cinematic suburbia of family entertainment ("Bolt") to the only slightly more peregrine precincts of crime procedurals (TV's "The Killing"). And then there's Marcel, best known for "Saving Mr. Banks," a Disney biopic of Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers (which made the cut for the "Black List" of Hollywood's best unproduced spec scripts) starring Emma Thompson in the title role and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.

But a closer look at the project reveals that perhaps leap from Disney to debauchery isn't as wide as one might suspect. There's certainly no shortage of weird sexual subtext in all those stories of scantily clad vulnerable princesses getting kissed while asleep when they're not under siege by fire-breathing beasts. And by all accounts, "Saving Mr. Banks" is not your daughter's Disney movie. The film tracks Travers' contentious relationships with the men in her life, intercutting her tense dealings with Walt Disney during the making of "Mary Poppins" and her similarly tumultuous upbringing with her father while growing up in Australia. Marcel clearly has a handle on dominance-submission dynamic, minus the cuffs and chains.

And while this unexpected hiring choice is certain to unleash a storm of blowback from Fifty Shades purists, there is an argument to be made that the decision to cast against type is more in keeping with the book's subversive spirit than going with one of the usual suspects known for a facility with saucy material. In today's risk-averse climate, it's become increasingly rare for a studio to sign off on any hiring decision that veers from a very literal and limited interpretation of an artist's capacity for invention and reinvention -- most calls are made based on a proven track record of success in whatever narrow milieu the project in question happens to fall. In other words, the obvious choice is often the only choice.

Brunetti and De Luca (with a major assist from Focus Features) should be commended for their boldness if nothing else. But now that they've put a screenwriter on the case, they've undoubtedly already turned their attentions to nailing down a director and two lead actors. It's hard to imagine three more closely watched and hotly contended hiring decisions than these. But if Marcel is any indication, it might be wise to trash those widely circulated fan-favorite wish lists of actors and filmmakers destined for the project. Sorry, Team Ryan Gosling and Mila Kunis. Condolences to Adrian Lyne admirers. This may not be the project upon which to stake your cinematic hopes and dreams.

In the spirit of exorcising expectations, here is our anti-type casting short list of director picks: Andrea Arnold, Sarah Polley, Lisa Cholodenko. We encourage you to weigh in with your out-of-the-box choices for key roles behind and in front of the camera.

  • patty

    When casting the two main characters please please keep in mind that Christian has copper hair and grey eyes and Ana is brunette with blue eyes. It is mentioned in the book over and over. I read the books 3 times and all 3 times the description of the characters were as I said. At one point Ana says in her mind grey eyes to blue eyes staring at each other.

    • Ericha

      You can always dye the hair and put in contacts. But keep as close to features as possible. :)

    • agrod43

      yes patty you are so right. i wish i was on the panel to choose the 2 leads. they must stay in focus with the book or the movie just won't work for me.

    • SueDK

      its interesting to me - that even though Christian is described as a redhead (copper) - he just seems more like a dark haired kind of guy to me. And i'm not alone - most people are choosing dark haired actors as their fave to play him on the screen.
      it will be interesting to see what they do with that.

      • Maire

        His hair, yes is copper, but copper is not a redhead and it never says redhead in the books.

    • Amanda

      I totally agree with Patty!! Please keep the little details.

    • Amy

      There are always colored contacts and hair dye.

    • KL

      He actually had only copper highlights..not copper hair.

    • Gina

      I agree Patty. He's also very goodlooking,tall and has hair on his chest. Some of the men that have been mentioned do not fit that description at all.

      • Deb

        yes......some of the people they've mentioned, just don't fit the vision of what the book really protrays as their looks.

    • KaydeeB

      I think people should branch out and pay attention to all of the awesome actors out there. I keep hearing the same old people over and over. Ian Somerhalder does not fit Christian's description. And most of the actors that the "bandwagon" are choosing look too old to even be believable as the characters. I'm so over hearing the same actors names over and over again. Why not look into actors who's age and appearance won't have to be altered just to suit the fancy of adoring fans. Aaron Taylor-Johnson who played in Kick Ass is a good looking guy with the right attitude... I'm just saying that there's way more actors out there who deserve some kind of consideration for the role! Emilia Clarke is a good choice for Ana! But I must say that Henry Cavill is pretty dang gorgeous and I'd love to see him with a flogger in his hand! 😉

    • Deb

      Yes, please keep to the details of the book. Copper hair, the steel blue/grey eyes. Nothing "weak" in the facial features. It may be nice to get an "unknown" or almost "unknown" that really fits the bill. I think they wiggle room for Anastasia, but have to get Christian right, or it just won't work. Looking forward to seeing who they choose and then that depends if I go see it or not. Looking forward to hearing the casting......soon??

    • What the?

      3 times?
      I could barely get by the sample chapter via ibookstore.
      One of the worst novels ever.

    • Kendall

      Good point about the looks in the books, but as someone has said, contacts and hair dye are easily applied. Also, some movies don't even follow the books like that - The Princess Diaries, for example, has Mia as a brunette when she's a blonde in the book. I'm still hoping beyond hope that Ian Somerhalder plays Christian Grey.

  • Michelle

    As long as the screen play does not destroy the book I don't mind who is selected. There are so many known names that could play the parts - it would be nice to see some unknown faces in the roles to not distort the images for fans of the books.

    I just hope they keep the actors in line with the age of the characters. Ana is 21 in the books (until book 3 where she jumps from 22 to 24) and Christian ranges from 27-30. Placing a 30+ actor in the role and if it is a hit to do a 2nd/3rd movie for the other books will age him far to greatly. The oldest characters that play a major role; the parents are in the range of their forties. Ana's mom is probably the youngest - based on her having Ana at 19 she would be a mere 40 years old at the start of the story.

    My dream cast is really relies on the role of Christian, my choice is Henry Cavill; who is known but still very unknown to the masses until Superman hits this Summer. I think he is picture perfect for the role and as long as they cast a very timid beautiful actress for Ana that fits the images given in the book it will be okay. Mila is gorgeous , but I don't know if she has the look to play timid.

    I can only hope they don't destroy this series with a movie that misses the point altogether.

    • Gina

      I agree, Henry Cavill is the perfect Christian Grey.

      • MeShell

        I agree with Henry Cavill as a Christian choice. Though I also like Wentworth Miller. I believe it has to be someone that isn't ultra/uber famous.

        Chris Hemsworth was the look/guy I was picturing while reading, but I do not believe he is interested (so you'd feel the fake in the acting) and quite honestly...I don't think he could pull it off.

        For Ana I am going with Emilia Clarke or Alexandra Daddario. While Alexandra certainly has the look, hands down....I also believe here that Emilia has the wider range in pulling off.

        I like Ian, but please no Ian. He would need to bulk up AND while there's nothing wrong with an older handsome man....looking his age does play a factor here.

        I wrote somewhere else actually and fully agree ... that I feel this would be better as a HBO or SHOWTIME series. But PLEASE do not stray so far away like they have in the Stackhouse/True Blood series.

        :)

      • GT

        Henry Cavill is hot but he fits more for Sylvia Day's book of Crossfire Trilogy--nearly similar type of plot as Fifty Shades. I still root for Matt Bomer, not because everyone is rooting for him but because for some odd and coincidence while reading he's who I visualized.

    • Maire

      Agree with You

  • chelsea

    alexis bledel should be cast as ana! she has the perfect look!

    • Linda

      Yes I would Love Alexis Bledel as Ana and Matt as Christia... Please if the Directors are reading this. Take good advice from Us the Audiance.
      After all the movie is for us... The viewers! Don't let us down... Cant wait for the movie. :-)

    • Nix

      I agree - Alexis Bledel for Ana Steele. I couldn't imagine a better option.

  • Jahna

    Along with Patty's plea for actors with the proper hair/eye color all I ask is that they pick people who are right for the role and not necessarily POPULAR. Yes I have my fangirl fave picks.. (who doesn't), but I'd rather see someone who can convincingly play Christian and all his 50 Shades than some popular sexy star who people think might bring in the bucks.
    I love Anne Rice but what they did to Exit to Eden is unforgivable. I don't want that to happen here.

  • Rebecca Harkness

    I think that the role of Anastasia should be played by Ashley Green or Alexis Bleidel. The role of Christian should be played by Matt Bomber or MAYBE Ian Somerhaulder (if he gained muscle weight).

    • Maire

      I'm sorry but Ian can't act. Have u seen him?

    • Nix

      Christian Grey is 26 years old... That leaves Matt Bomer as a bad choice, simply because of the age difference. Ian Somerholder has the eyes that says everything without saying anything and we know from Vampire Diaries that he's capable of playing dark and light.

      Henry Cavill could work, but Ian's eyes... That's Christian Grey.

      Alexis Bledel and Ian Somerholder would make the PERFECT cast for the lead roles... In my opinion.

  • http://www.jannesdesigns.com Janne Swearengen

    Above all, please find a cast that can ACT and is not just a reflection of the physical description, which admittedly is important. But when you have the intensity of the story/characters, you really do need folks who can manage that and not be a pretty face. Both Christian and Ana are complex people who find themselves in a place they've never been before...in order for this movie to be believable (even if the novels are not really), the folks we see need to BE the roles and not fill them.

  • Amanda

    My Christian Grey choice is hands down Ian Somerhalder.. hair color can be changed to match the "book" but he's an amazing actor and has the piercing blue/grey eyes that I envisioned while reading the book. Now as far as Ana.. I would enjoy seeing Emma Stone, or Zooey Deschanel. I think they both could pull off the innocence that Ana embodies, but my first choice would be Mila Kunis.. again.. eye colors can be changed with contacts... Just my two cents!

  • http://znznz whitney

    I really hope you will please This book to life! ! No dissapointments please!

  • http://twitter.com ayesha

    ian somerhalder is the perfect choice for cristain grey he is as appealing as cristain grey's character and for actress emma watson or nina dobrev

  • kym

    PLEASE do a casting call and get people we have never seen in other movies! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!! How can you have a Christian or Anestasia that you have seen in Magic Mike or Twilight? Please make the main characters as original as the book! I would not even go to see the movie if Ryan Gossling or ______________ (fill in the blank with any actor you think is sexy) was starring in it.

  • likelychance

    Wentworth Miller is the ONLY choice for Christian Grey! He is the perfect age and fits the physical description to the T. He has also exceeded in playing the role of a very intense, smart and mysterious man on the series Prison Break.

    • Dana

      I totally agree on Wentworth Miller....perfect Christian!!!!

  • http://none habahaba

    I think chris hemsworth would be a good cast, has the body hair color and like eyes, or ian somerhalder if he would dye his hair. As for anaim not too worried. I believe kate and taylor will be hard to cast and should be carefully chosen as well. Good luck with casting.

  • Erin

    I highly recommend the books be put on screen thru networks like HBO or Showtime in a "series" format rather than a movie. To me the series episodes could stick more to the actual story lines and be less inhibited by the scrutiny and limitations of the MPAA ratings system.

  • http://Facebook Amy

    There are always colored contacts and hair dye!

  • Rippedmyheartout

    The hair can be dyed and/or a wig can be worn. And there's this new thing call contact lenses.......one cease to amaze me!

  • ella

    I think, William Levy and Emma Stone!

  • Caitlyn

    My choice for Christian Grey would definitely be Ashton Kutcher! I also think for the role of anastasia should be Emma Stone, she is beautiful! Just my opinion anyway! I also think Cayley cuarco would b perfect as Kate

  • maggie wright

    There is only one Christian Grey and Michael Fassbender is he. Hair is copper tinted, eyes grey and what a body. He can also look cruel as well as vunerable.

  • Christina

    Every time I read the books I see Collin Egglesfield playing Christian.

  • Rabid Dog

    Hair and eye colour can be changed to meet the requirements in the book., so that's not a problem.
    I think unknown actors should play both of the lead roles. Which ever popular actor they choose just won't be right. Think of the Janet Evanovich film and compare those characters to the book. Just totally wrong - some have even changed nationality!!!
    I also hope that the first film does not cover the first book. I would hate for the film to end at that point.
    Anyway, it will take so long for the film to be shown in cinemas. Imagine having to wait for the other two. I think the frenzy is waning and, although they're trying to maintain that high level of interest, Hollywood has missed the boat already.

  • Annette

    Ian or Henry definately for Christina and Alex for Anna. They all fit the bill to a T. Grey eyes and blue eyes looking at each other. Hopefully as mentioned on previous posts they make sure they follow the book and look at the descriptions of people or the movie won't be looke forward to watching.

  • Sarah

    I think Alexander Skarsgard would be the perfect christain.
    Lana Parrilla to play Mrs Robinson just change the hair colour of cause.

    Maybe Katharine McPhee as Ana but has the wrong colour eyes but like many other ppl have said that can be changed.

    Chris Hemsworth as Eliiot

    :) they are my opinions anyway :)

  • http://facebook Beckey

    Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel would be the perfect Christian Grey and Ana Steele. Looks are important and the details must be maintained. The whole book is putting the picture of Christian and Ana in your mind, you must portray them that way on the screen....PLEASE!!

    • kathy

      Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel are the best people for the job.I have read the books 4 times and they are it. It is so important to have the right 2 people. It woould be like watcing a Lassie movie and having a pitbull on there playing Lassie. Just not right.

  • ct

    The whole time I was reading the books, I could ONLY picture Ian Sommerholder playing Christian.

  • What the?

    I'm amazed this book is going to film.
    One of the worst novels out there. Badly written, typically plotted, trite and try-hard or is that twi-hard fan fiction.
    Shameful.

  • Nix

    Taylor: John M Jackson (JAG)
    Robert John Burke (Bart Bass from GG)
    Kate: Mila Kunis
    Elliot: Chace Crawford

    Christian: Ian Somerholder
    Ana Steele: Alexis Bledel

    If I was casting Director:)

  • jaan

    Oh My God....I hope it doesn't turn out to be Disaster...totally opposite to the book...Will be Great Disappointment....are they Selecting totally unattractive characters...

  • sara

    i strongly believe that for christain grey it should be matt bomer .... it really really fits him and for ana... alexis bledel yes those are my choices and im sticking to them .... should make the movie just like the book . the details and everything .. thats what makes the books so good and cant put them down . so the movie should be just as good as the book !!! but yes i really want them to be the main characters!!! they would go together great !!

  • Carolina

    Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the Perfect Christian Grey for me =)

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