Book author EL James has tightened her iron grip over the creative direction of Fifty Shades Darker, the green-lit follow-up to this year’s hit erotic romance, now that her husband Niall Leonard has closed a deal to pen the script for the sequel.
Rumor had it that James herself wanted to scribe the adaptation of her bestselling book, after being dissatisfied with the experience of working with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel on Fifty Shades of Grey. Leonard, though obviously still close enough to his wife that she’ll be able to have the final say over every aspect of the sequel, may be better-qualified. He’s a novelist with titles like Crusher, Incinerator and Shredder, but he’s also written scripts in the past, for shows like Ballykissangel, Holby City, Monarch in the Glen and Wild at Heart. He landed the job after writing an outline for the sequel, according to Deadline. Of course, that’s almost beside the point – he really got the gig because James approved, plain and simple.
From the sounds of it, the author made Taylor-Johnson’s life a living hell on set, insisting on control over minute details of the production, from the color of a character’s dress to the amount of time stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan spent undressed on camera (hint: James wanted way more sex). One of the most agonizing aspects of Fifty Shades of Grey was how Taylor-Johnson’s vision for a slick, sophisticated romance so blatantly clashed with James’ desire for smutty dialogue and excessive sex scenes. Ironically for a film with the tagline ‘Lose Control,’ Fifty Shades was constrained at every turn by a writer who exercised her right to creative control over every single shot. As such, it was no surprise when Taylor-Johnson exited the franchise, walking away from an offer to direct the follow-up and again submit to James’ strict controls.
It remains to be seen whether Leonard penning the script for Fifty Shades Darker will affect Universal’s ability to woo a director of Taylor-Johnson’s caliber. What she went through sounded terrible enough, but whoever takes the reins on Fifty Shades Darker will have to put up not only with James on set barking orders but with a script she’ll also have the final say over. Then again, Leonard did direct episodes of 1988 show The Bill and 1994’s The Tomorrow People, so perhaps the only director James will sign off on is already right in front of the studio’s eyes (only half kidding).