Making Fifty Shades of Grey was a horrifically punishing experience for everyone other than book author E.L. James. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson has gone on record about how on-set battles over the creative nature of the adaptation left her feeling like she never wanted to make a movie again, while stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are both seeking hefty pay raises in order to justify going through the same torment for two sequels. Now, screenwriter Kelly Marcel, who was forced to collaborate with James directly, has fired some shots in Universal’s direction about how the studio left her to fend for herself against the obstinate author.
Marcel, a guest on Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast, said that she has yet to see the finished film and doesn’t plan on it. Though Marcel is a seasoned scribe with Saving Mr. Banks under her belt, working on Fifty Shades of Grey was drastically different than what she expected when she signed on. Said Marcel, bluntly:
“I very much wanted to do something different with the screenplay, and when I spoke to the studio and the producers and made that quite clear, they were very enthusiastic about that and loved the things I wanted to do. When I delivered that script was when I realized that all of them saying, ‘Yeah, absolutely this is what we want!,’ and, ‘You can write anything you like and get crazy and artistic with it’ — that was utter, utter bullshit.”
Universal signed a deal with James under which she could essentially exercise near-complete creative control over the adaptation of her BDSM romance trilogy, despite lacking anything close to screenwriting experience. Marcel explained that James had very particular ideas about what she wanted the movie to be, and those didn’t align with Marcel’s approach:
“[James] was like, ‘This isn’t what I want it to be, and I don’t think this is the film the fans are looking for.’ In the end, I think we ended up with a draft that was a halfway compromise, but she had still been very brave about what she had let go.”
That certainly lines up with what has been revealed already about the tension-fraught production. Marcel told Ellis that she hadn’t seen the finished movie yet, because she couldn’t do so “without feeling some pain about how different it is to what I initially wrote.” Marcel said, “My heart really was broken by that process, I really mean it.”
You can hear Ellis’ full conversation with Marcel below. Needless to say, the screenwriter won’t return in the same capacity on Fifty Shades Darker – but in a deeply worrying turn of events, James’ off-screen husband Niall Leonard has that job now. Insert “whipped” joke as you see fit.