Hit erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey to be made into a movie – but is it too racy for the big screen
21:16 GMT, 26 March 2012
Screen rights for the hit erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey have been acquired by Universal Pictures and Focus Features, it was announced today.
The book, by British writer EL James, was first published by a small Australian firm that printed only a small run and released it as an e-book.
It quickly became an overnight literary sensation among women in New York's yummy mommy set, and went on to top the New York Times Bestseller list.
Hot and steamy: The screen rights to the Fifty Shades trilogy has been acquired by Universal Pictures and Focus Features after a film industry bidding war
The erotic novel put grey ties at the top of many wives shopping lists, in the hopes their husbands would emulate Grey's 'brooding, masterful and intimidating' character, with many admitting reading the book made them crave sex with their partners.
Studios were eager to capitalise on the novel's popularity and retell the story on the big screen.
In a joint statement today, Universal and Focus called the word-of-mouth sensation a 'special story', an explicit tale about billionaire Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steele.
The first in a trilogy of erotic novels about a 21-year-old recent college graduate and her lurid relationship with a billionaire in his late twenties, the modern-day Mills and Boon novel centers on Grey, whose damaged sexual upbringing prompts him to engage in relationships with women who will agree to become his submissive.
Struggling with his rigid rules and sometimes abusive behaviour, the naive Anastasia is ambivalent about joining him in his sadomasochist world.
Literary success: EL James, a TV executive, has gained cult status with her first novel whose characters gripped New York moms
The relationship between the two characters evolves and deepens in the following books, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.
Mrs James, a TV executive and mother of two, developed the books from fan fiction she wrote online in tribute to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight novels.
Despite the scarcity of physical copies available to purchase, Fifty Shades of Grey became a focus of conversation on school runs, taking on a cult status between mothers.
Studio executives believe that although the books play to considerably different demographics than Twilight, they revolve around the same basic themes: a vulnerable virginal woman, a seemingly dangerous man and a forbidden romance.
Because of the books explicit nature, a key factor in readers enjoyment of the book was the ability to read it on devices like the Kindle, which affords a measure of privacy.
Whether the novel will be as successful when the paperback is released en-mass on April 17th by Random House and then translated for a public setting like a movie theater, remains an open question.
It is also unclear whether it will be possible to remove some of the book's more erotic scenes to acquire an accessible R rating, without diluting the essence of the story.
For now, let the whose-who of casting guessing begin. Much like Twilight, The Hunger Games and The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, Fifty Shades of Grey will undoubtedly turn whoever is cast as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey into worldwide phenomenons.