Fifty Shades of F**ked: Here’s Why the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Movie is Doomed

Robert Kessler / October 16, 2013

The sudden departure of would-be star Charlie Hunnam is just the latest in a string of disappointments for the hotly anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey movie. The movie already looks like a flop and it hasn’t even started shooting yet.

So what are the many problems plaguing the on-screen adaptation of 2012’s hottest book?

Universal Pictures and Focus Features reportedly paid author E. L. James upwards of $4 million for the film rights to Fifty Shades of Grey. Universal was eager to capitalize on the book’s success, setting an ambitious release date of August 1, 2014 for the first movie. But to make that deadline, Universal was going to have to secure its two leads quickly. That was where it hit the first roadblock. Casting rumors swirled with a new name being tossed out seemingly weekly, but none  stuck. James mentioned that Robert Pattinsonwas the first choice to play Christian Grey (oh? You mean because it is Twilight fanfic? Was Kristen Stewart your first choice for Bella Anastasia?), but Pattinson turned the role down.

Plenty of other actors (pipe dreams that they were) refused the role of billionaire and BDSM aficionado Christian Grey. Ryan Gosling reportedly had no interest in the role and Garrett Hedlund turned producers down because he “couldn’t connect with the character.” As for the film’s female lead, names like Felicity Jones, Alicia Vikander, Imogen Poots and Elizabeth Olsen were all circulated, but again, none of them stuck. Shailene Woodley was apparently interested, but she couldn’t commit to three films due to her involvement with the Divergent franchise. Added to that, hoards of Fifty Shades fans online had become convinced that only Alexis Bledel and Matt Bomer could play Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, setting the studio up to disappoint, no matter who they cast.

Finally, Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam were officially cast and it seemed like the ship had righted itself some. But the calm was short-lived, as Hunnam abruptly pulled out of the project, leaving producers searching for a new male lead with the planned November 1 start date looming ever closer.

An article in The Hollywood Reporter details what drew Hunnam to back out of the role and provides further insights about just how messy the production has become:

Hunnam, who also is a writer (he penned the gothic horror screenplay Vlad for Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Summit Entertainment), is said to have submitted his own very detailed script notes on Kelly Marcel’s adaptation of the runaway best-seller. The notes were well received, according to sources, but that only led to Hunnam seeking further script approval, which was denied. “That’s Charlie, that’s who he is. He’s particular,” says one source.

Basically, Hunnam was unhappy with the script and clashed with the rest of the creative team, including director Sam Taylor-Johnson. Though it’s left unsaid, it’s implied that Hunnam was looking to add some depth to his character who’s written in the book with all the subtlety of a frat party. And while that’s all well and good for a book that was directly marketed as “mommy porn,” a film version is going to have to have at least a little bit of character development.

With Hunnam’s departure, producers must scramble to find their Christian. But now there are added challenges. They must not only find an actor willing to take on the role, but they must find one who’s comfortable with the attention surrounding the role (Universal had to hire bodyguards for Hunnam after his casting was announced) and one who has on-screen chemistry with Dakota Johnson. There’s a very slim chance that everyone will be ready to start shooting by Nov. 1, which means a likely production delay and, with that, added costs.

Even if all that goes well, more problems present themselves upon the film’s release. Firstly, it’s going to be difficult to squeak out even an R rating from the notoriously prudish MPAA ratings board. More importantly, though, who even is the intended audience for this film? Most of Fifty Shades of Grey’s sales were via the conveniently discreet ebook. It could be difficult to fill a theater with fans who were initially interested in the book as an inconspicuous way to read erotica on the bus. There will probably be a VOD push, but if Universal’s hoping to make this a successful franchise, they’re going to need to take in a hefty theatrical box office.

Ultimately, who knows? Dozens of films have suffered notoriously beleaguered productions and some of them (World War Z, most recently) have actually turned out good. But chances are, Fifty Shades of Grey is headed for a breakdown.