UPDATE: 10/12/2013 – According to The Hollywood Reporter, Charlie Hunnan has dropped out of the project, citing his busy schedule with Sons of Anarchy as cause. The search for the new Christian Grey begins immediately…I guess.
UPDATE: 9/14/2013 – Various industry trades have published insider reports breaking down the casting process, explaining how Hunnan Johnson were not necessarily the first choices. Check out our summary of that here.
So, when you read 50 Shades of Grey (and either of its two sequels) who did you picture as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Well, shut up for a moment because get ready to have those figments of your imagination pushed aside forever and replaced with the currently smiling, soon to-be defiling faces of Charlie Hunnan and Dakota Johnson.
Yep, the movie trilogy that’s happening and all 50 Shades of Grey-haters just have to get over it has brought an end to months of speculation by finally casting its Christian and Anastasia, the people they picked being somewhat surprising based upon all the other actors who had been rumored for the parts.
So, who are Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele?
The story involves a 21-year-old senior in college (Anastasia Steele) entering into a non-traditional, sexually charged relationship with an incredibly wealthy, 27-year-old entrepreneur (Christian Grey). To some degree, it is a basic tale of sexual awakening if that awakening is super kinky. Christian loves himself some bondage and sadomasochism, and Anastasia seems to him like the kind of girl who will be cool with having a sex-only relationship in which she consents, via written contract no less, to behave as a submissive (the spankee) to his dominant (the spanker). The drama derives from the disconnect between what Christian claims to want and what some of the actions he takes otherwise indicate and whether or not Anastasia’s still-establishing limits will discover that Christian’s level of kink is just beyond her comfort zone. It’s been followed by the sequels 50 Shades Darker and 50 Shades Freed.
So, you know, good family fun.
The novels are among the most successful of the past handful of years to also be the most derided, written off as mommy porn due to sales data which indicates married women are the primary readers of Shades of Grey and its two sequels. Plus, grammar nazis have had a field day with author E.L. James’ writing.
After the novels sold millions of copies and countless adult children across the country preferred not to ask their mothers what they were reading for fear that it was probably 50 Shades of Grey, Universal Pictures and Focus Features snatched up the films rights as distributor and marketer respectively. The Social Network producers Michael de Luca and Dana Brunetti are on board to produce alongside E.L. James. Saving Mr. Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel is handling the adaptation duties, and Nowhere Boy director Samantha-Taylor Wood (who is herself in a non-traditional relationship as a 46-year-old woman married to a 23-year-old man, actor Aaron Taylor Johnson) as director. They’ve announced an intended 8/1/2014 release date.
So, who are Charlie Hunnan and Dakota Johnson?
The two people you probably didn’t predict would be cast as Christian and Anastasia, that’s who. Ian Somerhald and Matt Bomer were both rumored candidates for Christian and Nina Dobrev and Alexis Bledel rumored for Anastasia. There were even those campaigning for porn star/potential mainstream actor (he was in the Lyndsay Lohan film The Canyons) James Deen as Christian because, well, he is boy-next-door handsome while specializing in the kinky stuff Christian does. But, so sorry, instead it’s Charlie Hunnan from Pacific Rim and Dakota Johnson from Fox’s adorable, canceled-too-soon 2012 sitcom Ben & Kate. The casting was officially announced by author E.L. James via her Twitter account.
Hunnan currently stars on the FX biker drama Sons of Anarchy, and his rather impressive pectorals and abs are displayed prominently in several scenes in Pacific Rim (one of which even has a female character looking on in awe at his physique). However, he’s more than just a body. He has a mind. A mind! He has a degree in the theory and history of film, and sold a Dracula-based screenplay to Brad Pitt’s production company a couple of years ago
Dakota is Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s daughter. Her most memorable early film appearance was as the college girl Justin Timberlake’s character has had a one night stand with in his introductory scene in The Social Network. Don’t remember her? She wears red panties which read “Stanford” on the back. She was also in 21 Jump Street, as one of the competing undercover police officers who are constantly taunting Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum for their consistent failures. However, she had an adorable and wholesome turn as the titular Kate from Ben & Kate in which she played a single mom receiving help from her perpetual screw-up brother in raising her young daughter. As the show progressed, Johnson displayed an ability to portray innate goodness while also playing awkward pauses and stuttered lines while flirting with men to perfection.
Regardless of who has been cast, it would seem that just because the novels are successful in no way means the films will be. Yes, having producers from Social Network around intrigues, and Johnson seems perfect for the role of Anastasia. However, 50 Shades of Grey is a vampire story without any vampires or werewolves around to provide sexual metaphors and thus lessen potential audience discomfort. Nope, it’s about a mysterious guy who just really, really wants to spank a girl, and a girl who doesn’t know if she’s going to like that (I am obviously summarizing). It is an erotic drama-thriller in an age of film where those type of films mostly go direct to video now. The most recent erotic films to make even over $50 million in domestic gross was 2009’s Obsessed (which starred Beyonce Knowles in a kind-of interracial Fatal Attraction story) and 2002’s Unfaithful, the ultra-steamy Diane Lane affair film.
The Sex and the City films proved that female audiences will turn out in busloads for something made for them, and the same is true for Twilight. However, there would seem to be a big difference between watching Sex and the City and Twilight and a film version of 50 Shades of Grey. How many 50 Shades of Grey readers are going to show up to see this movie? Honestly, I can’t wait until next August to find out.
What do you think of the news? Do either Johnson or Hunnan sound like good choices for the roles? Bad choices? Don’t care? Let us know in the comments.