Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Would Joe Wright really direct 50 Shades of Grey?

The director of Anna Karenina and Atonement has, allegedly, been signed up for the soft-porn saga.

Sun, May 12, 2013, 22:00


Obviously I have no idea what the answer to that question is. It does, however, seem like a mist unlikely career leap: from Leo Tolstoy to E L James. Wright didn’t get consistently brilliant reviews for Anna Karenina, but they weren’t so poor that he needs to consider making smutty films. The saga of the 50 Shades of Grey movie has already taken a few nauseating swerves and dives. The S & M saga was a smash. Therefore it had to be a film. We’ve seen this before. It doesn’t matter if the material seems less than cinematic. The name-recognition alone will get the thing made. So, quicker than you can smack a buttock, the good people at Universal rushed out and purchased the rights. Now, they just have to make it into a hit.

Everything about the project screams disaster. It’s been a long time since soft porn — and that’s what this is, right? — found space in the cinematic mainstream. You have to go back a quarter of a century to 9 1/2 Weeks to discover anything vaguely similar in high-street cinemas. Consuming erotic fiction and erotic movies really are two very different experiences: one can be done in private; the other invites a room of people to share a degree of mild shame. Obviously, you can watch the awful things on computers or on your telly. But the folk behind 50 Shades: The Movie clearly intend to get their film into movie theatres.

Anyway, you’d think that those producers would have difficulty interesting proper directors. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Early in the year, it emerged (or was alleged, at least) that Gus Van Sant was actively campaigning for the gig. Now, the Hollywood Reporter claims — with some confidence — that Joe Wright has, indeed, signed up for the grubby soap opera. All three of Wright’s films were made for Universal, so there is a certain logic at work here. The Planet People and Joe seemed to gel on Anna Karenina, Hanna, Atonement and Pride & Prejudice. Why not have some fun with a hit book? Because it’s dubious, scrappy, ephemeral nonsense. That’s why. The tome is as much a subject for ridicule as it is a topic of celebration.

Mind you, Clint Eastwood did manage to make something not-entirely-dreadful of The Bridges of Madison County. It wasn’t a good film, you understand. But it was better than the ghastly source material. You never know. We’ll believe it when we see it.