Director Sam Taylor-Johnson Leaves ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Franchise
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson is making it once-and-done for the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. The filmmaker, who crafted the film into the box office smash it became, has announced that she will not return for the next film in the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise.
“Directing Fifty Shades Of Grey has been an intense and incredible journey for which I am hugely grateful,” Taylor-Johnson said in a statement. “I have Universal to thank for that. I forged close and lasting relationships with the cast, producers and crew and most especially, with Dakota and Jamie. While I will not be returning to direct the sequels, I wish nothing but success to whosoever takes on the exciting challenges of films two and three.”
Although details on Taylor-Johnson’s decision to leave have been hush-hush, her time as director of the film was fraught with behind-the-scenes difficulties. Largely, the issues stemmed from author E.L. James, who exerted an unprecedented amount of creative control over the production (well, unprecedented for a first-time author anyway. This resulted in clashes over the creative direction of the film, as Taylor-Johnson wanted to craft a more complex film while James wanted the movie to hew close to the book. For the most part, it seems as though Universal Pictures sided with James, considering her books sold well over 100 million copies worldwide, whereas Taylor-Johnson’s biggest success before this was the little-seen, critically-divisive Nowhere Boy. Still, if they wanted a puppet director, the studio should have just gotten one. You shouldn’t hire a creatively-minded director and then shackle them. I think the behind-the-scenes turmoil could potentially ward off other high-profile directors from considering the job. That said, the money is likely to be amazing for anyone willing to hop on-board the franchise, so it shouldn’t be hard for Universal to find somebody to fill Taylor-Johnson’s role.
A director has not yet been tapped for the sequel, but we do know that Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson will return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, respectively. So while we’re losing one element of the franchise’s winning formula, we’re at least keeping the lead stars. I guess you could argue Dornan and Johnson were wrong for the roles, but this strikes me as the sort of franchise that is driven by the property more so than the director or the stars. But while this isn’t a unique position for a franchise of this caliber, it should be stressed that finding the right director still matters. Either way, Taylor-Johnson won’t be hurting for ways to keep herself occupied, since she’s likely going to be hitting up a bunch of red carpet premieres of Avengers: Age of Ultron with her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who stars as Quicksilver in the film. With his likely success in that film, and her success with Fifty Shades of Grey, I imagine they’ll both be able to write their own tickets.