When author E.L. James published her tale of the torrid affair between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, it became a worldwide phenomenon. The trilogy thrust (pardon the pun) the BDSM lifestyle into the mainstream, and fans went bananas over all three books. And they were even more delighted when Fifty Shades of Grey made it to the silver screen, with Dakota Fanning and Jamie Dornan cast as the story’s love interests.
But what was it like to make such an explicitly racy film? Well, take a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most scandalous stories surrounding this tantalizing tale.
20. There was an auction for the film rights
Author E.L. James was quite savvy with the film rights to Fifty Shades of Grey. She waited until the book was a massive hit, then auctioned the film rights off to the highest bidder. Universal and Focus Features came out on top, mainly because they promised James they would honor her original story.
19. E.L. James had a crazy amount of artistic control
The author also had a say in almost everything in the film – from the dialogue down to the very clothes the characters wore. So even though James had zero film experience, she had tremendous creative control, which is quite unusual in the movie biz.
18. They narrowly avoided an NC-17 rating
In order to hold on to an R rating, many of the book’s more explicit scenes had to be axed from the film entirely. The studio didn’t want an NC-17 rating, for they feared it would put off many of the book’s fans. So they toned things down just enough to snag that “R.”
17. James clashed with the director
E.L. James was pretty precious over her work, and she often didn’t see eye-to-eye with the director, Sam Taylor-Johnson. In fact, James pretty much wanted to book to be put straight onto the screen, exactly as it was. Taylor-Johnson, however, tried (and failed) to get her to make things a little less racy.
16. There were many contenders to play Anastasia
It now seems as if Dakota Johnson was born to play Anastasia, although the truth was there were many contenders for the role. For example, Mother of Dragons Emilia Clarke was in the running at one point, as were Ashley Olsen and Felicity Jones.
15. There were many actors in the running to play Christian, too
And the same goes for the role of Christian Grey. While we all picture Jamie Dornan as the sexy billionaire now, the part was originally offered to both Ryan Gosling and Charlie Hunnam. Of course, James’ first choice was Robert Pattinson, although she apparently decided casting him would be “too weird.”
14. They wanted Angelina to get involved
Apparently, none other than Angelina Jolie was asked about her interest in possibly directing the film. However, megastar Jolie politely declined, essentially saying it wasn’t really her kind of movie. She later told Entertainment Weekly, “I’m better at telling some stories than others.”
13. The studio hired James’ husband to write the sequel
Considering how precious James finds her books, it’s not surprising that she wanted to be the one to write the screenplay for Fifty Shades Darker. However, in an odd twist, the job actually went to her husband, Niall Leonard. Possibly because he had previous screenwriting credits under his belt.
12. The screenwriter refuses to ever see the movie
Kelly Marcel may have written the screenplay for the first film, but she’s never actually seen the finished product. Why? Well, because apparently, it’s almost unrecognizable from what she wrote originally. Marcel had a dark, nonlinear vision for the story, but James wasn’t having it, and so she forced Marcel to change much of her work.
11. The stars wanted more cash for the sequel
Considering how popular the first film was, it’s understandable that the stars were hoping to cash in on the sequel. Indeed, leads Dornan and Johnson both wanted seven-figure pay rises for Fifty Shades Darker, but the producer said no can do. He claimed the films were giving the actors megastar power, which was payment enough.
10. Fifty Shades nearly became a porno
Considering the steamy subject matter, it will likely shock no one that someone tried to make a porn version of the story. Smash Pictures was all set to produce an XXX adaptation of the tale, but Universal Studios immediately took them to court and put a stop to it.
9. The film was condemned for promoting sexual violence
Not everyone is a fan of the Fifty Shades stories. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, for example, believes the films have zero to do with erotic love – and far more to do with sexual violence and abuse. And they’ve issued a formal statement saying as much.
8. Dornan got into character by visiting a real sex dungeon
As research for the film, Dornan visited a real-life sex club. The actor made a trip to Rascal’s Club in Vancouver, which treats its guests to cattle prod pokes and floggings, among other BDSM delights.
7. The stars got the giggles during sex scenes
Filming such, eh, intimate scenes can be uncomfortable for actors. And there’s so much sex in Fifty Shades one can imagine there must be many awkward moments on set. So just how did they deal with their naked jitters? Well, apparently with giggle fits. According to director James Foley, both Johnson and Dornan would break out in laughter during especially erotic scenes.
6. Dornan was okay with showing his junk
While we certainly get an eyeful of Anastasia, we never quite get to see Christian in all his naked glory. So viewers might have thought Dornan was unwilling to go full frontal. But not so! In fact, Dornan says he was more than willing to show it all. Sadly, however, that just wasn’t part of the director’s vision.
5. Diehard fans wanted to copy the fashion
Many fans were so in love with the Fifty Shades characters that they even wanted to wear their clothes. This prompted Freeze Clothing to actually create a line of hooded jumpers and tees modeled after the film, while Brand HYP released a line of Fifty Shades garters and tights.
4. The actors had an unusual pre-game ritual
It may seem funny, considering the sensual nature of the scenes, but Johnson has it that when she and Dornan needed to pump themselves up for their biggest sex scenes, they’d drop to the floor and do a few push-ups. “[We] did a lot of pushups,” she revealed to USA Today.
3. A spy tried to gatecrash filming
Fifty Shades fans are a special kind of breed. In fact, one fan was so excited for the film she couldn’t even wait until they finished making it. So she sneaked onto the set and pretended to be a PA. However, a crew member became suspicious, and it was later discovered she was working undercover on a reconnaissance mission for a Fifty Shades fan club.
2. One particularly extreme scene had to be cut
While Fifty Shades is known for pushing the boundaries of sexual norms, there were some scenes from the novel that were deemed just too extreme for the film. Case in point: the infamous tampon foreplay sequence. It was a bit too racy for the silver screen version and so was axed altogether.
1. You can’t watch the film in Malaysia
It’s perhaps not surprising that a film this explicit isn’t welcomed in every culture. Malaysia, for example, has banned Fifty Shades, decreeing the film to be pornography, plain and simple.