Despite some scathing critic reviews Sam Taylor-Johnson’s kinky adaptation of E.L James’ novel, 50 Shades of Grey, went on to rake over $500 million at the box office and seemingly fulfilled the fantasies of the book’s many faithful fans. 50 Shades see’s young, wannabe journalist Anastasia Steele enter a world of sexual submissiveness when she meets the hunky Christian Grey; a wealthy, handsome and down-right dirty dominant. Miss Steele then enters his word of sexual exploration; taking a riding crop or two with her.
With Mr. Grey’s character being a real fan favourite for the book’s hard-core readers; casting for the film adaptation needed to be spot on and The Fall’s Jamie Dornan bagged the role opposite Dakota Johnson. Still, the sultry Dornan wasn’t the studio’s first choice to play the dominant sex-god; that honour went to none other than Son’s of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam.
Yep, before Dornan donned the famous Grey tie; Hunnam was up for the job and for a while, it looked as if he was very much ready to step into the slightly twisted role of Christian Grey. Back in 2013, it was made public knowledge that Hunnam would be joining Johnson for the steamy flick but rumors soon started circulating about his hesitancy to sign the dotted line. It’s been no secret that producer Dana Brunetti was against Hunnam taking the role, even going as far as responding to the online petition against Hunnam as Mr. Grey from fans on social media; so it was becoming more and more unlikely for Hunnam to commit to the project.
When the news broke that Hunnam was to decline the offer, his representatives used the old “busy TV schedule” line as an excuse but considering some of the backlash 50 Shades has since come up against; has he dodged a serious bullet? Although we’re sure Hunnam may wince every time he hears those whopping paychecks Johnson and Dornan are taking for each film; NOT becoming Mr. Grey might just have been one of his best career moves and here’s ten reasons why!
10. The God-Awful Script
A sense of hope still lingered when news broke that Focus Features was looking for a topnotch writer to pen the adaptation and when Kelly Marcel bagged the job, things continued to look up. While Marcel is a fairy new writer, she received generally positive praise for her screenplay of John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr.Banks, staring Tom Hanks; so one would imagine the 50 Shades origional material would be getting a boost in quality.
Maybe not because the script, especially dialogue, was pretty questionable. You can argue that the cheesy, cringy and creepy one-liners from Mr.Grey worked in book form because readers were hearing it through their own fantasies; the same cannot be said for the film script. Lines like “Because I’m fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia”, “I don’t make love…I fuck, hard” and “There’s really not much to know about me. Look at me”; just sum up some of the drivel that Hunnam would have had to speak and hear.
Having worked on the likes of Pacific Rim, Sons of Anarchy and the up and coming Crimson Peak flick; Hunnam is used to a certain caliber of script, having read dialogue from the likes of Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro; so you’d be forgiven for being pretty relieved not having to hear those words come out of his talented mouth.
9. Audience Backlash
With the film being made on a $40 million budget and taking over $85 million it just it’s opening weekend, many book fan and curious film lover took to the theatre to check out what the adaptation had to offer and despite it all, the flick bagged itself some fans
Still, that doesn’t take away the fact that the movie only received an overall rating of just 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and gained a huge backlash from a hoard of gender equality and domestic violence charities. With the general narrative blurring the lines of pain and pleasure and exploring the control aspects of a sub/dom relationship, many domestic abuse charities found the film to be glorifying violence against women and claimed Mr.Grey was an abusive partner.
Many campaigners took to social media to urge a boycott of the film, pleading with cinema goers to donate to their local women’s shelter rather than shell out to see the movie. Charity groups such as Us National Center of Sexual Exploitation, Canada’s London Abuse Women Center and Stop Porn Culture were all behind the #50dollarsnot50shades which gained 4600 ‘likes’ on Facebook when initially written.
Whether you agree with the allegations of glorifying domestic abuse or not, it’s not exactly something you want attached to your name and with the current Mr.Grey personally getting some backlash from audiences; Hunnam may have just saved himself a lot of controversial grief.
8. Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Directing
Sam Taylor-Johnson isn’t the most well known director but when she helmed the 2009 flick Nowhere Boy, staring Aaron Taylor-Johnson (her now husband), telling the story of young John Lennon; she ended up getting decent recognition from critics and audiences alike.
Her style of filmmaking mixed a cool kind of contemporary cinematography with a sense of nostalgia in the subject matter that helped put her name on the map for good British directors. Nowhere Boy was visually great, so when news broke that Taylor-Johnson was to helm 50 Shades; fans let out a sigh of relief that the flick was in good hands. Yeah, not so much.
Seriously, Taylor-Johnson; what happened? With the subject matter being so controversial, one might have expected the direction to take a more edgy turn but the best way to describe Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction is simple; lazy. She relies far too much on the sexual aspects of the movie, making it a gimmick rather than a genuine narrative point. While at times she attempts to use colour and lighting to explore and art-house style, it just makes you feel like you’re in the red light district.
With Hunnam having already worked with the likes of Del Toro, Anthony Minghella, Alfonso Cuaron and Douglas McGreth; so judging her for 50 shades alone; he’s not missed out on much by not working with Taylor-Johnson.
7. Mr Grey Being The World’s Biggest Creep
Hunnam’s mostly known for his role in Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy as Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller, a lovable rogue caught up in the drama of being part of a motorcycle club. Hunnam has that character locked down, proving that his ability to be both dangerous and desirable is second to none. Just like Mr.Grey, right?
Not so much. Hunnam’s talents would have been completely wasted on this down right creepy character. Yes, you can’t deny that a lot of men and women find Christian Grey’s character both physically attractive and deliciously dangerous but wow; he is one creepy dominant.
On more than one occasion Mr.Grey steps over the line of controlling and enters the world of psycho. One example occurs early on in the flick as, having met Anastasia just once, Christian tracks down where she works and proceeds to buy an all matter of serial killer items. Stalker much? Later on, Christian gets a drunken phone call from Dakota Johnson’s character and takes it upon himself to ‘rescue’ her, whisking her away to his hotel room, undressing her while she’s passed out and just generally being a weirdo.
If this was real life and Anastasia has met Christian on Tinder, he’d mostly likely be in jail right now. You’re too good for that Hunnam; be relieved.
6. The Red Room Of Pain
What do you keep in your spare room? Clothes you haven’t worn for years, old games console you can’t bear to part with and maybe some exercise equipment that’s gathering up dust, right? How about a room for whips, canes and the kind of sex equipment that would make Hugh Hefner blush?
Nobody is kink-shaming anyone here but a Red Room of Pain, really? Hunnam has his fair share of admirers, ones that would no doubt like to see him a little less clothes but what’s the bet he’s pretty relieved he didn’t have to enter, let alone play the owner of, such a creepy room?
In the film, Christian eases Anastasia into the life of a submissive but when she demands to know the extent of his kinky fantasies, he introduces her to his Red Room of Pain, a room meant for punishment and pain infliction. The Red Room of Pain become a serious talking point after the film, especially considering one scene of extreme sexual violence takes place in said room.
Having your own room for torture sounds like an ideal home design for your average serial killer. There’s a good chance Hunnam ran, not walked, from this little side note in the screenplay.
5. Worst Film Ending Ever
There have been some real stinkers when it comes to bad film endings. Now You See Me, Remember Me and I Am Legend were all bad movie ending but 50 Shades really is something else. With the 50 Shades franchise still having two more books to adapt, the end for the first flick needed to leave it’s audience feeling somewhat confident on what will happen next. Apparently nobody told Sam Taylor-Johnson that.
As Christian and Anastasia struggle to come to terms with their ever changing extreme relationship, Anna decides to end it all with the dominant millionaire. As she storms away from him in a fevered rage, they repeat each others names, the elevator doors close AND that’s it.
It’s such a massive anticlimax. Give the book fans something, guys! A fight? A flashback, flash forward, ANYTHING! There’d be no surprise if audiences members didn’t share a bemused look as the titles roll because, despite it’s 125 minuets running time, it totally feels like nothing has happened and die-hard fans wouldn’t be blamed for feeling completely cheated.
4. The Awkward Sex Scenes
When you’re making a film about the exploration of fetish and dominance, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to get up close and personal with your co-stars and while Charlie Hunnam’s no stranger to a steamy scene or two; the cheap way in which sex is used a narrative tool makes Striptease look classy.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson and seriously attractive people, there’s no getting around it and seeing them naked isn’t the worst thing to happen to your eyes but 50 Shades takes this and runs in the direction of gimmick, set to shock rather than entertain.
Even the best actors can only work with what they’re given and shocking sex scenes that go beyond the expectation of mainstream exposure don’t give them much. This cheap tactic from Taylor-Johnson leaves one feeling more awkward than aroused, something you just don’t want to associate with Dornan and Johnson, let alone good old Hunnam.
3. Having To Read The Books
With the books having a huge fan following, there must be something in their that entertains readers (sex) but in general the writing is shocking, with author E.L. James showing no real creativity or literary talent. Having adapted the books from her own Twilight fanfiction, James went full on erotica as she turned Edward and Bella into Christian and Anastasia.
While the screenplay plucked some terrible lines from the book, there are plenty that didn’t make it in. A great example being; “I want you sore, baby,” he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward. “Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I’ve been here. Only me. You are mine.” Who said romance was dead?
With Hunnam getting so far into the casting process, there’s a more than good chance that he was subjected to reading the first book or the screenplay at least. With the franchise planning on making two more films, that’s two more sets of reading material to have to get through; some would say Hunnam dodged a bullet there.
2. Dakota Johnson’s Lip Biting
There’s a good chance that nobody fed Dakota Johnson on the set of 50 Shades because that girl did not stop biting her lip or nibble on some kind of phallic symbol.
While Taylor-Johnson most likely encouraged Dakota to continue munching on her own face to up the whole naive, endearing thing; it just comes across as widely annoying and insanely blatant. There was nothing subtle about Anastasia teasing a Grey pencil with her lips; because what could that possibly represent?
Unless Hunnam has watched the film, which is seriously doubtful, he should consider himself lucky that he didn’t have to stare directly at Johnson as she gnaws her way through her bottom lip and sharpens and pencil with her front teeth. Smart move, Hunnam.
1. Living With The Consequences
Once you play one of the most well known contemporary literary characters for the big screen adaptation, it’s hard to ever be seen as anything else. There’s a good chance that from now on, every character Jamie Dornan goes on to play will be criticized against that of Mr.Grey. Which is a huge shame for an otherwise great actor.
With that and the general social outcries that are sure to follow with the franchise’s two sequels, Mr.Grey is a brave and difficult character to commit to; which Hunnam narrowly missed out on.
Yes, Charlie Hunnam will always be known as the guy who nearly played Christian Grey but at least he wont be the guys who actually played Christian Grey; sorry Dornan.