They’re keeping it in the family, so to speak, for Fifty Shades Darker, the planned sequel to this year’s massive hit Fifty Shades of Grey. Based on the best-selling S&M-spiked romantic trilogy by E.L. James, the second film installment will be written by Niall Leonard, James’ husband, according to the The Hollywood Reporter. The first film, which starred Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, grossed an astounding $568 million in worldwide box office sales.
There was a rumor circulating for a while that James herself would pen the Fifty Shades Darker screenplay. Like James, Leonard is a novelist (he is the author of Crusher book series), yet unlike his wife, his also has screenwriting experience – mostly for BBC television shows, including Wild at Heart and Wire in the Blood. “Niall is an outstanding writer in his own right, with multiple established credits, and we are lucky to have him join Team Fifty,” noted Fifty Shades producer Michael De Luca. Leonard got the job after writing an outline. The choice could be seen as a way for the studio to appease James, who reportedly has asserted a hefty amount of creative control over the franchise.
That control has given the franchise some negative publicity in the aftermath of the success of the first film. Reported clashes between James (whose real name is Erika Leonard) and director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) over various aspects of the film led to Taylor-Johnson’s exit from the sequel last month. Also not returning for Fifty Shades Darker is the credited screenwriter of the first film, Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks). Still, Johnson and Dornan – who played the would-be lovers Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey – are expected to return, though both are negotiating for hefty raises.
There’s no word yet on when filming is set to start or when Fifty Shades Darker may be heading to theaters, but surely any behind-the-scenes drama will work itself out eventually considering the enormous box office take of Fifty Shades of Grey.