This past Valentine’s Day, Universal Pictures birthed the start of the Fifty Shades movie franchise. The first chapter- Fifty Shades of Grey made over $500 million at the worldwide box office. Based on the widely successful book series by E.L. James, the property is clearly a high priority for Universal. Now comes word that the two forthcoming sequels will be shot back-to-back.
Dakota Johnson (Black Mass) and Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette) are both set to return as kinky, star-crossed lovers Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Both sequels- entitled Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed– will be directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross) with a scripts penned by Niall Leonard, an author who just happens to be E.L. James’ real-life husband. Cameras are set to start rolling some time next year.
The smell of trouble emerged from the Fifty Shades set after Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks), director and screenwriter for the first installment respectively, opted not to return to the franchise. Rumors spiraled about creative differences between Taylor-Johnson and James as well as speculation aroused over James’ control over the franchise. However, the films’ $85 million opening weekend gross certainly had to make whatever tension came about (exaggerated or otherwise) dissolve from Universal’s commitment to marching forward with the series.
Both Johnson and Dornan have certainly benefited from their roles. Johnson- who also co-starred in Cymbeline, Chloe and Theo and Black Mass this year- has a busy schedule that includes the buzzy A Bigger Splash opposite Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer) and Ralph Fiennes (Spectre) due next year, the comedy How to Be Single co-starring Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) and the thriller Suspiria. The equally in demand Dornan has the period pieces Jadotville and Anthropoid both due out next year.
It will be some time, however, before Anastasia and Christian rekindle their tumultuous romance as Fifty Shades Darker isn’t due in theaters until February 10, 2017. Fifty Shades Freed will release one year later on February 9, 2018.