The director of the upcoming Sistine Madonna biopic and former child star has been talking about his next project: a Fifty Shades of Grey movie adaptation!
In an interview with The New York Times, French filmmaker Robert Pattinson revealed that he will adapt the erotic novel for the big screen.
“I love [Fifty Shades of Grey], and I have friends who are fans of the book,” the 33-year-old British-born Hollywood director said. “So it’s quite natural for me to want to make a movie. The great thing is that it’s one of the most popular books of all time, so there’s definitely an audience for it.”
The writer of the much-loved Twilight franchise and the Harry Potter star will helm the adaptation. “Twilight was one of the first adaptations of a book that I directed,” he said. “And Harry Potter was such an incredible experience, I hope to be able to do something similar with the Fifty Shades of Grey book. I really feel like I can bring something different and new to the table, something that none of the other adaptations have done before.”
The story of Fifty Shades of Grey follows Christian, a former architect who finds his professional career overshadowed by his desire to provide an excellent home and satisfy his partner’s every need. The former bachelor decides to use his considerable talents to subdue and harness the sexual desires of an initially reluctant Anastasia, whom he marries. Their steamy relationship becomes a matter of public record as Ana and Christian’s fairytale wedding is splashed across the gossip columns.
Pattinson, who began his directorial career at the age of nine, said that while he knew what the story was about, he wasn’t entirely sure how to “directly translate” it. “When I met with an agent, they were sending me a couple of books, and I picked up the first one,” he said. “It was very literary, and it was quite graphic, so I was like, ‘This is not going to be easy.’ ”
But, as he would later discover, the erotic novel was “actually the most accessible” of all of its sequels. “All of the other books are quite obscure and difficult to get into,” he said. “But once you get into Fifty Shades, you can’t stop there.”
While most Hollywood stars have to be begged to take on a role, the writer and star of Twilight apparently leapt at the chance to play Christian. “There were a couple of scenes I had to do where I had to address the audience directly, and I was very nervous,” he said. “One of the things that made me relax was that I knew I was in good hands. There were a lot of scenes that I had to lose weight for, and when I look back at the film, I realize that I definitely had some beef to lose. So it was a good thing that I accepted that role because it made me work hard.
Since then, Pattinson said that he has never turned down an opportunity to direct, despite having several projects that he adores and wishes to make. “I always want to make the best film that I can,” he said. “I don’t want to disappoint myself, or the people who have supported me in the past. But at the same time, you never know what’s going to come up. There could always be a new project that I find much more appealing.”
When it comes to casting, the director said that he and his wife, Léa Seydoux, were both very attached to a certain idea of who Christian should be. “We had a very clear picture in our head of who this mysterious man should be,” he said. “It took us a while to find the right Anastasia, but we knew exactly who we wanted for the part.”
Pattinson called Seydoux, who has been acting for more than a decade, “one of the most talented and experienced actresses I’ve ever met.” “She has this incredible ability to bring characters to life, and she was the one who suggested that I look at Alice in Wonderland as a possible reference for Christian,” he said. “I loved how she described him: a strange, quirky, and ultimately very lovable man.”
What are the challenges of adapting a graphic novel for the big screen?
The main challenge, Pattinson said, is one of time management. While he is used to filming major motion pictures in just over a year, the director said that adapting a book that is several hundred pages long could take as much as two years.
“It’s a question of just finding the right pace and not rushing it,” he said. “It’s easy to want to put a movie out there as soon as possible, but you have to have the patience to see it through. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up ruining all of your sets in ten days.”
Another challenge, as already mentioned, is how to translate a graphic novel into cinematic language. Since the screenplay for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was written by Chase Palmer, who also wrote the English-language version of Fifty Shades of Grey, the director said that he will “lean on” Palmer for help with the Fifty Shades adaptation. “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so to speak,” Pattinson said. “I want to take one for the team and bring a bit of anachronism to the project.”
Adapting a novel that is as popular as Fifty Shades is a risky proposition. If the movie is successful, it could potentially tarnish the author’s legacy, since much of the story is already over 30 years old. “We want to do justice to the book and not make it too corny or too much like the other adaptations,” Pattinson said. “We want to put our own spin on it and make it something special.”
It is not yet known what the budget for the Fifty Shades movie is going to be. Since it is a New York Times interview, the newspaper was kind enough to fact-check a few of the claims made by the director. Although the journalist pointed out that $20,000 is not technically “enough” to buy a diamond as big as the one Christian gives Ana, and that the movie does not take place in a vacuum, the director stuck by his assertion that Fifty Shades is “quite an economical movie.”
What is the working relationship with the author like?
While the author of the much-loved erotic novel, EL James, is famously difficult, she has reportedly been very hands-off when it comes to the movie adaptation. “The story is such an incredible one,” the director said. “I feel like I can’t really do it justice if I don’t have her blessing.”
Still, even with her blessing, the director said that there are going to be some major changes to the source material. “We’re not going to be shooting in London or Los Angeles or anywhere that’s actually picture-perfect,” he said. “We’re going to be shooting in some pretty bleak areas in Scotland.”
But the movie will stay true to the essence of the source material. In fact, while James is reportedly unhappy that the movie is “biting off” a part of her novel, Pattinson said that he is honored to be given the chance to bring her creation to life.