The Fifty Shades of Grey sequels are shaping up to be a delightful cautionary tale/trainwreck. The movie opened huge with $81 million, but then suffered a 73% drop the following weekend. That means word of mouth was negative, and fans didn’t like the film enough for repeat viewings. It was a smash-and-grab job, but it has managed to net over $500 million worldwide, which is impressive based on its relatively low budget.
But getting to this kind of box office success was a trial that saw constant bickering between author E.L. James and director Sam Taylor-Johnson, stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson loathing each other, and the sequel is without a writer, director, or a release date. This was before the cuckoo author started demanding even more control over the sequels even though her interference drove away the director and will likely repel others from taking the job. And now the stars—who have no chemistry on or off screen—want huge raises.
According to THR, Dornan and Johnson are looking to get pay bumps in the seven figures to return. They were paid $250,000 each for the first movie and a three-picture deal, and although there were tiered box office bonuses, they didn’t receive any participation on the back end. Simply put, Fifty Shades is the crap role you take so that you can boost your profile for better projects. Their low salaries in turn helped keep the cost of production low. Everyone wins except people with good taste.
Now Dornan and Johnson are eyeing the kind of deal the Twilight stars got or along the lines of Jennifer Lawrence when she renegotiated her Hunger Games contract from $500,000 on the first movie into $10 million for Catching Fire. But here’s the major difference: those movies had box office momentum and fans liked the actors.
Still, THR reports that Universal chair Donna Langley doesn’t want unhappy stars (she should probably watch this video to see that it’s already too late), and certainly doesn’t want them asking out of their contract when the studio already has to deal with an egomaniacal, hack author and also finding a new writer and director. It’s not so much that Dornan and Johnson are memorable in their roles as much as casting is a headache, and Universal wants to get rolling on an early 2016 shoot for a 2017 release.
But if the producers want to keep the budget reasonable (i.e. around the $40 million it cost to make the first film), it makes more sense to bump the actors than to bump their pay. Hollywood has no shortage of actors who are willing to enter the Red Room of Pain.