Universal is closing in on a director for the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey sequel, Fifty Shades Darker. Shortly after the first film’s release, director Sam Taylor-Johnson officially declined to return for the sequel, no doubt due in part to her squabbles with author E.L. James, who has been notoriously bullish about shepherding the film franchise.
With the sequel set to hit theaters for Valentines 2017, Universal has been actively searching for a new director, and according to THR they have narrowed the search down to three finalists — Jamey Foley, Mark Pellington and Tanya Wexler — with Foley said to be the frontrunner for the job.
While James hoped to pen the Fifty Shades Darker script after Kelly Marcel exited the franchise, Universal eventually compromised by giving the job to Niall Leonard — her husband. The second film follows Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia as she descends further into Christian Grey’s (Jamie Dornan) world of softcore S&M. The sequel will see Ana dealing with the ghosts of Christian’s past in the form of his previous lovers, and has been described as “more of a thriller”. The final contenders for the director’s chair, who are head-scratchers at first glance, certainly make more sense with that in mind.
Foley is best known for his dark thrillers Fear and Perfect Stranger, the David Mamet adaptation Glengarry Glen Ross, as well as directing a number of episodes for the critically acclaimed Netflix series House of Cards.
Pellington directed the 1999 crime thriller Arlington Road, starring Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins, as well as a number of short films, docs and music videos for musicians and bands, including 2007’s U2 3D.
Wexler is the odd man out, so to speak. Not only is she the only female director still in the running, Wexler doesn’t have a resume of thrillers. However she has previously explored female sexuality on film with the Maggie Gyllenhaal comedy Hysteria , the 2011 film that chronicled how medical research led to the invention of the vibrator.
No deals have been made as of yet, but the story states that the process will begin next week. The big question is why anybody would want the gig, given that it’s pretty clear that the director gig will essentially be playing puppet for James. Fifty Shades of Grey has earned $570 million worldwide to date, so actually, scratch that, it’s pretty easy to understand why. Fifty Shades Darker is due to arrive in theaters February 10, 2017, with the third film, Fifty Shades Freed, set to debut February 9, 2018.