Despite my better judgement, Fifty Shades Darker is starting to grab my attention. The sequel to last year’s barely-BDSM drama Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the best-selling book series by E.L. James, is the second installment in a trilogy that will further follow the deeply unhealthy relationship between Dakota Johnson‘s novice kinkster Anastasia and her batshit abusive boyfriend (and walking economic fantasy), Jamie Dornan‘s Christian Grey. While the project’s pedigree is dubious, Fifty Shades Darker is slowly amassing an impressive roster of talent — most recently, Hannibal star Hugh Dancy, who THR reports has joined the cast as Christian’s psychiatrist.
Dancy will play Dr. John Flynn, a psychiatrist Christian begins seeing after his former lover, Elena Lincoln aka “Mrs. Robinson”, the woman who introduced him to the world of S&M at the tender age of 15, re-enters his life and compromises his relationship with Anastasia. He joins newcomer Kim Basinger, who recently signed on to play Mrs. Robinson — a particularly spot on piece of casting. Dancy, who is coming off the release of his Hulu series The Path, is a tremendously talented actor, and I just love the idea of inverting the patient-doctor dynamic he played so well on Hannibal.
While the source material is dreary purple-prosed demi-porn for housewives, this is starting to shape up to what might be a pretty decent erotic thriller if the pieces come together. Despite director Sam Taylor Johnson‘s best efforts, Fifty Shades of Grey was a stilted mess of mixed tones, that never became the fun, sexy ride it could have been. That’s no doubt due in large part to the notorious on-set tension between her and author E.L. James, who retained an inordinate amount of creative control in her deal and reportedly wanted to treat Anastasia and Christian’s relationship with the utmost seriousness. It’s play that didn’t work at all in the first film, but it seems like they’re leaning heavily into the darker thriller aspects of the sequel, and that might just pan out.
After Taylor Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel opted not to return for the sequel, Universal recruited James’ husband Niall Leonard to script Fifty Shades Darker and the final film Fifty Shades Freed, which will shoot back-to-back. While that’s kind of funny in an “omg she’s such a control freak she hired her own husband” kind of way, Leonard has a pretty solid resume including work on the British crime series Wire in the Blood, which is fantastic. Meanwhile, Glengarry Glen Ross and House of Cards director James Foley has signed on to direct the sequels — another talented name on the roster, whose creative history points firmly in the direction of a dark thriller. Now, am I expecting Fifty Shades Darker to be good? No. But I am starting to think it might have a couple surprises up its sleeve. In any case, we’re never going to see any romance in these films that’s half as twisted and perverse as the one between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter.