Fifty Shades of Lighten Up

50Shades Even if you aren’t a fan of the book phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey, you have perhaps heard about the brouhaha surrounding last week’s announcement of the casting of the future movie. Apparently fans of the book are so upset at the prospect of actors Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson taking on the roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele (respectively, of course), they are actually trying to force a change via online petitions. Rather, they’d envision Matthew Bomer and Alexis Bledel as the perfect Christian and Ana, despite the fact that neither of these two actors appears to be interested in participating in this particular book-to-film adaptation.

While I try hard not to judge anyone’s passion, I simply cannot understand what seems to me to be a rather extreme reaction to a movie about fictional people. Instead of rending garments and ranting in cyberspace about how Hollywood is obviously determined to destroy something sacred and beloved, I advocate a wait-and-see approach.

Because, after all, it’s happened before.

It was only a few short years ago that the interwebs buzzed with vitriol over the casting of one Robert Pattinson as vampire hottie Edward Cullen of Twilight fame. People were none too happy about then-relatively-unknown Kristen Stewart as their Bella Swan, but the open hostility towards R-Patz was surprising. Everything about him was wrong. His hair. His English accent. The fact that he wasn’t Henry Cavill, author Stephenie Meyer’s pick for the role. Yet look how that turned out?

And less than two years ago, we went through this with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen. She didn’t have it nearly as bad as poor Josh Hutcherson when he was cast as Peeta Mellark. But once the movie arrived in theaters, people seemed to watch it without any long-lasting traumatic effects. I would even wager that now they can’t imagine anyone else in these iconic roles.

Before anyone can protest that over-the-top fan upset over what they perceive to be bad casting choices is relegated to the younger and female set, the superhero crowd currently has its collective panties in a twist over the prospect of Ben Affleck playing Batman in the future Superman sequel. Before Ben, Michael Keaton was on the receiving end of the world’s bad vibes for earning the role of Batman in the Tim Burton film of the same name. Heath Ledger won an Academy Award posthumously for his performance of the Joker in The Dark Knight, this after the internet went crazy over the prospect of a “teen heartthrob” playing one of the darkest villains in comic history.

But we readers are only human, so who can blame us for becoming verklempt when we think Hollywood is making a tragic error? Even writers have their moments of extreme doubt, and some of them are rather vocal about it. Thankfully, they seem very willing to own it when they realize they may have been mistaken.

Author Anne Rice sided with fans who decried the casting of Tom Cruise as the vampire Lestat for the movie Interview with a Vampire. However, after actually seeing the final product, Ms. Rice had so thoroughly changed her mind about Cruise that she was compelled to take out two-page newspaper ad praising his work.

“From the moment he appeared Tom was Lestat for me. He has the immense physical and moral presence; he was defiant and yet never without conscience; he was beautiful beyond description yet compelled to do cruel things. The sheer beauty of Tom was dazzling, but the polish of his acting, his flawless plunge into the Lestat persona, his ability to speak rather boldly poetic lines, and speak them with seeming ease and conviction were exhilarating and uplifting. The guy is great.” – Daily Variety, Sept. 23, 1994

In the end, don’t forget that the people chosen to star in movies are, for the most part, professional actors. Their job is to become the person they are portraying. The fact that Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson are actually earning a living in Hollywood makes it seem reasonable to assume they are fairly successful at what they do. They might just surprise the heck out of all of the doubters.

I’ll admit I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other about who would be the perfect actors to play Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. While I’m not at all familiar with Dakota Johnson, as a fan of the TV show Sons of Anarchy, I can personally vouch for Charlie Hunnam’s acting chops and his ability to smolder and seduce and generally look very attractive. To be blatantly honest, I had never even thought to see the film adaptation of the Fifty Shades books, but the casting of an actor that I know and love might actually be enticement enough to get me into the theater.

Are there any times that you think Hollywood got things very wrong and then changed your mind once you saw the finished product? Or are there times when you felt justified in saying “I told you so!”?

– Jenna Harper

26 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Lighten Up

  1. I find it interesting to compare these responses to the positive responses to the Outlander TV show casting announcements (Jamie & Claire for the win) – perhaps Outlander fans are older and therefore a little more mature in their responses?

  2. In regard to Anne Rice’s turnaround – if I remember correctly she didn’t just object to Cruise being cast, she complained loudly and long before “changing her mind”. One has to think that she was reminded that her outspokenness could be grounds for a lawsuit, or perhaps that her share of the profit depended on people believing in Cruise.

    For another time that Hollywood got it wrong, think Kathryn Heigl as Stephanie Plum, and any one of the Lifetime adaptations of Nora Roberts’ books.

    • I don’t know if I think Kathryn Heigl was the wrong actress or if the project itself was just done so badly, it’s hard for me to distinguish where the tragedy occurred. I know her jersey accent was horrible. Too, she is overall just a little too refined for me to buy as the brash, blowsy Stephanie Plum. So, yeah, in this one I think Hollywood goofed. You know who I think would be a good Stephanie Plum – Melissa McCarthy. The weight thing is an issue, but she’s so good in those blue-collar, down to earth roles.

  3. Changed my mind about Jonny Lee Miller as Mr Knightley, he was quite good, and “I told you so” with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.

    • I didn’t mind Keira Knightley as Lizzy Bennt. I did have my doubts about Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy, but he charmed me thoroughly. Jennifer Ehle and Collin Firth will always remain my ideals, but I was okay with the movie version.

  4. I have not read the trilogy, although I admit to curiosity and read little snip its while waiting in the checkout at the grocery.
    My conclusion: I laughed. I most likely will not be pursuing the movie at all nor do I see myself reading the books in the future because I find them at re-sale or the library.
    As a parent who wants her children to be successful I can relate to Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson as to their excitement for their daughter. One thing for sure it will either be a great spring board for a great career or bury her in the mud like so many other potentially good actresses and actors.

  5. Fan fervor can be absolutely rabid, not just about casting, but about writers’s choices for their characters. I remember the Buffy/Angel/Spike wars, and more recently, the vileness thrown at Charlaine Harris for her decisions. And this occurred before the ease and anonominity of the internet; it probably did, but not as public. Even further back, I think I remember Mercedes Lackey stating that she would no longer continue a series due to the death threats she was receiving (I believe it was a series about witchcraft).

    As far as the Outlander casting, I have seen some ridiculous statements, but as a whole, the fans seem content with the choices. But I hope Gabaldon is prepared for the fan entitlement issues once the series airs.

    I know I’m off topic, but I’ve been horrified at the online reactions recently. I love and use the internet daily, but maybe there should be some accountability for some of the more extreme statements. As you mention, these are fictional characters and as much as we love/hate them, we need to take it all into perspective. I am reminded of Neil Gaiman’s statement “George R R Martin is not your bitch”. I may not like the outcome, but I defend to the death the right of the creator to make them.

    Sorry for the rant….

    • What baffles me is that people get in their mind the way a certain book character looks/acts/etc. and they use that to determine who they think would be the best actor to play the part in a movie version, but they fail to take into account the fact that THEIR vision of the character might not be the same as other peoples’ versions. Then they get all upset when what they perceive to be a deviation occurs. Unless a writer has specifically mentioned who he/she had in mind when envisioning the character – Stephenie Meyer thinking of Henry Cavill as Edward Cullen, for example – all other incarnations are simply personal speculation. Who am I to say that any choice other than, say, George Clooney as the perfect Christian Grey is absolutely wrong? That’s MY opinion only. And just an example – I haven’t read the books so have no image at all of Christian Grey.

  6. People who go crazy on the internet scare me. Writing a petition about who you think must play a part for a book that you like is just weird. If I really LOVE a book, you couldn’t pay me money to go see the movie. I have an ideal in my head that no movie can touch. 50 Shades of Grey is a book I couldn’t finish reading (not because of the sex, I like sex in a book). I tried to read this book because a friend told me how wonderful it was. I couldn’t get past the first chapter. It is poorly written. Enough said.
    But thanks for the tip about Outlander. I didn’t know about the series for TV. I rarely watch TV. I like to read, and TV cuts into my read time. But, I am going to check this out. Thanks!

  7. Movie adaptations of books I love (or even just like) rarely live up to my expectations. Usually it has less to do with casting decisions and more with changes in plot. I long ago came to terms with this. If a movie based on a book is great, then wonderful!! But if not, I don’t lose any sleep over it. Life’s too short.

  8. I really don’t’ care who is cast. My hesitation w/ this particular film adaptation is how on Earth the filmmakers plan to make a faithful adaptation of the book that will draw people into theaters. In read the books (I found them to be poorly written and edited) and I would never consent to a group reading, so I don’t think I would watch it in a theater w/ friends or surrounded by strangers – a bit like watching porn in a group. In addition, any truly faithful adaptation would garner a rating that would make the film tough to distribute.

    On a side note, my friend and I had to apologize to the people who were w/ us when we saw the kiera knightly P&P b/c we were so vocal about our dissatisfaction with the move while watching it – I hate everything about that movie but Judy Dench. But the fact remains that I made an ass of myself by ruining the viewing experience for others who paid good money to enjoy themselves. People deserve to make up their own minds and filmmakers have the right to make the film they want, rabid fans simply need to back off. Be passionate, passion is a great thing, but it doesn’t give fans the right to dictate to creators and other fans.

    • The only actor that bugged me in the Knightley/Macfadyen version was Jenna Malone as Lydia. Absolutely hated her performance! I don’t know if it was trying to maintain an English accent or what, but her acting was awful, IMO.

      • She was just one thing in a long line of things that irritated me. Chief among them was the disregard for some of the most iconic dialogue from the book ( Lizzy and Darcy interactions that make the book special for me, and I think a lot of others). I get that they were playing w/ a new kind of period piece, but by trading on Austen, they should have remained more faithful to the book. If you think of other successful Austen adaptations that stray from the book, they are usually not grounded in the time period and world Austen described so well. Aside from that, I have yet to see keira knightly in a role that I like. And then the film messes w/ the personalities of Darcy and Elizabeth in ways the detract from both, IMO.

        • Yeah, I agree that as a faithful adaptation of P&P, that movie was sorely lacking. There was simply too much cut out and/or abbreviated, especially noticeable by us fans of the BBC miniseries. That said, I find myself viewing them almost as separate movies – as if they are more like cousins rather than siblings. I can appreciate them for completely different reasons. I prefer the BBC miniseries as the real thing, and the movie as more of a “summary” version. The one thing that I really did like about the movie was the earthiness of it, the nitty gritty depiction of life during those times. For example, the country dance scene – for the first time I got a real sense of the outright joy and fun such an event must have brought. And the mud and dirt of Longbourn as a working farm seemed so real. The BBC version may be far more faithful to the original – and I love the language and dialogue – but I find the movie version more relatable. Does that make sense? Plus, I have to say that Mr. Darcy walking through the misty mores, and his speech – “I love…I love…I love you and never wish to be parted from you from this day onward.” Sigh.

  9. One For the Money should have been the start of a very successful movie franchise instead of one bad movie. I do blame the casting (Jason O’Mara as Morelli is the sole exception for me) along with the screenwriter, director and producer. I can think of lots of movies that have been ruined by the wrong actors.

    I wonder what Anne Rice thinks of Tom Cruise as Lestat now and I’ll always wonder how different that movie would have been with Daniel Day Lewis playing the lead.

    I’m fine with 50 Shades because I haven’t read the books and, though I’ve only seen a few clips of Sons of Anarchy, Charlie Hunnam is sexy as hell. I would watch the movie for him. I digress, what I’m saying is I understand fans being unhappy. I would give the actors a chance before deciding they aren’t going to work and I certainly wouldn’t try to get them fired but I am sympathetic to their disappointment.

    One of my all time favorite shows is Deadwood and Ian McShane was acutally David Milch’s 3rd choice for the role of Swearengen. I shudder to think how he would have screwed up that show with Ed O’Neil (Al Bundy was his first choice ::shudder::) or Powers Boothe playing the part. The right actor makes a world of difference.

  10. I’m a Lee Child fan and recently the first Jack Reacher book was made into a movie. Tom Cruise was cast as Reacher which was totally ridiculous since Reacher is described as being 6’5″ and many scenes involve the overtly muscular and aggressive Reacher in a fight. The movie was bad because of Cruise and poor dialogue (not from the book) and some truly bad supporting acting. It made me mad for a while when I first heard who was cast. But for the love of God, I wasn’t signing a petition! Some FSoG fans need to go work in a soup kitchen and rethink their priorities.

  11. As I haven’t read the books and I’m not going to watch the movie, I don’t care about one actor or another.
    But I think that SoG fans are doing what many other fans had done before. There will always be protests when you cast anyone because many people have their own ideas about the characters in the book. You really don’t know if there’s a miscast until you watch the movie. I’m sure that if they had chosen Bomer, for instance, there will be other group of fans protesting.
    But it happens all the time, even when you have great actors. Don’t you remember the terrible critics towards Russell Crowe because of Les Mis? Because those who had seen the musical on stage had a certain idea of how Javert was performed.

    • LOL! I’m sorry, but Russel Crowe was horrible as Javert. It’s darn muscial and with the few exceptions (like Anne Hathaways’s sublime performance) they cast a lot of people (Crowe, Jackman, ect) who didn’t have the vocal chops to do their parts justice. That is only my opinion but I was not a fan of the movie for this reason.

      • I would disagree with saying Hugh Jackman didn’t have the vocal chops for Jean Valjean – he actually is a musician. Though Russell Crowe (while I enjoyed it) wasn’t exactly the best of singers. But he tried!

        • I know Hugh Jackman has been in broadway musicals and is a very charismatic performer but his voice does not in any compare with a Colm Wilkerson or Gary Morris. He got the part because he is a star and that hurt the movie. That is just my opinion but I do stand by it.

          As far as Russell Crowe trying that’s nice but there a myriad of struggling actors with good voices who would have been more suitable for the role. Again, just my opinion as a longtime fan of Les Mis who disappointed with some casting choices.

    • Yeah, this blows my mind. I mean, back when they announced Michael Keaton as the first Batman, I was kind of shocked because he’s generally more of a comedian. I couldn’t imagine the start of “Mr. Mom” as the Dark Knight. But he blew me away in “Batman”. And I personally think Ben Affleck is a fantastic actor. We watched “Argo” over the summer and he was fabulous. I think he’ll have no problems becoming Batman.

  12. I personally loved the fifty shades trilogy. While I agree the writing was laughable at times, but it was SUPPOSED to be. The whole trilogy was very entertaining. The casting of Charlie Hunnam (the most beautiful man on earth) never occured to me (I pictured James Franco) but once it was done, I could not think of a better actor for it. Sometimes you just have to let go of small things like eye color, hair color and height. You’ll see, they won’t make a hair of difference. If you don’t believe me, check out Sons of
    Anarchy on Netflix from season 1 on. You will be a convert. You go Charlie!

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