We've seen "Nowhere Boy" and her series of photographs of famous men crying. We've read about her controversial relationship with her much younger husband Aaron Johnson. We've even heard about her short erotica piece featuring a man masturbating in the desert.
But to get a more complete picture of "Fifty Shades of Grey" director Sam Taylor-Johnson's filmmaking style and aesthetic -- and how she might handle the E.L. James material -- there are few pieces that offer more insight than a 2008 short she directed titled "Love You More."
The 15-minute movie, which was nominated for the short-film Palme D'Or when it premiered at Cannes in 2008, is the collaboration of Taylor-Johnson and Mirage Entertainment, the company run by the late Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack.
Written by the playwright and screenwriter Patrick Marber ("Closer"), the film is an adaptation of his short story "Peter Shelley" and centers on two teenagers in 1978-era London who connect over the release of the Buzzcocks single "Love You More."
The film, which can be seen here (sensitive viewers, note that it contains graphic content), illustrates Taylor-Johnson's ease with sexually explicit material and proves her to be adept at romance.
"Love You More" was the only short Mirage made during its existence and it was commissioned as an experiment of sorts by Minghella to prove that visual artist Taylor-Johnson had filmmaking chops too.
According to the short film's producer, Caroline Harvey, who at the time served as the company's head of development in London, Mirage had optioned the British novel "Story of You" by Julie Myerson for Taylor-Johnson but at the time the filmmaker had only art films to her name.
Soon Taylor-Johnson was collaborating with Marber and casting Andrea Riseborough and Harry Treadaway as the two high school students.
“There’s an erotic element to some of Sam’s art work and she really responded to Patrick’s material,” said Harvey, reached by phone in London. “It was a sweet, self-contained story that seems sort of perfect for her and for short-film making.”
According to Harvey, once the film hit Cannes, it went on to screen at more than 250 film festivals, winning a nomination from BAFTA and a British Independent Film Award. The producer says she still gets calls about it from festivals wanting to screen it or from producers interested in adding it to short compilations.
“She worked very closely with the actors [on "Love You More"] and it was a difficult thing the actors did — with the sex scene in there. She developed a very close relationship with them and it was a really lovely experience,” said Harvey.
Taylor-Johnson and Harvey remained close after "Love You More," with Taylor-Johnson donating some of her Palme D'Or prize money to Harvey's directorial debut, the short "Emily," which recently debuted at the Palm Springs International ShortFest and stars Felicity Jones, also rumored for the "Fifty Shades" lead of Anastasia Steele. (You can check out the trailer for "Emily" here.)
Needless to say, Harvey thinks Taylor-Johnson is an ideal candidate to tackle the E.L. James novel.
“She’s an inspired choice for ‘Fifty Shades,’" she said. "I’m excited they chose a woman and she’s particularly sound for it. She’ll make a great film.”
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