When it comes to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” people in publishing tend to be of two minds: On the one hand, E.J. James’ book is horribly written; on the other, it sold like crack-laced hotcakes. So it would make sense if there were some ambivalence this week when it was announced that the subsequent movie will go forward with Sam Taylor-Johnson as director.
Except, among literary types and others, there has been a collective sense of appreciative surprise, sort of “Huh! This could be good.” The Atlantic Wire called her “shockingly cool.”
Taylor-Johnson has made one feature film, the 2009 British indie “Nowhere Boy,” a coming-of-age story about John Lennon. Before turning to film, she was a significant visual artist, having earned the Order of the British Empire for her work in photography and video. She has published a number of books of her work, including “Crying Men.” She was a finalist for the 1998 Turner Prize, when she was known as Sam Taylor-Wood; she changed her name when she got married.
That was after making “Nowhere Boy” and marrying its star, Aaron Johnson, more than 20 years her junior. They both now share the last name Taylor-Johnson -- as well as two children. It is as much her personal romantic history, as much as her fine art, that seems to have given many literary figures hope that her take on “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be worth watching.
“Fifty Shades of Grey the movie –- could it maybe, just maybe, be good?” asked the Guardian. “With Sam Taylor-Johnson directing, an artist who knows a thing about female desire, the film of the hit book could surprise us all .... Fifty Shades of Grey is a silly, avaricious sex fantasy, but there are enough interesting things in the book -- it’s a long book -- that Taylor-Johnson might find a good movie lurking in there too, among descriptions of the hero’s penis as a ‘Christian Grey-flavoured popsicle’.”
In a statement, Taylor-Johnson said, “I’m so excited to be charged with the evolution of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ from page to screen. For the legions of fans, I want to say that I will honor the power of Erika’s book and the characters of Christian and Anastasia. They are under my skin, too.”