When Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James announced in June 2013 that Sam Taylor-Johnson would be directing the big screen adaptation of her blockbuster erotic novel, it's fair to say a few eyebrows were raised. Taylor-Johnson was best known as a prominent member of London's YBA (Young British Artist) scene, and her one previous movie, Nowhere Boy, was a sensitive and restrained biopic of John Lennon.
Her Fifty Shades of Grey film opened in February 2015, and despite some pretty scathing reviews, did brisk business at the box office. Yet around a month later, Taylor-Johnson confirmed that she would not be returning to direct the two sequels.
Now the artist-director has spoken candidly about her association with the Fifty Shades franchise in a new interview. Explaining what drew her to the movie in the first place, she told The Sunday Times. "It felt like a very dysfunctional fairy tale: a controlling prince and an unsuspecting young village girl. What I wanted to achieve is [for her] to usurp him against the odds."
She also discussed the film's most controversial scene, in which Dakota Johnson's Anastasia Steele is seen being "punished" with six lashes from Jamie Dornan's Christian Grey.
"The idea was she would hold a mirror to his darkness and come out with the power," Taylor-Johnson explained, before saying of the scene: "It was a struggle and there were lots of onset tête-à-têtes, with me trying to bat it into the [right] place."
She then spoke about her relationship with the book's author, who retained a significant amount of control over the direction of the film adaptation. "I like everyone — and I get really confused when they don’t like me," Taylor-Johnson told The Sunday Times. "I was so confused by E.L. James. I don’t understand when I can’t navigate a person, when there's no synergy."
Taylor-Johnson confirmed that she has now fully distanced herself from the franchise, saying of the sequels: "I’m not going to ever watch them. I have literally zero interest."
"With the benefit of hindsight would I go through it again? Of course I wouldn't. I’d be mad," she added.
Happily, Taylor-Johnson's next project, new Netflix series Gypsy starring Naomi Watts, looks to be sexy in a much less problematic way.