Erotic sensation Fifty Shades of Grey to be made into film by The Social Network team
THE production team behind "The Social Network" has been signed up to make the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey, the blockbuster series of erotic novels by British author E. L. James.
Universal studio has hired Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti, who have a history of turning books into award-worthy movies.
The pair oversaw the transformation of The Accidental Billionaires, a book about the contentious origins of Facebook, into The Social Network which garnered eight Oscar nominations in 2011.
They will now begin the key task of choosing who will play James' innocent young heroine Anastasia Steele, and Christian Grey, the billionaire businessman who introduces her to bondage and sadomasochism.
A litany of leading actors have already been speculatively linked to the racy project, and the recruitment of Oscar-nominated producers will help to make the roles among the most sought after in Hollywood.
Fifty Shades of Grey, and its two sequels, began as fan fiction based on the Twilight series of vampire novels. Kristin Stewart, who starred in the popular Twilight film adaptations, has been tipped by some fans to play Steele.
But she could face competition from other actresses with other names being touted including Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Amanda Seyfried, and Shailene Woodley.
Possibilities for the role of Christian Grey so far have included Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Alexander Skarsgard and Justin Timberlake.
Last month Brett Easton Ellis, author of the controversial, sexually explicit 1991 novel American Psycho, put himself forward to write the script, saying it would be a "dream" and the story had "potentially great cinematic characters".
He said Gosling would be "perfect" for Grey, and either Stewart or Johansson could bring Anastasia to life. He also called for David Cronenberg to direct.
The torrid affair at the centre of Fifty Shades of Grey has been dismissed by some critics as pornography but Universal bought the rights to the trilogy for $5 million in March following a fierce bidding war in Hollywood.
Worldwide sales of the books, including e-books, have topped 31 million and James is estimated to have earned $50 million.
She will work closely with the producers on casting but recently dismissed the idea of reuniting Twilight stars Stewart and Robert Pattinson, saying it would be "strange".
The author said: "I have about four people in mind for Ana and three for Christian, but I'm not telling anyone what they are because I'm not allowed to discuss the movie at all which is a real shame."
Last week she said: "No one ruled is out ... no one is ruled in. Just so you know."
Announcing the producers Universal co-chairman Donna Langley said: "At its core Fifty Shades of Grey is a complex love story, requiring a delicate and sophisticated hand to bring it to the big screen." Brunetti, 39, and De Luca, 46, have recently been working on the Tom Hanks movie "Captain Phillips," based on the true story of a cargo ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates.
De Luca, who also produced the Oscar-nominated baseball movie "Moneyball," starring Brad Pitt, was a wunderkind among Hollywood producers in the 1990s.
He developed a "bad boy" reputation for partying and fighting, and was the subject of a tabloid sex scandal. He is now said to be a reformed character after "a lot of therapy."
James said: "I am thrilled that Mike has joined Team Fifty. He brings a passion for and in-depth understanding of the characters and story, and a wealth of experience in making quality films."