Photo: GettyThe screenwriter for the film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Kelly Marcel, said in a recent interview that her script contains “a lot of sex” but that her understanding of the material as she adapts it is as an old-fashioned love story. Nevertheless, she told The Telegraph, “It will be NC-17. It will be raunchy. We are 100% going there.”
That the adaptation has “a lot of sex” is unsurprising to anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the stunningly popular “Fifty Shades” book series, as is the bit about it being a love story. The reason Marcel's statement is noteworthy is that, if the production goes forward as an NC-17 and is released as such, it would almost certainly challenge the NC-17 rating's current status as a commercial kiss of death. The last two “high”-profile NC-17 releases, 2011's “Shame” and 2007's “Lust, Caution” both grossed in the neighborhood of $4 million, and the highest-grossing NC-17 ever, 1995's infamous “Showgirls,” made little more than $20 million. Considering that 20 million is the number of copies the “Fifty Shades” books had sold as of last summer, it is not excessively fanciful to speculate that a “Fifty Shades” movie, regardless of rating, could be every bit the money maker as a movie as it has been in print. And, further, that with the precedent of a financially successful NC-17 theatrical release, the movie industry's treatment of the rating as a thing to shun at all costs may relax, and more adult views of sexuality could be seen on the silver screen.
The film has yet to be cast and there is still no director attached, so “Fifty Shades of Grey” is far from taking any kind of appreciable shape as an actual film. But its ability to challenge Hollywood's thinking on the NC-17 rating makes this a project, regardless of one's feelings of the artistic merits of the material, to keep an eye on.