‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ will be NC-17

Vintage Books

I’d hate to be the guy who has to clean the theater seats after this one. Fifty Shades Of Grey is one of the most unlikely publishing phenomenons in recent years. Other smash hit book series have been relatively sexless – it took Bella and Edward four books to bang in Twilight, for God’s sake – but the hit mommy-porn trilogy features non-stop humping in a rainbow of flavors. So adapting it into a movie poses its own set of challenges.

The Sun just did a big interview with Kelly Marcel, the writer hired to adapt the first novel. Marcel’s first film, Saving Mr. Banks, is about the least sexy thing imaginable (the production of the Disney film Mary Poppins), and her only other high-profile project has been the doomed Fox sci-fi series Terra Nova. How she got the gig is anybody’s guess, but she seems pretty ready to go.

Well, there is going to be a lot of sex in the film,” Marcel says breezily. “It will be rated NC-17. It’s going to be raunchy.”

A major studio releasing a straight up NC-17 film, especially one that they obviously have such high commercial hopes for, is totally crazy. 2010’s indie Blue Valentine had theirs dropped down to an R, and William Friedkin’s vengeance epic Killer Joe just released unrated after getting tagged with the NC-17. Many theaters will straight up not book an NC-17 movie no matter what, especially if it has bondage and fisting in it.

I wouldn’t want to be a studio executive at Universal Pictures right now. They just spent a ton of money to get the rights to this thing and they can’t win. If they stay close to the source material, they’ll get a movie that no theater will show. If they diverge from it, they’ll get a movie that no fans of the series will see. Smart move there, guys.