Tuesday, 10 February 2015
INTERVIEW: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
*This is a piece which was originally intended to run in the February 2015 issue of Cafe Society magazine*
It's an international publishing phenomenon that's about to become a much talked about film, but why has Fifty Shades of Grey been so popular? As the old adage goes, sex sells but is it as simple as that? And will the film (opening just ahead of Valentine's Day!) satisfy the book's millions of fans or prove to be a terrible tease?
Released upon an unsuspecting public in 2011, the Fifty Shades trilogy (yes, there are three books), written by British author E.L. James, has gone on to sell more than 100 million copies worldwide; 4 million of those in Australia. The books detail the sexual relationship between literature student, Anastasia Steele, and the more experienced Christian Grey, an entrepreneur with a mysterious air who becomes Anastasia's sexual mentor and master.
"E.L. James captured both romance and eros. Readers found the story liberating and at the same time totally addictive," says Brett Osmond, Marketing and Publicity Manager for Random House Australia, who publish the book in Australia. "E.L. James was able to craft the right balance and to combine this in a story that readers couldn’t put down. It’s very clever and disarmingly entertaining."
Mason says he genuinely believes Fifty Shades was "the right story at the right time". And it is not just about the sex. "In reading thousands of reader comments it is the romance, not the sex, that readers highlight and remark about," he says, by way of explaining the book's popularity.
It remains to be seen if the film adaptation of the book, released by Universal Pictures Australia, will be as warmly received. Directed by artist-turned-director, Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy, 2009), there has already been some conjecture about whether or not the film will feature the explicit sex detailed in the book (if not, then what is the point?), with some suggestion that there will be two cuts of the film.(This has since been denied.)
Irish actor Jamie Dornan (from TV series The Fall) won the coveted role of Christian Grey (after initial choice, Charlie Hunnam from TV's Sons of Anarchy dropped out), while Dakota Johnson (star of sit-com Ben and Kate, and daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) will play Anastasia Steele. But will the lack of marquee names hamper the film's box office pulling power (no pun intended)?
One thing in the film's favour is that there is a built-in audience, and even in the absence of big name stars there will still be a high level of curiosity about the film, its explicitness and its fidelity to the book. "I imagine that everyone who loved the books will want to see the film. We can’t wait!" Mason says.
Of course, it won't just be women buying tickets. And even if men profess to seeing the film only because their partner "dragged them along", there's no doubt more than a few husbands and boyfriends will be just as keen to see if the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey is equally as beneficial. "I know of a number of men who’ve found the books both entertaining and educational," Mason says.
Fifty Shades of Grey opens in cinemas February 12; the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is published by Random House Australia.