Did you hear the news? The upcoming movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey will star relative unknowns Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam in the lead roles. If you’re a fan of the steamy erotic romance novel, you’re probably not thrilled.
Yesterday’s surprise casting decision came from Fifty Shades author E.L. James herself, who made the announcement via Twitter. The public outrage began forthwith.
Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the bestselling books of all time, so naturally the choice of actors to assume the central characters of the sexually adventurous Anastasia and the bondage-loving Christian has been a source of grand speculation in recent months.
Early casting rumours included matching up Vampire Diaries star Ian Somerhalder and Emma Watson and pairing Armie Hammer with Mila Kunis.
But instead, we have Johnson and Hunnam, two rather low-profile actors now expected to generate sexual chemistry onscreen. And who are these two anyway?
Johnson, 23, is the daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, and is known primarily for co-starring in the short-lived Fox sitcom Ben & Kate last year and a fleeting role in The Social Network.
Hunnam, 33, is a British actor best known for his recurring role as a biker in the series Sons of Anarchy and more recently for starring in the summer action blockbuster Pacific Rim.
Both are capable thespians, but the decision to cast them in the Fifty Shades movie has fans riled.
Within hours of the announcement, there was a petition on change.org demanding that Johnson and Hunnam be replaced with former Gilmore Girls star Alexis Bledel and Matt Bomer, star of the cable series White Collar.
“All readers believe Matt is Christian. It would be a dream to see him in the movie,” said one reader who signed the petition, which has already garnered nearly 10,000 names.
Although online petitions are nothing new, they do have clout. As pointed out by Matt Singer in The Dissolve, one recent petition demanding that Ben Affleck be removed from his role of Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel has collected 90,000 supporters.
And every so often it works. Remember that a massive public campaign was responsible for bringing back the critically acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights and fuelling the recent reboot of Arrested Development.
The petition to recast Fifty Shades, however, is borne out of negativity, and Hollywood generally doesn’t respond well to public feedback in the early planning stages of a movie.
Writes Singer: “If you’re crazy enough about a movie to sign a petition over who plays a critical role, odds are you’re passionate enough to go see the finished product no matter who gets cast in it.”
Still, there is cause for concern when hard-core fans of a novel are displeased.
Last month, writer Rebecca Ford explained in the Hollywood Reporter that “insiders” credited the abysmal failure of the film adaptation of Beautiful Creatures to the fact that the movie “was significantly different from the book, which alienated the series’ extremely rabid fan base. Some fan sites even told people to boycott the film.”
None of which is likely to happen with the Fifty Shades movie. And while E.L. James is clearly down with the Johnson and Hunnam pairing, we can safely assume she had little to do with the casting of the movie, at least according to a recent tweet from fellow author Bret Easton Ellis:
“Talked to E.L. James at a party over the summer: her first choice for Christian was Rob Pattinson and Matt Bomer was never in the running.”