One of the problems with fantasies is that in real life they rarely measure up to what is imagined. This is something which the narrator and “heroine” of publishing phenomenon “50 Shades of Grey” learns after more than 300 pages in the company of a charming, rich sociopath called Christian Grey. In the bitter afterglow of a rather disturbing BDSM session, Anastasia Steele – no, really – tells readers that “I wanted the dark, to explore how bad it could be – but it’s too dark for me.”
A staggering number of women have embraced Anastasia’s fantasies and have vicariously shared her journey of self-discovery. More than 70 million copies of E.L. James’ first novel have been sold worldwide, making the 50-year-old author rich beyond belief – the books have netted her more than $95 million so far – and gaining her a spot on Time magazine’s list of “The World’s 100 most influential people.”
No-one was surprised when a movie deal was announced. But the actors chosen to play the lead roles have come as something of a surprise to many fans. Following the announcement that “Sons of Anarchy” star Charlie Hunnam and little known actress Dakota Johnson will be filling the tormented shoes of Anastasia and Christian, angry fans of the contemporary bodice-ripper have taken to the web to do some spleen-venting.
It seems as though the casting choices simply haven’t measured up to the expectations – the fantasies – of those who fell in love with the characters. Without detracting from the talents of Hunnam and Johnson, online pundits are saying that they want their own recommendations heard by producers. A petition calling for Hunnam and Johnson to be replaced by Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel has gathered more than 70,000 signatures since being launched on campaigning web-platform Change.org.
The petition, created by someone with the handle @dontouchmypatch, says that “Matt Bomer is the PERFECT DESCRIPTION OF CHRISTIAN GREY AND ALEXIS BLEDEL IS THE PERFECT ACTRESS TO REPRESENT ANASTASIA STEELE and if THEY ARE NOT, NOBODY WILL BE And I read the whole trilogy and I can assure that Matt is the perfect actor for this movie and Alexis too.” Calling on the support of “all of the GREYsessed and Bomerettes in the world” @dontouchmypatch proclaims, “WE CAN DO ANYTHING GUYS, ANYTHING.”
In the real world, things aren’t that simple, of course. The upcoming film’s producer, Dana Brunetti, says “There is a lot that goes into casting that isn’t just looks. Talent, availability, their desire to do it, chemistry with other actor, etc. So if your favourite wasn’t cast, then it is most likely due to something on that list. Keep that in mind while hating and keep perspective.”
Several other actors were allegedly considered before the final casting choices were made. Bret Easton Ellis tweeted that “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson was the preferred choice of the 50 Shades author, while sources claim that Ryan Gosling and Garrett Hedlund were among those who told producers they weren’t interested. Online “mom’s blog” The Stir reports that Charlie Hunnam was also initially reluctant to take the part before a “chemistry reading” with co-star Johnson sealed the deal.
As for Johnson, daughter of “Working Girl” star Melanie Griffith, fans simply haven’t seen enough of her to offer a meaningful criticism. The 23-year-old has made a few minor on-screen appearances, most notably in “The Social Network’ where she shared a love scene with Justin Timberlake, but she is yet to have a break-out role. The Stir says that although high profile names like Shailene Woodley were initially considered for the part of Anastasia, 50 Shades director Sam Taylor-Johnson campaigned strongly for Dakota to bring the virginal college-girl cum sex goddess to life.
There is nothing new about casting controversies, but the advent of social media has made them a little more public. Last month, more than 90,000 ordinary people put their online names to a Change.org petition demanding that Ben Affleck be replaced as the Batman in the upcoming “Man of Steel” movie. The 50 Shades petition may top that number, but can it reasonably be expected to make any difference? Hunnam and Johnson have signed on for a proposed trilogy, and anyway, would Bomer and Bledel genuinely have a better chance of satisfying millions of fan fantasies once the story becomes a celluloid reality?