It was always a little perplexing that Sam Taylor-Johnson agreed to direct Fifty Shades of Grey. The UK native comes from a fine arts background. Her debut film Nowhere Boy was a thoughtful and nuanced portrait of a young John Lennon. So how did someone with such distinct artistic sensibilities end up directing an artless softcore porno masquerading as a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster?
Though the film went on to make boatloads of dough at the international box office, it was derided by critics, and lacked any trace of Taylor-Johnson’s ability. Now we know why.
In a recent interview with the Sunday Times of London, Taylor-Johnson explained that on-set friction between her and Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James really took its toll, so much so that if given the opportunity to direct the film again, she’d take a hard pass. “Of course I wouldn’t,” she said. “I’d be mad.”
James’ need for unprecedented control over all aspects of the film were well-documented, and was what led to the creative differences between she and Taylor-Johnson. “I like everyone—and I get really confused when they don’t like me,” Taylor-Johnson said of their strained relationship during filming. “I was so confused by E.L. James. I don’t understand when I can’t navigate a person, when there’s no synergy.” Taylor-Johnson called making the film a “struggle” and said that she and James had a number of on-set disagreements about the creative direction of the film.
While the revealing interview does shed some light on why Taylor-Johnson didn’t return for the sequel, it only tells part of the story. Fifty Shades Darker, which came out earlier this year, fared even worse with critics than the first film did, as franchise fatigue set in for everyone involved. Even stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan looked like they were going through the motions, and are clearly ready to move on for from the movies that helped launch their respective film careers.
Unfortunately both are contractually obligated to appear in the third film, Fifty Shades Freed, out some time next year. One person who won’t be watching is Taylor-Johnson, who said she has “literally zero interest” in seeing any of the sequels. That makes two of us.