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Fifty Shades of Grey, the surprise erotic literary hit that began as a posting on a fan-fiction website, is sparking major interest from Hollywood as movie studios clamor for film rights.
Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that a representative for the E.L. James book, which became a word-of-mouth eBook hit and scored a six-figure reprint deal with Random House imprint Vintage, has set meetings for next week with studio executives and directors to discuss a film adaptation and to conduct an auction of film rights for the hot property. The London-based agent Valerie Hoskins, who mainly represents British film and television writers (with a focus on children’s animation), declined to comment through a spokesman for Vintage.
Sources say the book has attracted attention from Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros. and Fox 2000, among others. The sexually-explicit story, though, poses a challenge for anyone attempting to adapt it to film. A veteran producer who spoke to THR believes the book is likely to sell for seven figures, though he also wonders if Fifty Shades can actually be made. “I’ve heard that women will read about pornography; men like to watch it,” he notes, adding, “This sounds like an updated version of 9 1/2 Weeks.”
Fifty Shades of Grey follows the story of 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey and 22-year-old virgin college student Anastasia Steele, who develop a relationship steeped in bondage, S&M, domination and submission. The sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed continue their story. The erotically-charged novels have been referred to as “mommy porn” in The New York Times.
James, the author, is a former TV executive and mother of two from London. The story started out as posts on ff.net, a site devoted to fan fiction, as a riff on the Twilight books called “Master of the Universe.”
Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, a small Australian publisher, picked up the rights last year and published a revised verion of the story as a trilogy with the new Fifty Shades titles.
The book became a viral sensation, gaining popularity on the social reading site GoodReads and by word-of-mouth. It has sold more than 250,000 copies (mainly eBooks).
On March 8, Vintage announced it had acquired world English-language rights to the trilogy. The New York Times reported that Vintige paid more than $1 million for the rights. It issued eBook versions of Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed on March 12. A 750,000 copy paperback print run is planned for April.