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“Sam’s unique ability to gracefully showcase complex relationships dealing with love, emotion and sexual chemistry make her the ideal director to bring Christian and Anastasia’s relationship to life,” said producer Michael De Luca in a statement.
Before she takes on directing the controversial film, which follows a young college student who gets involved in a sadomasochistic sexual relationship with an older business magnate, here are five things to know about Taylor-Johnson.
1. She’s Married to a Younger Man
The British filmmaker is not unfamiliar with age discrepancies in relationships. Then Sam Taylor-Wood, the director was newly divorced from her husband of 11 years, art dealer Jay Jopling — with whom she has two kids — when she met actor Aaron Johnson, 24 years her junior, on the set of Nowhere Boy. Johnson, who starred as a young John Lennon in the film, and Taylor-Wood embarked on a whirlwind romance, announcing their engagement at the film’s premiere in October 2009. They both took the hyphenated last name after marrying (she was 45, he was 22) on June 21, 2012. Sam and Aaron have two daughters together, both born before the marriage. “I’ve got a wonderful woman. I’m an old soul, and she’s a young soul,” Johnson said.
2. She’s Directed One Feature Film
Taylor-Johnson has helmed five short films and one feature called Nowhere Boy, the story of John Lennon’s childhood in Liverpool. The film, which starred Johnson and Kristin Scott Thomas, garnered two BAFTA nominations, including Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. She also directed the short Love You More, which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2008. She is currently developing a film for Columbia based on the novel A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goorlick.
3. She Started Out as a Fine Arts Photographer
Taylor-Johnson started out her career in fine art photography in the 1990s. She spent some time creating video-art exhibits that included people miming an opera score. At the 1997 Venice Biennale, she won the Illy Cafe Prize for Most Promising Young Artist. For the National Portrait Gallery, she took a video portrait of famed soccer player David Beckham sleeping.
4. She’s Made Grown Men Cry
Taylor-Johnson has a 2004 portrait collection titled Crying Men, which features images of Hollywood stars (including Gabriel Byrne, Laurence Fishburne, Woody Harrelson, Michael Gambon, Jude Law, Hayden Christiansen and Ryan Gosling) crying. “Some of the men cried before I even finished loading the camera, but others found it really difficult,” she said of the project. “People can decide for themselves which they think are the authentic tears and which they think are fake. It’s about the idea of taking these big, masculine men and showing a different side.”
5. She’s Fought Cancer
Taylor-Johnson has had two bouts of cancer. At age 30, she was diagnosed and treated for colon cancer. On Christmas Eve 1997, she underwent surgery, having a foot-and-a-half of intestine removed. Then, in 2000, she discovered she again had cancer, this time in her left breast. She had a mastectomy and underwent six months of chemotherapy. She’s been cancer-free since that time.
Bonus: She’s directed Daniel Craig in drag. See the 100th Anniversary International Women’s Day video below.
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