In the space of a few days, Universal/Focus’ Fifty Shades of Grey has seen the subtraction of its leading man and the addition of a writer.
On Friday, the studio hired Oscar-nominated screenwriter Patrick Marber to do a polish and character work on the script. Marber’s credits include Closer and Notes on a Scandal; he also wrote a short film titled Love You More, which was directed by none other than Fifty Shades helmer Sam Taylor-Johnson.
The move to hire Marber was made before star Charlie Hunnam decamped the high-profile project on Saturday.
Speculation has swirled that the script, penned by Kelly Marcel, might be the reason Hunnam abruptly left the adaptation of E L James‘ mammoth best-seller. But sources say the polish by Marber is standard and the script is ready for a November start date, should the studio be able to find a new leading man in time.
Universal is now looking to fill the void left by Hunnam’s abrupt exit. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the list of possible replacements includes Jamie Dornan of the U.K. series The Fall and Alexander Skarsgard of True Blood. The studio also is revisiting its initial list of possible contenders, including Theo James and Christian Cooke. Garrett Hedlund, who had received an informal offer during the first round of casting, is unavailable due to his schedule on Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken, which starts shooting this week in Australia.
Dakota Johnson remains in place to star as the film’s heroine.
Marber is repped by WME and Judy Daish Associates in the U.K.