Joe Wright Joins 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Director Derby (Exclusive)

FILM: Joe Wright
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Focus Features will release Wright's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina."

The "Anna Karenina" director has emerged as a strong contender to adapt the steamy best-seller by E.L. James.

Anna Karenina director Joe Wright has emerged as a front-runner in the Fifty Shades of Grey sweepstakes, according to multiple sources.

Wright has a long-standing relationship with Focus and Universal, which paid $5 million for movie rights to the steamy Fifty Shades book series and are partnering to bring the first novel to the big screen. The British director has made four films with Focus: Anna Karenina, Hanna, Atonement and Pride & Prejudice.

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Sources caution that there is no deal in place, and Wright has not officially won the job. Universal and Wright's reps at CAA declined to comment.

If he is indeed the choice, Wright would keep the film's Brit streak intact. London native Kelly Marcel is adapting the screenplay of the sexually explicit best-seller by fellow Brit E.L. James.

The Fifty Shades gig has been one of the most high-profile open directing jobs in years given the popularity of James' sex-fueled trilogy. But Universal and Focus have always been set on hiring a helmer with art-house sensibilities, considering such names as Bennett Miller, Patty Jenkins and Gus Van Sant, who recently shot test scenes with actor Alex Pettyfer in a bid for the job. Wright's Atonement was nominated for a best picture Oscar. Furthermore, he is known for having great success with films featuring young female protagonists, as played by Keira Knightley and Saoirse Ronan.

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Universal brass have been in London this week for the premiere of the Fast & Furious 6.

Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti are producing the film, which chronicles the S&M relationship between college student Anastasia Steele and twentysomething billionaire Christian Grey.

Wright's helming credits also include the Jamie Foxx
Robert Downey Jr. starrer The Soloist.

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