“Who's Your Mr. and Mrs. Grey?”: Unpacking Casting Speculations in Fifty Shades of Grey
by Kristen Warner — University of Alabama
September 26, 2012 – 00:00
As a scholar whose research focuses on casting processes in television and film I am both intrigued and frustrated by the frequent and insistent casting speculations around the leads in the upcoming adaptation of E.L. James’s bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey. Intrigued because the triangulation of industry, fan culture, and entertainment news reporting never seems to tire of making creative labor the equivalent of the People’s Choice Awards. Yet, I am equally frustrated because speculation elides all the real world complications and negotiations that are part of the casting process. Casting is not democratic; it is largely based on a committee of a few industry executives who consider factors that the average audience member never would. For example, fans believe the conventional logic that the film needs a star to be successful when in actuality, the star of the film is the Fifty Shades property itself. Connected to that are budget issues (bigger names mean larger paychecks) and even the fact that the screenwriter has not even been selected yet, thus there is no script by which the actors could audition!
What this obssession with casting at the cost of all other production practices suggests is that the script matters less than the consensus of who these fans can believe matches their fantasy ideals. One might attribute the lack of concern for a “good story” to the novels’ lack of quality; yet, I’d argue that for these fans, the lead personas ARE the story.
In the end, for as much speculating and creating fan trailers onYoutube as is practiced, it is fascinating how wrong fans and entertainment news usually are when the acutal casting occurs. Past examples of triangulation, namely the recent Amazing Spiderman reboot as well as The Hunger Games, illustrate how most of the actors selected for the roles were not fan frontrunners. I’d wager that the same casting dissonance between producers and fans will occur with Fifty Shades. So then, if the producers of the franchise most likely have no interest in casting fan favorites, why continue to stir this pot of uninformed foolishness? It is more than the desire to create buzz for the franchise (the audience is built-in for this project); no, I believe there is some worldbuilding occuring between the world of James’s novel and that of its fandom that will ultimately benefit the franchise.