Movie Endings: Fifty Shades of Grey–Final Cut

In the film world, the most crucial variable in making a film is final cut.  It’s often the producer and sometime the director.  But who had final cut over Fifty Shades of Grey, the most anticipated movie of the year?

According to sources, it was the book’s author E.L. James, which is rather unusual.

When fans get to see the first installment of Fifty Shades trilogy, tracking to open on Valentine’s Day weekend at $60 million or more, they will see the ending favored by James, who wrote the steamy books, rather than the version favored by director Sam Taylor-Johnson, or others involved with the project.

James, whose real name is Erika Leonard, was granted exceptional control by Universal after the studio bought the rights to the material for a reported $5 million in a frenzied auction, back in March 2012.

Those who have read the books know that the first volume ends after Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) asks her wealthy lover, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), to give her a good shellacking. When he obliges, she recoils and leaves him.

In the ending favored by James, who wrote the original film script with Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks), the final word in the film is “stop.” But in the ending favored by the director, which apparently came from a rewrite by Patrick Marber  (Notes on a Scandal, Closer), the last word in the movie was “red,” which is used in the trilogy as a “safe word.”

The difference might seem minor, but some sources with knowledge favor the Marber version of the ending. “It ended on a really smart note and Erika wouldn’t allow it,” says one insider. ”It’s just a bummer.”

Creative Fights

Taylor-Johnson has been vocal in interviews about her fraught dealings with James. “It was difficult, I’m not going to lie,” the director told Porter magazine of her frustration with James being so deeply involved.

“We definitely fought, but they were creative fights, and we would resolve them. We would have proper on-set ‘barneys,’ and I’m not confrontational, but it was about finding a way between the two of us, satisfying her vision of what she’d written as well as my need to visualize this person on-screen, but, you know, we got there.”

Another person with ties to the project confirms that James “was given a lot of power and has used every opportunity to flex that power,” including determining the ending of the film. While this person agrees that the “red” version came across “smarter and cooler,” he adds that ultimately this was “the most petty and ridiculous argument in the world” and the culmination of a lot of tension between the author and the director.

No doubt many fans would support James in defending her vision but Hollywood insiders say films are different from books and setting the right tone in the ending could be the key to luring audiences back for two sequels. “You can’t just put the book on the screen,” says one insider.

Universal did not respond to a request for comment.