HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—Gus Van Sant is reportedly so hot to helm 50 Shades of Grey that the famously independent Oscar-nominated director has already shot a sex scene to help make his case. The Wrap characterizes the scene, which features Magic Mike’s Alex Pettyfer and an as-yet unnamed actress, as “steamy,” a stubbornly vague word when used in reference to Van Sant, who “has long been considered a director who confronts themes such as sex and sexuality head-on.”
The Wrap continues, “Van Sant was not officially asked by the studio to shoot a test tape. But doing so may indicate how badly he wants the coveted assignment,” and notes, “Insiders stressed that Pettyfer was cast as Grey just for the tape, not the movie, though Universal just got into bed with the 23 year-old actor on its sexy remake of Endless Love, which he is currently shooting in Atlanta.”
Van Sant may be taking extra measures in his bid to get this gig because of his sparse track record bringing in blockbuster results. “Universal and Focus spent at least $3 million in a bidding war to crack the whip on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ and they'll certainly be expecting the pop culture phenomenon to be a hit, and a franchise for the studio,” reports The Wrap. “Van Sant has only directed one film to cross the domestic $100 million mark -- 1997's Good Will Hunting grossed $138 million in the U.S. -- and only one more to cross the domestic $50 million mark, as Finding Forrester grossed $51 million in 2000.”
On the other hand, the respected director of My Own Private Idaho and To Die For also has a productive history with Focus Features, a specialty feature unit of Universal, having shot Promised Land and Milk for the studio, a relationship that can only help his campaign.
Universal, which clearly wants to see a big payday with 50 Shades, has already had to protect its investment in court, having sued Smash Pictures last year over the adult studio's version of the E.L. James hit, Fifty Shades of Grey: a XXX Adaptation. The case was settled out of court in March of this year.
In spite of uncertainly regarding which filmmaker will ultimately helm what will certainly be a highly anticipated release, The Wrap notes, “Van Sant's candidacy confirms the producers' intentions to hire a high-class filmmaker to deliver a tasteful adaption of the steamy novel.”
There’s that word “steamy” again.