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After ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ Director Sam Taylor-Johnson Needed 4 Years to ‘Regain Confidence’

“Fifty Shades of Grey” director Sam Taylor-Johnson needed way more than just 50 days to regroup after the infamously “tough” production.

“Back to Black” helmer Taylor-Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter that directing the 2015 romance drama required her to take four years off of work. Taylor-Johnson admitted that she and novelist E.L. James had “diametrically opposed visions” on what the adaptation should be like. The feature was a critical failure but a box-office success, propelling lead stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan further into fame and spurring a trilogy.

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“This was her book and she had a very particular vision of how she wanted to see this film,” Taylor-Johnson said of James. “And I had a diametrically opposed vision. Where we got to is where we got to. The success of it was great, but the experience of it was tough.”

Taylor-Johnson added, “It took me about four years to regain my confidence and composure. I’m going back to being an artist where I can make all my own decisions, answer to myself, and present the world with something that I’ve created.”

The script for “Fifty Shades of Grey” was changed during production, with James insisting that full passages of the novel be lifted for dialogue onscreen. Actress Johnson told Vanity Fair that James “had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen” on set.

“There were parts of the books that just wouldn’t work in a movie, like the inner monologue, which was at times incredibly cheesy,” Johnson said. “It wouldn’t work to say out loud. It was always a battle. Always. The night before, I would rewrite scenes with the old dialogue so I could add a line here and there. It was like mayhem all the time.”

Director Taylor-Johnson told IndieWire in 2018 that her “Fifty Shades” follow-up film, another adaptation with controversial memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” almost never came to fruition despite Taylor-Johnson having helmed a $500 million blockbuster.

“I literally was scrambling still, in exactly the same position I was prior to that,” Taylor-Johnson recalled of that lack of immediate directorial success from “Fifty Shades.” She added, “I’ve done a short film. I’ve done an indie. I’ve done a blockbuster. I’ve done a TV show. I’ve just now done extreme small budget. I’m experienced across the board. I’ve shown I’m capable, but I’m still far down the list.”

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