After making over a billion dollars worldwide on the Fifty Shades of Grey film trilogy, Universal is getting back in business with author E.L. James. The studio has emerged victorious in a bidding war for the movie rights to her novel The Mister, a romance that was one of 2019’s best sellers.
Variety reports that James will produce the film adaptation of The Mister, just as she did with every entry in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The outlet says The Mister “tells the story of a wealthy British aristocrat who falls in love with his Albanian housekeeper, unaware that she is on the run from human traffickers.” I’m absolutely certain that no one will consider that plot remotely problematic, there definitely will not be any editorials written about it, and the entire thing will come and go without any controversy whatsoever.
The rights to the movie reportedly “sparked a heated bidding war,” but it’s no surprise that Universal came out on top considering the studio’s previous relationship with James and how much money they’ve made together already. While this book’s storyline isn’t exactly in my personal wheelhouse, I can’t argue with the studio’s decision to be in the E.L. James business. Her backstory is famous by now – she started writing erotic fan fiction based on Twilight and became of the most successful romance novelists of all time (Variety says the Fifty Shades of Grey books were the three bestselling novels of the last decade). She’s clearly formed a connection with readers that has translated into them becoming moviegoers eager to consume her stories on the big screen. The Mister was critically panned when it was released (The Atlantic called it “hopelessly retrograde and dismally unentertaining”), but it spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
I haven’t read any of her novels, but part of me respects James’s hustle. I remember reading about how she muscled her way into having unprecedented creative control of the previous adaptations of her books, having a say in casting, attending meetings, controlling how her lead characters would appear, and generally being incredibly hands-on despite having never worked in film before. She even went as far as to convince the studio that she should write the screenplay for Fifty Shades Darker, and though she didn’t get approved for that, the screenwriting job eventually went to her husband. Talk about a power move.
Universal’s senior vice president of production Sara Scott and director of development Lexi Barta will oversee this adaptation, but there’s no writer or director attached yet.
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