Fifty Shades of Grey became the talk of the Internet on Labor Day when Focus Features announced that Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson had scored the lead roles in the upcoming film based on the first book in a trilogy from author E.L. James. The reaction to the casting from the books’ passionate and seemingly entitled fans was immediate and mostly full of venom.
Hunnam had been rumored as a finalist for the role of Christian Grey dating back several weeks. The Sons of Anarchy actor, who starred in this summer’s Pacific Rim as well, will now find himself under the microscope as throngs of fans peruse his past works in hoping of seeing whatever they expect from the Grey character. In fact, Pacific Rim may get a boost in business as a result.
Dakota Johnson’s casting came out of left field and took everyone by surprise. She was never mentioned to be in the running but clearly had time on her hands after the cancellation of Ben and Kate by Fox this past spring. Until now, she was mostly known as the model-turned-actress daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson.
Vocal Internet fans had been pulling for Matthew Bomer (White Collar) and Alexis Bledel (Us and Them) to score the leads and to say they were shocked by the casting decisions by Universal, director Sam Taylor-Johnson and James would be a gross understatement. Petitions calling for Bomer and Bledel to be cast quickly rose to over 10,000 signatures shortly after they debuted. Clearly these people have no idea of what goes into casting a part.
Producer Dana Brunetti took notice of the negativity online and attempted to address on Twitter using a simplified explanation that fans not familiar with how Hollywood’s business side would understand. “There is a lot that goes into casting that isn’t just looks. Talent, availability, their desire to do it, chemistry with other actor, etc,” Brunetti wrote. “So if your favorite wasn’t cast, then it is most likely due to something on that list. Keep that in mind while hating and keep perspective.”
Even if Bledel and Bomer had been cast there would have a contingent of fans that would take exception and voice their concerns on the open and faceless forum that is the Internet. It’s a natural reaction to any property with a devoted and extremely involved fanbase. For every person that wants actor A to be cast, there’s another pulling for actor B.
What’s done is done and Fifty Shades of Grey will be moving into production with relatively unknown Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson sharing top billing. Twilight did just fine with a couple of unknowns at the time by the names of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson being cast as the leads. Fifty Shades of Grey seems to be following a similar trajectory and Focus Features would be ecstatic if similar results were returned.