Friday, January 23, 2015

Sam Taylor-Johnson Talks About Jamie and 'Fifty Shades of Grey' + New Jamie Quotes

The only visible insignia that sets Sam Taylor-Johnson aside from any other make-up-free mother the morning  is that her hair is pink. ‘Ah, yes,’ she says tugging at it. ‘This happened the day before yesterday when I was feeling the only thing I have control over is my hair. The only final cut I have is the hair cut.’ Fetching as it is, the ‘cut’ of her hair is a statement because she is, of course, the director of the hugely anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey, and her editing is still a work in progress. It's a process she’s convinced will still be happening an hour prior to the film's release.

A Tale of Empowerment
It’s okay until you think about your teenage daughter reading it, I suggest, thinking of Angelica, Taylor-Johnson's 17-year old. You feel that, if taken seriously, the book could be interpreted as an exploration of female submission and victimisation. ‘Exactly,’ says Taylor-Johnson. ‘I felt like I had a responsibility to empower the lead character. Anastasia had to go on a journey of sexual exploration but, by the end, it had to be about empowerment. It is all her choice. All decisions, she’s clearly made. She is not falling prey.

'That’s the message I want people to walk away with. That feeling of "all the riches and success and charisma count for nothing, if it’s under terms you cannot accept". In Fifty Shades, seemingly Christian has all the power and control – but actually Anastasia does.’

The degree of Taylor-Johnson’s vehemence belies the current battle she is waging. Coming from the autonomy of shooting Nowhere Boy as an independent feature, she’s found herself negotiating a studio blockbuster with a $40 million budget and a strict approval process.

 She says she did her research in every regard. ‘Jamie [Dornan, who plays Christian] and I had to sit and meet various dominants and dominatrix,’ she explains with a wry smile, ‘just to make sure we understood that world, so that we in no way portrayed it incorrectly.’

While we are on the subject of Mr Dornan, I ask if the rumours are true? If, in fact, we don’t quite get to see everything there is to see of her leading man. Her eyes flash, ‘Well, it says no full frontal but…’

Dakota & Jamie...

 Of the film's stars, Taylor-Johnson says, ‘Dakota [Johnson, as Anastasia] is fantastic. She has that rare knit of fragility, vulnerability, naivety, yet she’s really strong. And Jamie’s funny because he doesn’t seem to feel any of the pressure. Or show he feels it. Everything washes over him and he’s constantly happy. He’s such a sweet and lovely man.’  

Jamie Dornan speaks equally highly of his director. 'Sam has this amazing ability to evoke calmness in the face of madness,' he says. 'It's a very handy skill to possess as a director, and as a human being in general. She's also got a fierce wit and is extremely funny, which is very useful to help cope with the ridiculousness of film-making. Sam is now one of my favourite people on the planet.'

What perhaps neither cast nor director anticipated was the microscopic scrutiny that the film would be under. Taylor-Johnson has not even been allowed to screen her rough cut to friends and family (husband Aaron has a cameo in it) and yet the film has taken over her life. She was offered the job in June 2013 and says, ‘The moment I stepped out of the meeting, I stepped on to one of those bullet trains. The doors closed and I couldn’t get off. The speed, the velocity, was unbelievable. I need to get off and breathe and think about something else.’

A Game-Changer

One could argue many things about Fifty Shades of Grey – that the film cannot be any worse than the book, that it will do incredibly well simply because it is a storm in a soft-porn tea cup - but what is unequivocally great about it is that it has the potential to spearhead eroticism for women in commercial cinema, and has a woman behind the camera. As Scott Mendelson in Forbes magazine quite rightly observed ‘It may end up being one of the most important films of the next couple of years for female film-makers.’

'It's going to be controversial, whatever,' is all that Taylor-Johnson will say on the subject. She clearly has no wish to become a spokeswoman for bringing eroticism to your local Odeon. But she's not naive to the impact. 'A Machiavellian part of me thinks if this is successful, it affords me the freedom and the power to make something on my own terms, later on.' Freeing herself from decision by committee, no doubt.

As Taylor-Johnson bounces up to take the dogs home and get back into her edit, she refuses to anticipate any achievement. ‘I have learnt more than I ever wanted to learn on this movie and that has been fantastic for arming me to make something the next time round. I really, honestly think it’s been truly, truly challenging.’ And with this you realise that as with any true artist, the journey, the learning is all in the process and not in the product. ‘Going through all the crap I’ve been through,’ she concludes, ‘I don’t really listen to other people’s opinions anyway; I just follow my heart and my instincts.’  And with that very real and honest admission, Taylor-Johnson walks away to get on with it.

Read full interview HERE

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