Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Screenwriter Niall Leonard Talks About 'Fifty Shades Darker'

Sunday Times - Last month, it was announced Leonard is to write the screenplay for Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel. A tall and youthful-looking fiftysomething, his Newry accent is undiminished after three decades of living in ­England. “A lot of people want the book word for word on the screen, while Hollywood wants a movie,” he says. Actually, I ­suggest, Hollywood wants a movie than will make $500m, like Fifty Shades of Grey. “Yeah. It’s a real challenge. Scary. Not an easy job.”The film’s creation was torturous, however, with various writers and director Sam Taylor-Johnson wanting a different ending. “That ending didn’t belong there,” says Leonard. “It turns up in book three. If we’d used it [in part one], it would have left us with nowhere to go.” Leonard’s experiences in the television trade helped resolve the impasse. “When you get 20 people in a room all shouting at the same time, it’s a disaster. You need one person saying, ‘This is the way we’re going to do it.’”

Universal had granted Erika control of the project when it bought the rights in 2012. “Through sheer force of will, she got them to stick to the original story,” says Leonard. “It’s down to her and nobody else that this thing made half a billion dollars worldwide.”

Leonard helped make script changes to Fifty Shades of Grey, although he is not credited in the film. He prefers it that way. “The donkey work was done by [screenwriter] Kelly Marcel. It’s her credit — she should get all of it.” Now he is writing Fifty Shades Darker, does he expect accusations of nepotism? “Of course I’m going to get detractors. But nobody has to read the book, nobody is forcing you into the cinema at gunpoint. The fact this book exists doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to read Charles Dickens or Peter Carey.”

He was working on an “80% finished” historical crime novel but “it’s hard to be a novelist when you live with EL James. Anything I do will look like a gnat bite; she’s such a worldwide phenomenon”.
At least he and lead actor Jamie Dornan have brought a Northern Irish twinkle to the franchise. “Northern Ireland is sexy again,” he says. “People understand our accents. We’ve had our teeth fixed.” As if on cue, a young couple at a nearby table ask him for a selfie. “My first fan photo,” he says sheepishly afterwards. “My first one without Erika.”

Read full interview at Nialls Nation via @JamieDornanLdn

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