Sofia Coppola confirms she was approached about 50 Shades of Grey movie adaptation

Tom Davidson
2 min readFeb 9, 2024

What could have been!

Cast your minds back to 2011 and the literary sensation of the year: 50 Shades of Grey.

Sure, it may have started life as BDSM-laced Twilight fan-fiction but E. L. James’ book was nothing short of a revelation, going on to sell more than 60 million copies nationwide (you can probably lay your hands on a dozen at your nearest charity shop).

Despite the book’s lowly critical reception (to be blunt: it’s shite), the film rights were naturally snapped up in early 2012 and then began a hunt for a writer and a director.

Well, it has emerged that Oscar-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola was approached and sent a copy of the book to whet her appetite.

Sofia Coppola was sent a copy of the book (picture courtesy of Getty Images)

Speaking on A24’s podcast, in conversation with Past Lives filmmaker Celine Song, Coppola made it clear she gave the approach short shrift.

The lead-in to the chat was about child obsession and idolatry as seen in Coppola’s newest film Priscilla, and how fan-fiction often revolves around the star ‘owning’ the unknown girl.

SC: “I never understood those, like, 50 Shades of Grey — did you ever read 9 and a Half Weeks?”

CS: “No, I haven’t read, I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey either.”

SC: “I haven’t either, no, I mean, I think I tried to, they sent it to me when they were making it and I was like ‘no way’. I don’t want to insult anyone but it’s just like…”

Coppola demurred going into further detail but it is fair to say the adaptation never interested her (but does any filmmaker capture feminine existential dread and loneliness better?).

As it happened, Sam Taylor-Johnson got the gig, the movie, which starred Dakota Johnson, went on to gross almost $600m, earn pretty terrible reviews and Taylor-Johnson had such a miserable time making it (James wanted creative input) she declined to return for the two sequels.

I wrote a bit more on 50 Shades here.

You can listen to the full A24 podcast ‘Burning for Something with Celine Song & Sofia Coppola’ anywhere you get your podcasts.

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Tom Davidson

31-year-old journalist living in south westLondon trying my hand at some film writing as and when