As the curtain falls on the racy trilogy with Fifty Shades Freed, we take a look at what’s in store for newlyweds Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
Whatever your thoughts on E. L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, you can’t overlook the phenomenal impact the Valentine’s Day cinema staple has had on popular culture and box-office receipts. Collectively, the franchise has grossed $1.3 billion worldwide – not a bad result for a project that started life as Twilight fan fiction.
“The reason I’m doing this is for the fans,” says James – AKA Erika Mitchell – of her role as a producer on the movie trilogy. “These books came out of fandom, and I absolutely understand what it is to be a fan and how sometimes things don’t deliver. All I want to do is keep my fans happy. For me, the strength of the story is that Beauty steps up to face the Beast and she’s gentle, kind and compassionate, and she heals him. Love heals all. I mean, it’s terribly corny in a way, but it seems to work in this particular instance.”
The kinky relationship between Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has certainly had its ups and downs over the course of two films, and with the couple having now tied the knot, will there be a happily ever after for Mr. and Mrs. Grey in Fifty Shades Freed?
“The first two books were written as one, and I stopped at the wedding proposal and thought, ‘This is great, I’ve left them in a good place,’ says James. “But I got readers urging me to write more. I remember being on holiday and I was listening to Michael Bublé’s version of You Will Never Find Another Love Like Mine over and over again. I thought, ‘Hang on a minute. If I’m going to write more, what would it be?’”
That question is answered in Fifty Shades Freed.
“For us, the marriage is the beginning of a new adventure, a new story, a new series of challenges,” says screenwriter Niall Leonard, who is also James’s professional and life partner. “It’s not the be-all and end-all. Erika was wise to make that her focal point of the start of the third book, because it’s a whole new journey for our characters.”
Facing up to the reality of married life is just one of the challenges faced by Christian and Ana in Freed, another being the threat posed by Ana’s jealous former boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who turns up at the offices of Grey Enterprises at the beginning of the film.
“We realise quickly that he’s up to no good,” says Leonard. “Rather than starting with this idyllic existence that Christian and Ana have, we’re starting with the threat of Jack. It becomes very clear that everything they do in the movie is constrained by his threat of revenge. From the get-go, our heroes are never safe, happy, or utterly content.”
Although Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed were shot simultaneously, the films are thematically and stylistically separate from one another, and both stand on their own as individual works.
“It wasn’t as if it was doubly challenging, because the movies are directly continuous with each other,” says director James Foley of the back-to-back shoot. “It’s always dire holding one big story in your head. If you’re filming one movie at a time, you’re still doing it out of sequence, and have to hold the whole movie in your head. This time our movie was just longer, but the emotional through-line was directly connected. It wasn’t like Freed starts 10 years later, where Christian and Ana are totally different people. It starts a few months after Darker, so there’s a real continuum that made it possible to do.”
“It’s very bittersweet to watch the trilogy come full circle,” concludes producer Mike De Luca. This passion project we all began several years ago has become so much more than any of us could have anticipated. It’s not simply a labour of love to those of us who have been tasked with shepherding Erika’s brilliance to the big screen; the cinematic version of Fifty Shades has been adopted by tens of millions of fans who have been there to experience Christian and Ana’s journey since the beginning. With this chapter, it’s been hard for all of us to say goodbye… for now.”