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Fifty Shades of Grey Director Sam Taylor-Johnson on How She Empowered Anastasia

Fifty Shades of Grey Director Sam Taylor-Johnson on How She Empowered Anastasia

by Danica Lo

Sam Taylor-Johnson's career has spanned the worlds of fine art, photography, and film—the two-time cancer survivor has been nominated for Britain's prestigious Turner Prize, and she won the award for Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennale in 1997. Her first feature-length film, Nowhere Boy, a John Lennon biopic, was released in 2008—and her second, the screen adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, lands in theaters on February 13.

For anyone who's familiar with Taylor-Johnson's previous body of work, it may come as a surprise that she's the director on Fifty Shades—the best-selling S&M-lite soft-core fan fiction novel-turned-international-bestseller.

But, for an indie director and fine artist like Taylor-Johnson, this might just be the vehicle she needs to create bigger and better art.

"It's going to be controversial, whatever," Taylor-Johnson told Britain's Red. "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."

More power to her—and, to be honest, I'm thrilled that the film adaptation wound up in the hands of a smart female director. The popularity of the series and the initial vulnerability of the protagonist could have wound up all sorts of bad in the hands of anyone tone-deaf to sexual nuances and gender power dynamics.

"I felt like I had a responsibility to empower the lead character," Taylor-Johnson said. "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, it's under terms you cannot accept.' In Fifty Shades, seemingly Christian has all the power and control—but actually Anastasia does."


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