Lovehoney is expecting a ‘second surge’ in sales for its official Fifty Shades merchandise now the lead roles in the long awaited movie have been cast. Author E L James announced via her blog last week that Brit Charlie Hunnam and US actress Dakota Johnson have landed the roles, ending months of speculation over who would play Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in the big screen version of the erotic best-seller, which is due out next summer.
“One of Hollywood’s most coveted roles” is how The Independent described the Christian Grey role in its reporting of the casting. Newcastle-born Charlie Hunnam has previously been seen in Byker Grove, Pacific Rim, Children of Men, Cold Mountain and Queer as Folk. In her blog EL James described Hunnam as gorgeous and talented and Dakota Johnson – who is daughter of Melanie Griffith and Miami Vice star Don Johnson – as lovely.
Hunnam was seen as something of a surprise casting, since Ryan Gosling (Drive), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Alex Pettyfer (I am Number Four) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) were all fan favourites to portray the billionaire. Despite being well known in the US for his role as Jax Teller in TV drama Sons of Anarchy since 2008, the revealing of Hunnam as Christian Grey was not universally well received by many fans of the books and within hours a Facebook campaign against his casting was gathering pace.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Hunnam said he didn’t expect the sex scenes to be a problem at all, thanks to his vast experience. “I had such a baptism of fire with regards to sexuality on camera at the beginning of my career,” he told the paper. “I starred in the British Channel 4 mini-series Queer as Folk, where I played a young, gay character, and there were some incredible, explicit sex scenes on that show. Now I am 16 years older and more mature so I don’t anticipate them being too much of a problem. It’s like anything else, just an exciting challenge.”
The news of casting follows conformation that artist-turned-director Sam Taylor-Johnson – director of the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy – is to helm the feature, which is expected to be released by Universal Pictures and Focus Features in August 2014. The casting of the relatively unknown Johnson – she’s taken minor roles in The Social Network, The Five-Year Engagement and 21 Jump Street – has caused less ‘fan outrage’ as the other women linked to the role, which included Emma Watson (Harry Potter), Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Swedish Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina), had not been enthusiastically backed by ‘Shadies’.
For the adult industry, the ongoing interest in the Fifty Shades franchise has been described as a continuing opportunity to benefit from the ‘curiosity dividend’ generated by the high profile exposure of S&M and D/s topics. Even with the books’ sex scenes toned down for a raunchy but not pornographic Hollywood film, many are anticipating a renewed surge of interest in – and desire for – bondage lines and any toys featured in the movie.
Lovehoney expects the release of the movie to result in a second surge of interest in its official Fifty Shades sex toys, soft bondage and sensual care products. New retail distribution deals have recently been agreed in markets in Asia, Spain and Ireland and Lovehoney co-founder Neal Slateford believes Fifty Shades is now the biggest sex brand in the world – and the pre-hype and release of the movie is sure to boost sales of its merchandise.
Slateford said: “Fifty Shades is the one sex brand which is recognised throughout the world. People everywhere associate it with naughtiness and fun, and the brand has resulted in sex toys and soft bondage gear well and truly entering the mainstream. It has enabled Lovehoney to break into lots of exciting new markets. The key is the fact that we are working with E L James on the official ranges. Consumers know that she is only going to put her name to products which are of high quality and good value. The books sold 60 million copies last year and they are still selling well – but interest is now switching to the movies. Three movies are planned and these should introduce Fifty Shades to a whole new wave of consumers who possibly aren’t readers or who haven’t had time to pick up the books. We are expecting a second surge of interest in products associated with the book.”