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‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ director on sex scenes and getting ‘tied up’

MiNDFOOD goes behind-the-scenes with Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson to talk about the shoot, the actors and getting tied up.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ director on sex scenes and getting ‘tied up’

The chemistry

“Everyone wants to hear about the charged sexual chemistry between Jamie [Dornan] and Dakota [Johnson], but really, humour was really the thing that gave them the chemistry we needed. The minute they started to try and outwit each other and charm each other, it was such a sweet and powerful connection that it was almost more important for me that that worked.”

The phenomenon

“I have to admit that I went into this project mildly naively in the sense that I knew about the phenomenon of the book but I didn’t really come to fully grasp what that meant going through the process of making the movie. What surprised me was the level of interest – every detail, from the moment we started casting to the furore over casting one person over another and the fans’ opinions on everything. That really was a bit overwhelming. That was a bit of a shock I think and I’m not used to working under such heavy scrutiny. That was a little destabilising every so often.”

Working with (Author) E.L. James

“It was a complicated relationship. (Laughs.) She is incredibly passionate about her book and was vocal about the direction she wanted the film to go in. She was very protective. It was difficult and there were frustrating times for both of us. She had things in her head very, very clearly and [they were] opposite to how I’d have them in my head, so we’d have to navigate somehow through very choppy waters to come to an agreement where we were both happy. I think she would equally say that it wasn’t easy for her. It was painful for her as much as it was for me (laughs).”

Why we saved the sex for last

“It was important for me that trust was built between both Jamie, Dakota and myself because with the more explicit scenes they really needed to feel that we were a unit of trust and that trust was built over a good few months. So there was that feeling through making the movie that those scenes were looming big. In fact, our shoot time was roughly nine and a half weeks (laughs). We had a very intimate feeling on set and it was important that the actors felt safe in that environment. One of the things I said to the cinematographer is, ‘Let’s treat the landscape of the body as something extraordinary and epic,’ and that’s how we approached it in many respects.”

What I learned about the world of S&M

“I spent time researching and talking to both the dominant and the dominatrix about their world and about the world of S & M. What was most revealing or interesting for me was that it was a very boundaried relationship. It’s a relationship where there is a contract between the two people stating this is what you will and won’t do. This is what is acceptable and unacceptable and that boundaried relationship can create a very safe environment and then within that safe environment fantasies can be explored. One of the things especially revealing was that there are safe words, for example, ‘yellow’ is when you’re close to what you want to experience and ‘red’ is when you want all things to cease and stop. And there’s such an intense bond of trust that it can create such an incredible relationship of intense love or intensity not necessarily experienced outside of that world.  That’s the key thing really that I learned.”

Getting tied up

“When I was producing photographs earlier on in my career as an artist, there were these photographs that I’d made where I’m sort of floating in the air, very sort of free, floating in my studio. I didn’t want to use acrobatic harnesses or anything like that because I wanted to create different shapes with my body. So, someone suggested that I hire a bondage expert to tie me up and hang me from the ceiling in different ways. So that was really my first encounter of understanding a little bit of that world. Being an artist you enter many walks of life to research different things. It wasn’t one I was expecting to enter just to make these photographs but it was certainly fascinating.”

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