There’s No Way ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is Going to Be NC-17

By  · Published on January 10th, 2013

Let’s be real for a second. Even if screenwriter Kelly Marcel claims that Fifty Shades of Grey is going to be NC-17, there’s no chance that it will be. For that to happen, Universal – one of the biggest studios in Hollywood – would have to convert the best-selling, phenomenon level property they spent $3m to acquire into an aggressive message aimed directly at the MPAA (which is partially funded by Universal) and risk money on the film not screening in a lot of theaters. Had The Weinstein Company gotten the rights, this might be believable, but it’s beyond the realm of possibility as it is, and there are two situations playing out that I can see here:

  1. This is a screenwriter – who from what I can tell has some serious game – pointing to the bleachers or having a laugh by going over the top.
  2. This is part of a cultivated marketing plan to make the property even more titillating and dangerous which will culminate in them either achieving an NC-17 (maybe they’ll have Ryan Gosling go down on Michelle Williams in it) before pulling it back for an R or aiming for an R regardless of the NC-17 publicity.

Obviously there’s going to be sex in it, but if The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still an R, it’ll be truly surprising to see Grey manage to go harder. But truly, the reason this doesn’t pass the smell test is that a lot of major theater chains won’t even run an NC-17 film. Universal isn’t going to risk their bottom line on principal. It could be that the studio sees this as a dare to exhibitors – saying, “Go ahead. Lose out on all the money you’d make this event film because of its rating.” But how likely is that? Plus, the film also doesn’t even have a director yet to weigh in with a creative vision. When it does, we’ll have to see if he or she also has NC-17 designs.

If Universal is honestly strapping in to release the first modern adults-only blockbuster, kudos to them. But until they get a willing cast and director, shoot, cut, and come back from the MPAA with the scarlet letter stamped to their reels, all of this seems just a bit far-fetched.

Although, when it inevitably gets its R-rating, maybe theaters will be nice enough to hand out themed blindfolds for the children of terrible parents who bring them regardless of the MPAA’s judgement.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.