Universal Pictures might be developing the official film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, the hit erotic fiction trilogy that has had sexually unsatisfied American women all in a tizzy these past months, but it’s not the only entertainment entity attempting to capture the seductive and salacious BDSM-infused story of a virginal college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and dominant business magnate, Christian Grey. Smash Pictures, an adult entertainment studio based out of Chatsworth, California has already completed production on its adaptation, an unofficial one that is now drawing the ire of Universal and the attention of its lawyers. Objecting to Smash’s making a film that flagrantly contradicts the right of Universal, which reportedly paid $4 million for E. L. James’ best sellers in early 2012, to produce its version, which the studio is reportedly negotiating with Angelina Jolie directing and Ryan Gosling taking the role of young multi-millionaire and devoted ass-man, Grey. Smash Pictures, however, contends that only it can do the novels justice.
Universal’s complaint states “By lifting exact dialogue, characters, events, story, and style from the Fifty Shades trilogy, Smash Pictures ensured that the first XXX adaptation was, in fact, as close as possible to the original works.” Smash VP Stuart Wall, named in the complaint alongside Smash owner Daniel Quinn and writer/director Jim Powers, told LA Weekly’s Barbie Davenporte about the company’s recent turn to more romantic fare after years of more explicit stuff, and called their Fifty Shades adaptation “very true to the book and its S&M-themed romance.” Davenporte added “And while parodies are the only way adult film studios can make money these days, making a ‘Fifty Shades’ version is truly the only way to put the three erotic novels in film in their BDSM glory without the MPAA censorship and film industry finger-wagging.” But if Smash and Powers are actually aiming for as close an adaptation as possible, does their claim to fair use of parody, the same legal protection that allows so many other porn parodies to exist, not apply? Without the clear distinction between the two versions of Fifty Shades, Smash’s and Universal’s, and the former already on shelves as the official one slugs through development and preproduction, both parties stand to make or loss a killing.