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Dakota Johnson on 'Fifty Shades:' 'I really understand it'

It was day one of trying on her new brown locks as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, a role that could come to define up-and-coming actress Dakota Johnson. The 24-year-old daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson was approaching her first photo shoot and interview for EW’s cover story in a very relaxed manner: joking with her future on-screen boyfriend Jamie Dornan; snapping photos for author EL James who was visiting the set, and trying to stay away from the tempting desserts that filled the craft services table.

The actress did acknowledge that it was a bit strange to embody a character for a role she hasn’t even had a chance to rehearse. “At first it felt like what are we doing because we haven’t done anything yet: How are we supposed to be in character when I don’t even know what’s going on,” said Johnson about the photo shoot. “But then everyone chilled out and that was good.”

Jamie Dornan on Christian Grey role: 'I don't fear it' -- EXCLUSIVE

In a matter of weeks, Jamie Dornan will suit up to play the damaged billionaire Christian Grey — opposite Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia Steele — in the adaptation of  E L James’ bestselling novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The Northern Irish actor landed the role through a circuitous route, replacing Sons of Anarchy actor Charlie Hunnam after he dropped out of the film in mid-October. In this week’s cover story, he spoke with EW exclusively about his trek through the audition process and how he’s prepping his body for the part.

It’s the most high-profile role of Dornan’s career, one he’s approaching both rationally and with a great degree of excitement. “I certainly don’t fear it,” Dornan says. “I already got a glimpse into working with [director] Sam [Taylor-Johnson] at the test, and I’d met [co-star] Dakota [Johnson] by then. So I had a glimpse into how I felt it would be if I got the part. None of it scared me.”

Dornan initially performed an audition on tape for the first round of casting but didn’t progress to a face-to-face meeting until Hunnam bailed last month. “You know, one door closes, another opens,” Dornan says. “When he dropped out, I didn’t instantly think, ‘Oh here we go, maybe I should cancel that holiday,’ but I did feel that maybe we’d revisit the idea of me.”

Revisit they did. Dornan was flown out to Los Angeles for an intense, day-long audition opposite Dakota Johnson, who had landed her role in early September. The two re-enacted the initial interview scene when Ana first meets Christian at his spacious office in Seattle, followed by the climactic scene near the end of the book.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' author E L James on the film: 'I'm terrified' -- EXCLUSIVE

Best-selling author E L James doesn’t give many interviews these days, but she agreed to sit down in Beverly Hills with EW last week, as part of our cover story on the film version of the first book in her trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, to discuss all that casting controversy, the intensity of her fans, the criticism of Christian Grey’s backstory, and her hopes for the film. She proved to be as direct and unfiltered as her books are, beginning with how she’s feeling about the new movie.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey is about to start shooting in Vancouver. How are you feeling about it?
E L JAMES: I’m terrified. Completely. I’ve been terrified from the moment I published the book.  My mother was terrified of everything, and so am I. It’s a terrible way to grow up. You don’t expect this kind of success. Even now it floors me. My only ambition for the books was to see them in bookstores. This is huge. And there is this passionate fandom; we need to get this right for them.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' pushes production start to December

After an 11th-hour scramble to fill the shoes of best-selling author E L James’ dark hero Christian Grey, the Fifty Shades of Grey production start date has been pushed from mid-November to Dec. 2, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

On Thursday night, it was revealed that British actor Jamie Dornan (“the Golden Torso”) had been tapped to replace Charlie Hunnam, who bowed out of the film a few weeks ago citing, rather dubiously, scheduling concerns. Dornan’s casting seems to have been met with sighs of relief from weary fans. But the delay of a start date may mean that the Sam Taylor-Johnson adaptation won’t be ready in time for the planned Aug. 1, 2014, release date. Focus/Universal did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' movie has release date

Go ahead and mark your calendar: Fifty Shades of Grey has received a release date of August 1, 2014, EW has confirmed.

This follows the news that Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) will direct the film, which has not yet cast the lead roles of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. The script, based on E L James’ novel, will be written by Kelly Marcel. Focus and Universal paid $5 million in March 2012 for movie rights to the best-selling trilogy.

Other Fifty Shades news? Hollywood Reporter writes that the steamy film might be a good candidate for a premium VOD option concurrent with its theatrical release. This obviously makes sense giving the explicit subject matter. A rep for Universal did not immediately have a comment regarding that rumor.

Read more:
‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ finds its director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
‘Arrow’ star Stephen Amell had meeting to play Christian Grey
‘Fifty Shades of Grey': Armie Hammer responds to casting rumors

'Terra Nova' co-creator Kelly Marcel to write 'Fifty Shades of Grey' screenplay

At long last, Universal Pictures and Focus Features announced on Monday the screenwriter for the film adaptation of E L James’ wildly popular and naughty book series Fifty Shades of Grey.

The lucky lady is Kelly Marcel, who co-created the short-lived Fox TV series Terra Nova, and wrote the 2011 Black List script Saving Mr. Banks. Banks is currently in production and co-stars Tom Hanks as Walt Disney during the time when he was pursuing the film rights to the book Mary Poppins (coincidentally written by another female writer with first name initials, P.L. Travers). Marcel will also produce The Madonnas Of Echo Park for HBO, according to a Universal-Focus Features joint press release.

James herself announced the news Monday morning on Twitter, gushing, “Hi guys, I’m thrilled to announce we have a screenwriter for Fifty Shades of Grey,” then directing fans to Fifty Shades‘ Facebook page.

Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti will produce the film, with James. “Kelly’s work demonstrates her flawless structural technique and passionate commitment to emotion, humor and depth of character which is particularly visible in the celebrated screenplay for the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks,” said De Luca in a statement. Added Brunetti, “We were all taken with the depth and passion of Kelley’s engagement with the characters and world EL James has created and we knew she was the right person to augment our Fifty Shades family.”

James’ Fifty Shades trilogy, about billionaire Christian Grey’s twisted, sexual, S&M laced relationship with student Anastasia Steele, has sold a staggering 32 million copies in e-book and print in the U.S. Now who will play Grey and Steele?

For more film news

Read more:
‘Law and Order: SVU’ to tackle ‘Fifty Shades’ — What other popular books would you want to see as episodes?
‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ inspires dirty chicken cookbook: ‘I’ve been practicing BDSM for years — but with poultry’

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