Black List Screenwriter Plucked to Adapt ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Consider this the first truly meaningful piece of in-development news about the cinematic adaptation of E.L. James‘ nutty-cuckoo-popular “Fifty Shades of Grey.” With the bestselling novel currently in development with Universal Pictures and Focus Features, we’re surely bound to be getting all manner of insane rumors before the film even makes it to the big screen (what? we’ve already had insane rumors? you don’t say!), but today’s news that Universal and Focus have hired on a screenwriter to adapt the novel is the first truly hard-and-fast news bit to hit the wire.

Per a press release circulated this afternoon, Kelly Marcel will write the screenplay for Fifty Shades of Grey, adding a  stunning third title to the Black List screenwriter’s slim cinematic resume. Marcel reportedly got her start in the bright-lights-big-stage biz with work in musical theater, but she’s recently transitioned over to film and television. Her two major credits are, well, to be perfectly honest, an already weird pairing, one made all the stranger by the addition of 50 Shades to her repertoire. Just what is Marcel into? What’s her style?

Apparently, failed future-set television series and old school Disney trivia. Pardon?

Marcel’s name might ring a bell with those of you who follow along with the Black List, as her 2011 screenplay, Saving Mr. Banks, made a respectable showing on that list with 13 votes (as ever, for context, the top vote-getter of 2011 was Graham Moore’s The Imitation Game, which got 133 votes). No matter vote tally, however, as Marcel’s film is currently in production, starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (the film centers on Disney’s twenty-year quest to get the rights to the book).

Marcel also, weirdly, co-created the Amblin/FOX-TV series Terra Nova, which has since been cancelled. You try to get a handle on that resume.

So why Marcel? Per producer Michael De Luca: “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.” Additionally, producer Dana Brunetti chimed in, “We were all taken with the depth and passion of Kelley’s engagement with the characters and world E L James has created and we knew she was the right person to augment our Fifty Shades family.” Depth and passion? Okay, I’ll bite, that actually sounds about right.

Kate is an entertainment and culture writer and editor living in New York City. She is also a contributing writer for,,, Vulture,,, The Dissolve, Screen Crush, New York Daily News, Mental Floss, and amNY. Her previous work can also be found at MSN Movies, Boxoffice Magazine, and She lives her life like a French movie, Steve.

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