I like Robert Pattinson.
Whatever. I don’t feel any shame in admitting so. In fact, I have spent many hours in the past few years defending Pattinson to those who still mock him as nothing more than “the Twilight guy.” Let me be clear – to say I like Robert Pattinson is not the same thing as saying I like Twilight. Oh god no. Believe me, I might have chosen Fifty Shades as the book series to spend way too much time writing about, but I could have just easily created the same kind of snarky blog to share my disgust over Stephenie Meyers’ original vampire saga (which, technically, I should hate doubly, for both existing in the first place and inspiring E.L. James to write Fifty Shades).
But Pattinson is not Edward Cullen, no matter what millions of screaming teen girls (and way too many older mothers) will have you believe. He’s a young actor that took a role in a big franchise because he knew it would help his career and pad his pocketbook – nothing wrong with that, if you ask me. I mean, if they had wanted me to play Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades movie, I would have sold out in a second (in fact, I’m just putting it out there that I am still available for the second and third films, in case the producers decide to make a change).
Pattinson was smart – he suffered through a godawful franchise for a few years so that he could earn the clout (and financial freedom) to pursue the kind of smaller, interesting and challenging work that he has done since (such as Cosmopolis and The Rover).
And “suffer” is probably the right word, because if there’s one other big reason I like Pattinson, it’s that he seems to hate Twilight even more than I do.
Now, no, he’s never come right out and said so. And truth be told, I’m sure he is honestly grateful for the opportunities the series provided him. I doubt he regrets the experience (well, maybe the whole Kristen Stewart part of it, but that’s a different story). But still, it didn’t take long into his Twilight experience for Pattinson to find it harder and harder to hide his problems with the source material, and the writing of his character, in particular.
Preach on, brother.
So why do I bring this up here, now, in my Fifty Shades of Grey blog? Well, lately, I’ve found myself wondering if I will someday feel the same way about Jamie Dornan.
The jury is out right now. I mean, I certainly don’t expect a great performance in the movie (that’s not a judgement on him, but rather the wretched material he has to work with), but I don’t blame him for taking the part. Just like Twilight, this is a huge franchise that will make him a big star, and maybe – like Pattinson – he’ll use that fame to pursue some truly interesting stuff later (and he’s definitely a capable actor, if his turn in the excellent Gillian Anderson series The Fall is any indication).
A recent interview with Dornan has left me even more confused about the man. You know the interview I’m talking about. The one with The Guardian, in which Dornan revealed there would be no full-frontal from him:
“There were contracts in place that said that said that viewers wouldn’t be seeing my, um…my todger.”
Let’s overlook the amusing nature of “todger,” and instead take this comment as what it is. The guy who signed on to play Christian Grey doesn’t want his penis on film? There’s something wrong with this, right? Look, it’s not like I need to see the guy’s todger (I am looking out for my female readers, though), but the fact of the matter is, if they want to make a movie that accurately represents what this series is, they needed to find an actor willing to give – and show – everything. And you know exactly what I mean…
It’s a weird world when we have Batman letting his dong fly free in Gone Girl, but Christian Grey wants to be modest in the fucking Fifty Shades movie. I was already convinced the film’s R-rating (as opposed to NC-17) is an indication the filmmakers aren’t making the Fifty Shades movie they should be, but this seems like confirmation. This might be the first ever case where the eventual porn parody will actually be a more accurate adaptation of the source material.
Dornan’s anti-nudity comments become even more problematic when we consider something else he says in the same interview. When asked about the graphic nature of the film’s sex scenes, he replied:
“You want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible without grossing them out. You don’t want to make something gratuitous, and ugly, and graphic.”
“Grossing them out?” Seriously, does Dornan know who the target audience for this movie is? These women are not going to be grossed out by freaky sex. It’s why they’re buying the ticket. “You don’t want to make something gratuitous?” Seriously?? What the hell is Fifty Shades if nothing but gratuitous? This should be the most gratuitous movie of all time. If not, why bother? I could just as easily watch Twilight again while flipping through a Playboy. To put it bluntly, this movie should be an uninhibited fuck-fest, not something you could just as easily find every night on Cinemax.
I find it even more disturbing that the guy playing Christian Grey refers to potentially graphic sex-scenes as “ugly.” Look, as anyone who has read the rest of this blog knows, there’s a lot of “ugly” stuff about the book, including Christian’s overall treatment of Ana and E.L. James’ basic writing skills. But the sex itself – while often terribly written – is not “ugly.” This is a series about sexual liberation at its core, right? And the lead actor is saying that graphic sex scenes might be “ugly?” That’s messed up.
So, perhaps Dornan isn’t the right guy for the job, and even though I have no emotional investment in the eventual quality or success of the film, I still think it’s a bummer that they couldn’t find a guy who was a little more willing to dive into the over-the-top craziness and sexuality the material demands. That being said, I also can’t help but notice that Dornan is already starting to subtly show some of the same “what have I done” regret that Pattinson seemed to discover only after the first Twilight hit and hit big. Let’s look at some other comments from the Guardian interview:
“I’ve always got The Fall,” he says as if to reassure himself. “No matter what happens in my career, I’ve always got The Fall.”
TRANSLATION: Look, at least I did something decent already, so leave me alone when this garbage comes out.
“You have to give Erika [E.L. James] some credit, because whatever you might think of the prose style, 100 million is a lot of people. Are the literary critics saying those 100 million people aren’t very bright?”
Yep, that’s about the strength of it.
He laughs again.
“OK. Fair enough.”
TRANSLATION: Well, yeah, it is shitty…but, you know…cha-ching!!
“Look, the film is not the book. It’s an adaptation, and Sam Taylor-Johnson is an artist as well as an award-winning film director. Look at her track record. And look at the film studios behind it. Universal. Focus. All I can say is, wait until you see it before passing judgment.”
TRANSLATION: Look, we made a real movie, okay?! Like, real companies and everything produced it. I swear!
To me, it sounds like Dornan is already on the defensive, and I feel like you can clearly see hints of a man recognizing that this is going to be a much bigger phenomenon than the material really deserves. In that regard, I can’t help but start to feel for the guy a little. I’m predicting we’re in for another Pattinson situation here, where by the time the final movie rolls around, Dornan will appear almost dead inside, clearly happy to be done with it all, – excited to finally leave Fifty Shades behind for good.
If that’s the case, in that moment, he and I will be more alike than ever before (and probably ever again if I’m being honest with myself).
So, I can only say this – stay strong, Mr. Dornan. Which, I’m guessing, will be easy to do, given your good looks, beautiful wife, daughter, and the millions of dollars you’re about to make. But, even still, you’re about to be plunged into years of Fifty Shades insanity, and it could indeed be rough going. We’re all here for you.
That said…you really should have agreed to hang dong, dude.