'Fifty Shades' Stars to Seek Big Raises for Sequel

By Tatiana Siegel

This story first appeared in the March 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

With Fifty Shades of Grey looking to top out at more than $550 million worldwide, it should come as no surprise that stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan will be seeking a big payday for a second outing in the red room of pain.

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Sources say the pair received $250,000 each (plus tiered box-office bonuses) to star in Universal’s erotic hit based on the first of EL James’ trilogy of novels, and both signed three-picture deals. But like most stars of franchise films, they will try to renegotiate for seven-figure raises for Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Neither Johnson, 25, nor Dornan, 32, received any backend compensation on the first film, according to sources.

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Though the two leads probably are six months away from any renegotiations, insiders say they’ll take a page from the Twilight stars and Jennifer Lawrence’s Hunger Games deal as a jumping-off point (Lawrence landed a $10 million payday for Catching Fire — a significant bump from her $500,000 Hunger Games salary).

"It was a very basic franchise starter deal," says an insider of the terms of Johnson’s and Dornan’s contracts. "Look at Twilight and Hunger Games, and that’s where it is heading.”

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Fifty Shades certainly lived up to the hype of James’ best-selling novel, in a similar vein as Stephenie Meyer’s first Twilight ($392.6 million worldwide in 2008) and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games ($691 million in 2012). But unlike those YA hit adaptations, Fifty Shades performed its box-office feat — $528 million worldwide to date — while saddled with an R rating thanks to ample sex scenes. While the film has far exceeded the hopes of Universal, which acquired rights to the trilogy in March 2012, a steep 70 percent drop-off between its Valentine’s Day weekend opening and its second frame might suggest the initial curiosity among the books’ fans hasn’t translated into a full-fledged film franchise.

Still, the last thing Universal chair Donna Langley wants is two unhappy stars — or even one willing to ask out of his or her contract. The studio already must find a new director (Sam Taylor-Johnson is not expected to return after clashing with James) and writer (original scribe Kelly Marcel will not return). Because there is no script or director yet, Johnson and Dornan have been told to plan on an early 2016 shoot for a 2017 release, possibly around Valentine’s Day again.

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Fifty Shades producer Dana Brunetti declines to talk specifics on potential renegotiations but says he is looking to keep the first film’s $40 million budget from skyrocketing because of salaries.

"That was the great thing about this film — we knew we were going to be able to make stars," he says. "Now it’s their opportunity to get paid on other projects. It’s been a breakout role for both of them. I’m sure they are getting tons of offers on other things."