Sam Taylor-Johnson: ‘Every doorway that was slammed in my face, I’ve kicked down’

June 23, 2017 - Fifty Shades of Grey

Sam Taylor-Johnson perches in a sun-dappled dilemma of a Los Angeles hotel patio and asks a waiter for an oatmeal cookie. He brings a image of chocolate ones – there’s no oatmeal. They demeanour delicious, nonetheless she sends them back. “I usually fanciful oatmeal.” Taylor-Johnson clearly knows accurately what she wants.

The executive was final in a headlines dual years ago, when her film of EL James’s amorous novel Fifty Shades of Grey ravished a tellurian box office, raking in some-more than half a billion dollars for Universal Studios. A jubilant collaboration, we competence consider – solely that executive and author regularly clashed over how to send page to screen.

“I was in a supermarket a year ago and this man in a automobile park shouted: ‘Congrats on a movie,’” Taylor-Johnson recalls. “I shouted back, ‘It was unequivocally difficult, it was unequivocally fucking difficult.’” She sighs, afterwards laughs. “It doesn’t matter if it’s successful, a tour was hard. we don’t wish to be tangible by a success of it and we don’t wish to be tangible by a wretchedness of it. we usually wish to leave it behind me.”

Taylor-Johnson is an affable, no-nonsense Londoner who done her name as a Turner-nominated photographer and visible artist before creation films. A svelte figure in blue jeans and white blouse, she blends into a glam-casual throng during Chateau Marmont, an aged Hollywood haunt.

We are here to plead her pierce into radio – a psychological thriller for Netflix – nonetheless a welts left by Fifty Shades of Grey are tough to leave behind. James wanted linear, pithy adaptations of her book’s sadomasochistic bonkathons. Taylor-Johnson envisaged a dim fairytale.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Of Grey. Photograph: Allstar/Focus Features

“It’s tough when we get dual stubborn people with unequivocally absolute visions that are so different. That was flattering tough, on both of us. Erica had a absolute prophesy and she wrote and combined it. So it’s difficult, when we sinecure someone else who is a artistic visionary, too, to realize your prophesy when they have their own. we had a unequivocally crafty artistic thought that got chipped away. And that’s tough for any artistic chairman to go through. we hatred caving.”

Hindsight does not palliate a pain, she says, nonetheless she stands by a result. “When we mount behind and demeanour during a movie, we can contend I’m unapproachable of it. I’m unapproachable of a battles won and can see a battles we lost.”

The tinge is reflective, not bitter, so we ask if she has been in hold with James recently, and maybe reconciled. Taylor-Johnson looks startled, afterwards laughs. “No! Why would I?”

Has she seen a sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, destined by James Foley, that came out in February?

She shoots another look.


No interest?


What about when it streams on television? Maybe watch it then?

“No. we don’t wish to see it. Ever.”

Taylor-Johnson’s video mural of David Beckham Photograph: Graeme Robertson for a Guardian

There is a steeliness to Taylor-Johnson, a clarity of control and resilience and fortify have brought her far. Abandoned by both parents, she scraped into art propagandize and, in a 1990s, became one of a Young British Artists, famously creation a video mural of David Beckham for a National Portrait Gallery, as good as a work called Crying Men, that featured 28 actors, including Paul Newman and Robin Williams, sobbing.

Battles with colon and breast cancer suffused her work with spoil and genocide but, carrying recently incited 50, her concentration now is on life. “I’m fucking beholden to spin 50. I’ve faced a choice a integrate of times, so branch 50 is a blessing. And I’d like to spin 60 and 70 and 80, too. As prolonged as we can keep branch those decades, I’ll be fine.”

She no longer believes, as she did before, that her art requires her to hover depression and psychosis. “I don’t trust I’m that same chairman now. we don’t indispensably feel I’m constantly weaving by stupidity and sadness. I’m calmer and happier, a tiny some-more self-assured.” She has reconciled with her mother, who recently visited, nonetheless “I consider my grounded inlet now and clarity of fortitude come from my attribute with Aaron and family.”

That would be Aaron Taylor-Johnson, her husband. Her initial matrimony to art play Jay Jopling finished in 2008. A year later, she done her initial underline film, Nowhere Boy, about John Lennon, and finished adult marrying a lead actor. She was 42, he was 19.

Sam and Aaron Taylor-Johnson during a premiere of Nocturnal Animals during a 2016 Venice film festival. Photograph: EPA/Claudio Onorati

Tabloids crowed and paparazzi swooped, nonetheless a bitch now feels distant. “I don’t consider there’s most of an emanate any more. We’ve been together 8 years. we consider it has outpace a lot of relations that, on paper, were some-more excusable to people.” The integrate changed to LA 3 years ago and live there with 4 daughters – dual from their union, dual from her initial matrimony – and 3 dogs and 6 chickens. “I like carrying uninformed eggs and meaningful where they come from.”

She misses England during Christmas nonetheless enjoys LA. It’s mellower, sunnier. “We usually live a lives. We have some-more space. And we don’t have to spend half an hour jacket a children adult in welly boots and layers.”

She says she is chuffed her father won a Golden Globe for his opening in a Tom Ford-directed thriller Nocturnal Animals even though, to prep for a purpose – a savage assailant – he spent months examination “seriously dark” documentaries and films. “The aura stays around a while. When it finally left, it was nice.”

Taylor-Johnson took a year off to redeem from Fifty Shades before similar to approach and executive-produce a initial dual episodes of Gypsy. The 10-part Netflix drama, created by Lisa Rubin, stars Naomi Watts as a therapist who develops manipulative relations with patients and a people in their lives.

“It’s so brilliantly written. And a protagonist is so multifaceted and formidable and dim and puzzling and crafty and disfigured – it was sparkling to be partial of something so different.”

Filming a womanlike writer’s story about a womanlike character’s intimately charged odyssey does not sound so opposite from Fifty Shades, nonetheless Taylor-Johnson insists otherwise. There was no outrageous fanbase with preconceptions. The author was some-more open to partnership and Netflix was comparatively hands-off. “They visited a set a integrate of times nonetheless didn’t interfere.”

And a character, Jean Holloway, is no Anastasia Steele. “She’s a crafty lady who is seeking autonomy and her possess clarity of power. She has been feeling consumed by suburban life and breaks giveaway of that.” The characters did share one trait: “They are women who suffer sex.”

Handing a indirect 8 episodes to other directors was a wrench – a detriment of control. “It was arrange of weird for me: OK, here’s my vision, I’m off now.” She has nonetheless to watch a episodes she didn’t direct. “I know, we know, we should. we will.”

Another disproportion from doing a large studio film was speed. “Film felt like a lush universe for formulating and ruminating. Television moves during a fastest of paces. By day two, we realised my skills were being honed, fast.” Part of her prep enclosed examination some-more TV. “Like everyone, we desired The Crown. we unexpected became sentimental for 1950s England.”

Three of Gypsy’s directors were women, a pointer that maybe Hollywood is apropos reduction sexist, nonetheless there’s a prolonged approach to go, says Taylor-Johnson. She attributes her possess success to purpose models such as Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow, and dogged, bloody-minded persistence. “Every doorway that was slammed in my face, I’ve kicked down. Every barrier I’ve stepped over and pushed through. That’s unequivocally how we have to be.”

Years ago, a writer of a film she wished to approach refused to see her. “Then, on a approach to a airfield with my suitcase, we went to his bureau and stayed until he would see me. There was no reason on earth for him not to give me a job, in my mind.” She got a film. It fell by – studio wrangling – nonetheless a writer subsequently tapped her for Fifty Shades of Grey.

Her subsequent step in what sounds like Fifty Shades rehab is a tiny indie. She is essay a screenplay with her husband. She will approach and he will play a lead. “It’s critical to me to do something where we feel some-more eccentric and keep as most artistic leisure as possible.”

Taylor-Johnson is decorous about details, observant usually that it is formed on a book she fell in adore with 15 years ago and that a author is open to a cinematic version. “He wants it to develop and grow and turn something.”

The executive says she has done assent with a odds that a initial line of her necrology will bring Fifty Shades. Unless, of course, she kicks down some-more Hollywood doors. “I’ll have to somehow emanate something else, bigger.”

Gypsy launches on Netflix on 30 June.

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