Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Rita Ora, Max Martini, Tyler Hoechlin, Luke Grimes, Arielle Kebbel
Director: James Foley
Running Time: 105 minutes
Synopsis: Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Freed, the climactic chapter based on the worldwide bestselling 'Fifty Shades" phenomenon. Bringing to a shocking conclusion events set in motion in 2015 and 2017's blockbuster films that grossed almost $950 million globally, the film arrives for Valentine's Day 2018.
Believing they have left behind shadowy figures from their past, newlyweds Christian and Ana fully embrace an inextricable connection and shared life of luxury. But just as she steps into her role as Mrs. Grey and he relaxes into an unfamiliar stability, new threats could jeopardize their happy ending before it even begins.
Fifty Shades Freed
Release Date: February 8th, 2018
No Fairy-Tale Ending: Fifty Shades Freed Begins
Given the record-setting sales of E L James' Fifty Shades novels, and the first two films' impressive global box-office take, those at the center of the Fifty Shades' pop-culture event are more than forthcoming about their longtime involvement, as well as how it feels to see the end of the seminal trilogy appear on screen.
Producer Dana Brunetti begins: 'As a producer of these films"bringing to life these books that fans are just ravenous for and seeing the phenomenal success of them"well, it's been extraordinary. It's not something that a lot of people"whether a producer, a writer, a director, a cast or crew member"ever get to do in their entire careers. To be able to do this with three different movies, it's been extremely rewarding and satisfying. I'm extremely grateful to be able to be accepted both in the Fifty Shades family by Erika, but also by the fan base, because they are very critical"the last thing any of us wanted to do was mess up that thing that they love so much."
Signs along the way let filmmakers know that they were far from messing up, beginning with the explosive box-office performance of the first film. When the trailer for the second film, Fifty Shades Darker, debuted online in September 2016, in less than 24 hours, it racked up more than 114 million views, shattering the previously set record for highest-performing full-length trailer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with 112 million views.
Book author and producer E L James was and is surprised by the depth of emotion the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey stirred up in fans. At one point, she was even satisfied with the story concluding with just one book. E L James explains: 'The first two books were written as one, and I'd stopped at the wedding proposal and thought, -This is great. I've left them in a good place.' But I got readers urging me to write more. I remember being on holiday and I was listening to Michael Bublé's version of You Will Never Find Another Love Like Mine, over and over again. I thought, -Hang on a minute. If I'm going to write more, what would it be?'
'I knew the only thing I could do was to have Ana pregnant and to see Christian's reaction, which is not great," E L James continues. 'I knew that's where I wanted the story to go. That's why I started writing the third book"to see him absolutely terrified, furious, when she announces that she's pregnant. He goes completely ballistic, because he's a scared child himself."
As production decided to film both installments, Darker and Freed, simultaneously, all were in place to pick up the story of Ana and Christian moving through the world as a married couple. Still, rather than just one cinematic tale split into halves, the team was committed to treating each project as a thematically and stylistically separate entity. This choice was reinforced by the selection of James Foley as both chapters' director. The filmmaker came armed with experience of simultaneous productions on separate installments of the lauded cable series, House of Cards.
James Foley offers that filming both chapters simultaneously offered its share of rewards. 'It wasn't as if it was doubly challenging, because the movies are directly continuous with each other. It's always dire holding one big story in your head. If you're filming one movie at a time, you're still doing it out of sequence, and have to hold the whole movie in your head. This time, our movie was just longer, but the emotional throughline was directly connected. It wasn't like Freed starts 10 years later, where Christian and Ana are totally different people. It starts a few months after Darker, so there is a real continuum that made it possible to do."
Dana Brunetti reflects, 'Jamie Foley is such a great storyteller, and I feel Darker and Freed both stand on their own as individual movies. If you haven't seen Fifty Shades of Grey, or you don't see Fifty Shades Freed, Fifty Shades Darker stands on its own as a movie; even though it's part of a trilogy, it still works. Same thing with Freed. They all stand on their own as great stories and compelling movies." Regarding the title choice of this chapter, E L James explains, 'In the third book, Christian finally learns to let go and accept what's coming to him. I think he's freed. And seeing the woman he loves with a child is the most healing thing that could ever happen to him."
But the tone of Freed, overall, is far from merely a romance of the healing kind. Screenwriter Niall Leonard, who returns to this chapter, notes: 'Freed opens with a mysterious man visiting the offices of Grey Enterprises. We realise quickly that he's Jack Hyde and up to no good. Rather than starting with this idyllic existence that Christian and Ana have, we're starting with the threat of Jack. It becomes clear that everything they do in this movie is constrained by the threat of his revenge. From the get-go, our heroes are never safe, happy or utterly content. Christian is aware of this and doesn't tell Ana, thinking he's protecting her. But of course, as a husband and wife, you don't always protect somebody by keeping secrets. Eventually the truth comes out"it becomes another hurdle for them to face together, and another issue in their constant efforts at building trust between them."
While it may sound fated that the couple will find that fairy-tale ending, Niall Leonard is quick to disagree: 'I would think that Erika herself might resist this idea of destiny, because it suggests that no matter what you do, you're going to end up at a happy place. In fact, Ana and Christian have to make a big effort"they have to reach beyond themselves, to go way out of their comfort zones"to find each other and create this relationship that saves them. -Destiny' makes it sound too easy"it's a deliberate journey, it's a struggle and a time of great conflict. Hopefully, we won't have the sense that this was all easy, because it isn't for the characters.
'For us, the marriage is the beginning of a new adventure, a new story, a new series of challenges," the screenwriter continues. 'It's not the be-all and end-all. Erika was wise to make that her focal point of the start of the third book, because it's a whole new journey for our characters."
It was crucial for E L James to start Freed where Christian and Ana have to face up to the realities of what it is like to be married and how, when you marry someone so quickly, things don't always go according to plan. 'That puts a bit of a question mark at the beginning," reflects the author. 'That, and new threats come into Freed. So, we're finding our beloved couple getting to know each other and finding a way of living with each other. As someone who's been married for a very long time, you do sort of knock the corners off each other, as it were, in a relationship, and that's what Christian and Ana are beginning to do."
E L James' professional and life partner, Niall Leonard relished that mix of the personal and the circumstantial, but also found it perhaps the most challenging to pen. He says: 'Exploring their journey within that marriage was a big challenge and, hopefully, we did it right. I was helped by the fact that Erika, being a very entertaining writer, put in some great stuff, like car chases and heists and helicopter crashes. I took the liberty of moving some incidents about from book two to book three, in order to keep the story moving quickly. Still, I think that the third was the one that presented the greater challenge."
While one might conclude that having the series creator on set as producer would be constraining, director Jamie Foley offers that wasn't the case. 'In her role as a producer, Erika would interject sometimes, but not very often. When she would do it, she would do it in the most respectful way, just raising a question, instead of making it feel like she was trying to pressure you to do something. Because she was just raising a question, I always was open to thinking about it. Sometimes I would agree with her, and sometimes I wouldn't, but it was very friendly. We became good friends, which we still are."
Alongside fellow filmmakers E L James and Dana Brunetti, returning to cap the trilogy are producers Mike De Luca and Marcus Viscidi, who also served double duty as unit production manager on both Darker and Freed.
Marcus Viscidi was perhaps keenest of anyone to shoot both films together, knowing it was the most logical and creative decision. 'It wasn't daunting for me; in fact, I encouraged the studio. There was a lot of debate. I encouraged them, as I wore one hat from the financial side, saying, -The advantages of shooting Darker and Freed combined is that we were able to build these incredible sets for both movies. Why strike them, hold them for a year and then set them up again?'
'But I had other reasons that were more important than just strictly the financial ones," the producer continues. 'For the actors and for James Foley, for them to be able to see Darker and Freed, to read both scripts and to understand where their characters are"starting in book two and finishing in book three"it helped them. It made it a more fluid process, throughout the whole filming. Even if you're going occasionally from certain Darker sets one day and some Freed the next, it still helped tremendously."
'It's very bittersweet to watch the trilogy come full circle," reflects Mike De Luca. 'This passion project we all began several years ago has become so much more than any of us could have anticipated. It's not simply a labor of love to those of us who have been tasked with shepherding Erika's brilliance to the big screen, the cinematic version of Fifty Shades has been adopted by the tens of millions of fans who have been there to experience Christian and Ana's journey since the beginning. With this chapter, it's been hard for all of us to say goodbye…for now."
Mrs. Grey Will See You Now: Johnson and Dornan Lead the Cast
When it came to working with Ana and Christian, James Foley takes a moment to reflect on the work Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have put into the series. 'Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson have the kind of instinctual connection to their characters that actors who are really good in their parts find. At this point, they are referencing something that they know; they're not making believe. Somehow, Dakota Johnson plugged into the psychology and the emotion of Ana, and Jamie Dornan relaxes even further into the role; in Freed, you see him find Christian Grey in himself."
Producer Mike De Luca agrees with his director, extending: 'What Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson have been required to do in this series is to accompany this rarified space few performers ever encounter. Not only were they charged with bringing to life two of the most beloved characters of the past century, they had to discover the nuances of Christian and Ana under the relentless eye of the public. They've handled themselves with grace, charm, compassion and levity"all while plumbing the depths of their characters. I speak for everyone involved in the production when I say that no two actors could have done it better."
For her third time as Anastasia Steele, Dakota Johnson dove headfirst into Ana's challenging world and emboldened sense of self. She updates us with where the characters are: 'In Freed, there's more suspense, more of a thriller aspect, with additional characters and more action"all of that is intertwined with the love story. A love story that has evolved and deepened. Anastasia and Christian are married, and Anastasia has received a promotion, raising the intensity of both her private and professional life."
She agrees with E L James and Naill Leonard, though, when she states: 'This is an epic love story but we do our best to keep it grounded and relatable. It's one of those inexplicable connections between two people that is completely undeniable. Throughout these stories, you find the protagonists faced with situations that require one or both of them to bend their wills and adapt to their version of love."
Jamie Dornan was likewise fascinated by the swirl of personal challenges and dark intrigue facing the couple in Freed. He says: 'Christian's reaction to Ana being pregnant is not positive. It's the exact way that you don't want your partner to respond when you say you're pregnant. He feels like he is in no position to be a father. Where they are in their life and the kind of relationship he wants to have with her, a baby's just the last thing that he wants"it would not fit into his structure. Emotionally he feels that having had such an awful early childhood, why"when his birth parents were so awful"why would he be any better? That terrifies him."
Terrifying on another level is the threat Christian begins to perceive behind the series of unfortunate events that have begun to take place. Jamie Dornan explains: 'Once he realises that both the helicopter and the computer server were sabotaged, he knows that Jack Hyde was involved. He knows him to be a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. In that way, he is very similar to Christian."
Back again as Jack Hyde, whose obsession with Ana knows no bounds, Eric Johnson took a different path when working on his character. He shares: 'One of the things that I looked at Jack Hyde is that he is opposite of what could happen. There's a shared connection in the past between the two of them, and you can see how damaged and different the outcomes can be. I read about how when someone experiences something traumatic as a child, there's a part of you that doesn't mature past that point"there's always that wounded child that you take with you, unless there's massive amounts of therapy and going through it. So, here's a guy who experienced trauma as a child and how does that manifest in his life? That was the core of what I talked about with James Foley"there can be this control and sophistication to Hyde, but then how he can fly off the handle and make some poor choices.
'He wants what Christian Grey has," Dakota Johnson continues. 'He wants his house. He wants his helicopter. He wants his wife. If he can't have it, he's going to do whatever he can to destroy it. He feels entitled to that life, so there is nothing that he won't do, nobody that he won't hurt to get what he wants…which is just to punish Christian for having the life that he could have had."
But even with Christian's seemingly perfect life"the sparkling surface of a young, handsome billionaire"he is deeply flawed underneath. For Marcia Gay Harden, portraying again Christian's mother, it is what lies underneath a character that compels her to perform, and also, what audiences can find relatable and watchable.
She reveals: 'We've all known people who are psychologically like Christian"they aren't able to express their needs or emotions. They're not going to reach out or hug you back. Part of his journey is to learn to be empathetic"to feel for someone else, to allow himself to feel and to want and to be vulnerable… to take that mask off, literally, and be who he is. That's what I connect to, that part of this very human story. I love that my character gets to say to him, -Marriages that don't make room for mistakes won't last long,' or -Get in there and apologize and mean it. Then give her time.' With Ana, importantly, this story lets her become a hero; she saves people. She's the transformed sexual hero, and she's the action hero"and that's a good combo."
The threat posed by Jack Hyde reaches into every aspect of Christian's existence, especially his family. Someone who deeply feels the threat is his sister Mia, played by Rita Ora. She explains, 'Freed for me as an actor is so different"I get to experience the -thriller' side of things. Being threatened by Jack Hyde is kind of awesome, because he's scary…even though Eric is a sweetheart in real life. I definitely feel that this film is a thriller."
Despite the fact that Jack Hyde lurks around every corner, Ana and Christian are trying to build a semblance of a new life together. Back at her desk at Seattle Independent Publishing"with the new title of Editor of New Fiction"Ana has brought into the fold blogger and online author Boyce Fox, portrayed by Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf and Supergirl). Hoechlin shares a bit about his character: 'Boyce is an author who Ana has discovered and feels he could be instrumental in expanding the readership of Seattle Independent Press. He has a great online following and is excited about the opportunity to work with somebody like Ana. I see the relationship between them being something where Boyce has always respected her notes and her opinions above a lot of others. When they decide to work on this book together, it's an exciting time for Boyce, and it's beneficial to Ana and her career."
Being the wife of a billionaire has its distinct advantages, but also, comes with a series of adjustments, one being a sacrifice of personal privacy"this comes in the form of Sawyer, a new personal bodyguard for Ana. Sawyer is played by Brant Daugherty, an immediate fan favorite for his work on Days of Our Lives, Army Wives and Pretty Little Liars.
Daugherty auditioned by video submission, and his efforts paid off. He says, 'The one thing James said he was looking for was that he needed somebody who could dominate the gun and be confident with it. I played a second lieutenant for a while on a show, so I've had a lot of experience with weapons and tactical training. In the audition, I came out and pulled the gun, and James said that that was the moment that got it for me. He said they saw a lot of guys for the role, but that I showed how sure I was with the weapon.
'There isn't a lot in the books about who Sawyer is," the actor continues. 'But there's a lot written about what he does, and how he affects the characters around him. I used that to get into his head and make what I want out of the character. He needs a rich, internal life, even though he doesn't say a lot." A character also in a good place is Ana's friend, Kate, again Eloise Mumford, and her storyline finds her on her own romantic path"with Christian's brother, Elliot (Luke Grimes, returning). Mumford catches us up with the characters: 'Kate and Elliot, their love story is continuing. It's such a fun relationship because, unlike Ana and Christian, they don't have all of these obstacles. They've had a pretty easy sail. Luke and I joke around, in pretty much every single scene, Elliot and Kate are dancing."
But it's not all slow dances and romance, when a figure from Luke's past reappears. Eloise Mumford reveals: 'There is an architect, Gia Matteo, who's played by Arielle Kebbel"Elliot had a thing with her in the past, and she reappears. Kate's claws come up a bit, and she gets concerned about what might be happening. But what's actually going on is much more innocent, and it gets cleared up in the most wonderful, surprising way. It was so much fun to shoot."
For Grimes, the working relationship with Mumford was 'chemistry from the start," which was lucky for them both. He recalls, 'We didn't have a lot of time to warm up or rehearse, and the first scene we ever had together in Fifty Shades of Grey. I literally walked in, and we started making out. Luckily, Eloise is a wonderful girl, and we got along great from the start."
The developments within the subsequent films solidified the actors' bond. Grimes continues: 'In Fifty Shades of Grey, the flame burns between Kate and Elliot fast. In Darker, the relationship was a little more lived in. Now, in Freed, Elliot has grown up a bit and the relationship has progressed. He's finally starting to realise that she is the girl he wants to spend his life with. It's very sweet"it hits him at Christian's wedding, so it was very important for both Erika and James Foley that we have a foreshadowing of that just by his looking at Kate."
It was particularly poignant to James Foley that our heroes become an engine for change among their friends and family. He reflects: 'There is something about Elliot and Kate that makes Ana and Christian's relationship even more emotional"it has a ripple effect onto other people in a positive way. When Elliot proposes, you feel as if something is changing and developing. All of these characters are getting older and more mature. There is a sense of movement that is gratifying."
For the part of the unabashedly single woman in the group, Kebbel enjoyed the showiness of her role, as well as the artifice it's concealing. She says: 'Gia Matteo is feisty. You hear about her even before you meet her, which is at Christian and Ana's wedding"where she's flirting, having the time of her life. The word on the street is she's very good at her job, but she dresses slightly…inappropriately. A lot of the women don't necessarily like her. She's incredibly bright; she's a grown-up and she's of the world. She's also a socialite, and she definitely knows how to work a room. She and Ana have a great meeting scene later on"ones of those types of scenes that actors relish."
E L James is quick to point out"not only of the returning cast, but also in particular reference to the actors new to Fifty Shades: 'We have an exceptionally talented cast, who also happen to be incredibly good-looking…because, well, why not?"
Weddings and Car Chases: Designing Freed
As Fifty Shades Freed follows immediately after the events of Darker, much of the design was created and executed for the second film in the trilogy. However, the world of Christian and Ana is far from static, and the changes that their characters undergo are likewise reflected in their environments and looks.
Dakota Johnson observes: 'At the beginning of Fifty Shades of Grey was this young girl who never put makeup on her face and couldn't put an outfit together for the life of her. You know, she's quite naive and not really focused on her looks. As she moves through to Fifty Shades Freed, you have a manicured and elegant young woman who is the boss in her professional and private life. She understands her body and sexuality. She is forthright and confident; that all translates through her appearance."
Costume designer Shay Cunliffe echoes: 'The films and the worlds are literally Darker and Freed"from the words alone they set a new tone, new palette for the characters. When I had my first meeting with James Foley about the look of the two films, he said, -Well, Darker is darker, and Freed is light, summery, freed, freedom.' We took those simple keywords and moved on from that. Ana and Christian both have evolving lives, particularly Ana, in the two films, and that influenced very much how I was going to design her costumes." Set decorator Carolyn -Cal' Loucks weighs in: 'This is a joyful time. Ana's feeling much more confident in who she is"the film moves into spring, beginning with the flashback to the wedding. So there's a lot more of what I would call -blissful colors.'"
Some of the characters, however, would not be decked in bliss"namely those charged with protecting the couple, security team members Taylor (once again portrayed by Max Martini) and Sawyer. Cunliffe expands: 'I followed the reality of what Taylor, Sawyer and the security team are, which is appropriate and well-dressed"but quietly so"nothing flamboyant, nothing that catches your attention. They're all extremely handsome, buff and gym ready. So they looked good but, in fact, they're just in good simple suits, appropriate to trailing a billionaire businessman and his wife."
Daugherty appreciated the amount of input in the building of this character. 'Sawyer needs to be able to move, fight and protect, and he's got to have a side piece on him all the time. Jamie Dornan is in these beautiful, sharply tailored suits that I would love to wear, but I can't move in them the way I'm supposed to." The performer even got to push for a beard and a not-too-coiffed head of hair: 'I didn't want him to seem too rigid. I wanted to have a bit of warmth to him. He's not a caricature of a person."
On the larger scale side of design, production designer Nelson Coates continued his oversight of the world in which Fifty Shades Freed takes place. While actual location shooting would happen throughout principal photography, a great deal of lensing took place within the walls of Vancouver area soundstages (Canadian Motion Picture Park in nearby Burnaby, and North Shore Studios, which housed the entirety of the penthouse). For Nelson Coates, this made a great deal of sense: 'One of the reasons that we even built a set is because having access to locations is sometimes difficult. Also having the flexibility to fly a wall, or to make things explode or collapse"or whatever you need for that scene"you often can't do in a real environment. You have more control when you're building on stage, and you get the exact look."
The more challenging side of creating functional, working spaces for living, breathing actors and crew? 'Just beyond every set, you end up having your work station, and we have all the drawings that we've worked on back in the office," details Nelson Coates. 'Every plan, every revision, the carpenters have to know exactly what they're supposed to do. For instance, when they vender a piece of metal that has to be bent, you have to show them exactly how that works. Every single detail has to be thought out just as if we were building a real house for real construction. There are real smoke detectors tied into alarm systems. It's a very safe environment, and that's by design. Every single thing you see on the screen has been meticulously planned and executed by the incredible teams we have."
Discussion between production designer and director zeroed in on just how the personal spaces of Christian and Ana would change and become more tailored to the occupants, with particular emphasis, in Freed, on what happens to spaces over time when people have a lot of discretionary money.
For Nelson Coates, it came down to one word: change. He notes, 'They change things a lot. They may have a favorite spot where they put their newly acquired painting. So there's always rotation. Our thinking was that the rules were open"that Christian probably changes things a lot. He gets tired of something, he might do a little construction, or renovation. Might pull some things out of storage, or rotate things between the office and home. We talked a lot with Erika, and she loved that idea, so we had fun with the choices that maybe haven't been seen in the spaces yet."
One place that evolves a great deal from its first appearance in Darker to later in Freed is the room that becomes Ana's office at SIP (which was once occupied by Jack Hyde, when he was her report). Set decorator Loucks points out: 'We lightened the room, putting in pale, silver-gray sofas and a beautiful pale concrete desk. We filled it with light, opened the windows, put fresh flowers in every day"we put a sense of humor into it. We made it a feminine office, a total contrast"with aquas, blues, pinks and lavenders."
As with her office space, Ana's work appearance changes as she rises in the company. Earlier, per Cunliffe, Ana looks very much a young woman on her first job, with shorter skirts, a small raincoat, not executive material. A few days after her promotion, the designer states: 'We go into a beautiful sheath dress. We start dressing her like a woman who feels more executive. By the time we come into Freed, when she's the owner of the company, we went for a much more high-level look"a wonderful black suit, simple-yet-authoritative clothing." Bearing in mind that the owner is also still very much a young woman, the designer saw that the choices were entirely appropriate for a twenty-something female, eschewing a stiffer feel for a more youthful cut.
There was definitely no fussiness in the choices made for one of the highlights of both the book and the film"the wedding of Christian and Ana. Jamie Foley knew it had to live up to fan's expectations and exude elegance: 'It was something to think a lot about, given that Christian is a billionaire. There was no limit to how extravagant the wedding could be. But we also thought that it wouldn't be either his or Anastasia's thing to have too gaudy a wedding. We wanted that mix of something a bit intimate, but certainly luxurious with no expense spared; we found a good balance."
Loucks scoured piles of wedding periodicals and found that a lot of the looks that attracted her were from 'really over-the-top affairs in Dubai!" Selecting a few key pieces for inspiration, she connected with a local vendor in Vancouver who specialised in Indian weddings. Custom-designed lanterns were executed for the space, which was filled with silk flowers, as shooting was to take place over three days. All of the silks were custom spray-painted, and the wisteria trees were secured from a manufacturer in India. Ordering and shipping of everything took a little over three months.
Cunliffe reflects on the design of Ana's wedding gown: 'I had notes from Erika right in the beginning of what mattered to her, which were the tiny buttons down the back of the dress. I knew that I wanted an old-fashioned but fresh approach to it, like the character of Ana herself"timeless, an eternal quality, sensual and sweet, without being cloying. I worked a collaboration with amazing wedding bridal gown designer, Monique Lhuillier [who also collaborated in the design of Ana's ball gown for the masquerade in Darker]." In Los Angeles, the designers discussed the character of Ana, and Cunliffe shared some pictures of vintage gowns from her research folder. Also included into the mix was author E L James' description of the dress from the novel.
Monique Lhuillier sent back sketches and swatches to Cunliffe, and more conversations ensued. The costumer then brought Dakota Johnson into the process, who also provided feedback. Shay continues, 'It was a true collaboration. Then, we sent it all back to Monique, and I got back the perfect wedding dress. It was everything I had dreamed of. It was almost an emotional moment where we tried it on the night before the wedding"the fit on Dakota Johnson was perfect."
A high point in the lighter times of Freed is the group visit Christian organises in response to his new bride's complaint that she doesn't see her friends as much in their life together. So what's a billionaire to do? Put together a trip to the Grey lodge in Aspen (a prize Ana had bid on and won at the masquerade charity event in Darker with money Christian had given her). When Ana boards the private jet, she is greeted by Kate, Elliot, Mia and José (Victor Rasuk).
Standing in for the Grey Aspen house is, in fact, Canadian recording artist Sarah McLachlan's home in Whistler, B.C."emptied except for McLachlan's piano and a few pieces of the singer's personal art collection. The set decorator explains with a laugh: 'I put in pieces more in keeping with the Greys' sensibility, so there's a lot of pale cream, ultra-modern sectional sofas in front of gorgeous stone fireplaces. The home has an amazing panoramic view of the mountains. They're there to hike in the spring meadows, but I wanted to show that this is a ski resort area, so I brought in furs on the ends of the beds"again going back to practice we started in Darker of making all of the environments full of texture, with sensual, tactile pieces. It is a luxurious, spa-like resort area"we even have a sexy bathtub that overlooks the mountain and we used tons of candles." The home also boasts a sumptuous bathroom with a bathtub filled by water cascading from the room's ceiling, and breathtaking romantic and picture-postcard views of both Whistler and Blackcomb peaks.
Another surprise Christian springs on Ana is the acquisition of what is to be their new home"in the story, it is a somewhat unloved mansion that they spot while sailing in the Sound. In actuality, it is the Cecil Green Park House, a historical home belonging to the University of British Columbia. The 1912 structure was designed by architect Samuel Maclure for Edward Davis, a prominent Canadian Pacific Railway lawyer. Given a succession of names by the owners, the home was christened with its current moniker in honor of the husband and wife who donated the house to the college.
The choice of building was also a further example of the production's use of 'narrative design," with everything chosen as part of storytelling. Loucks comments: 'It's an interesting point that the penthouse"and even the Red Room"are things that this couple is moving away from. There's a new phase in their life. Ana sees all of the potential of the house, and that it's a family home. Christian lets her make the choices, and that appeals to him." Also, it is in this site that the tense confrontation between Ana and Gia Matteo takes place, and it becomes clear that Ana has come into her own with regard to her -ownership' of her relationship with Christian.
Into every fairy tale, however, a little villainy must fall. And the Jack Hyde that appears in Freed is different from the self-assured executive we first meet in Darker. Design decisions included -roughing him up' since his fall from grace"having been imprisoned and then released on bail, he assumes a look that blends, including adopting pieces to appear as a handyman. Cunliffe adds: 'By the end, he's degenerated; he hasn't slept for days and is very ragged"a huge descent from his stylish opening appearance."
Clothing looks chosen for two additional new characters"author Fox and architect Matteo"likewise explain a lot about the people inside of the garments. Per Cunliffe: 'I wanted Boyce to be different from Hyde, different from Christian. His main piece is a suede jacket that we beat up a lot"the guy doesn't have a lot of money, but he has a style. For Gia, Arielle was like my own Barbie doll, and we agreed that she's a woman who knows how to work it at every moment. We put her in extremely upscale, but very body conscious, clothes"not at all inappropriate, because she's someone who's worldly enough to know the right thing to wear, but definitely eye-catching."
Tales in a New World: Filming This Chapter
For his part, Eric Johnson quite liked the prospect of filming Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed simultaneously. The performer explains, 'It was almost like doing a miniseries, where the arc of the character is clearly mapped out"it allows for me to make those adjustments all the way through and create a clear roadmap. Anytime you have that clarity, it's much better than getting a script week to week. Shooting these back-to-back, it allowed me to make choices in the second movie that affected the third movie, ones that could create layers."
For Dana Brunetti, while the two pieces stand as individual stories, he feels that they are apt companion pieces. The producer explains: 'In each film, our main characters both experience the possibility of losing one another. In Darker, Christian is involved in the helicopter crash; in Freed, Ana goes to rescue Mia. The two definitely blend so well together as companion pieces."
For the performers new to the Fifty Shades world, there seemed to be little -first day of school' adjustment. Brant Daugherty observes, 'As an actor you're always jumping into these previously existing worlds, like guest-starring on a show that the cast has been doing for seven seasons. You're going to have some of that no matter where you go, but I have to give Dakota credit because she welcomed everybody with open arms"she's one of the kindest people I've ever met. I met her very briefly the first day. She came up the next day and asked, -Brant Daugherty, how are you today?' I thought, -Wow, you have so much going on right now, and we didn't work together"we barely met.' She took the time to remember everybody's name and welcome them. It's a little nerve-wracking, coming into this big, secret world, but she and James Foley just made it incredible."
Principal photography commenced on February 16, 2016 and was divided between the titles, with 42 days for Darker, 44 days for Freed and 17 where scenes from both films would be shot on the same day. Freed was shot entirely on location and soundstages in Vancouver, with a five-day shoot in Whistler, B.C. (standing in for Aspen), three days in the South of France and two days in Paris. First day of filming scenes for Freed was actually Day 6 of shooting"following earlier Darker scenes of Ana and Jack Hyde (in happier days) in the SIP offices on Days 1-3. Production -lightened up' the third floor office space, brought in Mrs. Grey's bodyguard and shot scenes of Ana as Editor of New Fiction (and the boss).
In order to prepare for Ana's scenes outmaneuvering a pursuing SUV, Johnson spent time at YPK Integrated Training Track, clocking in track time to practice piloting the 2017 Audi R8 V10 (in Daytona Grey Pearl, of course)"one of Christian's latest automotive acquisitions. The actress also worked on her handling of firearms, for later filming of the scenes where she comes head-to-head with Hyde. For her part in the derring-do, Johnson quips: 'There are guns and stunts and car chases…quite the opposite from Ana's fairly sedentary lifestyle in the first film."
Day 11 saw more SIP filming, this time with the addition of Mr. Grey (officially Dornan's first day of shooting) and Hoechlin as author Fox. While main unit was busy with scenes from Darker, a splinter unit was dispatched to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver.
Refurbished in 2009 and with 2,765 seats, the theatre is one of Canada's largest proscenium venues. This time, cameras were sent to capture a performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly and, perhaps, the composer's most famous aria, 'Un bel di vedremo""while the script had specified the opera, director Foley chose the portion of the work audiences would see the couple experiencing at the famed Paris Opera House during their honeymoon. Reverses of Ana and Christian would later be shot at the iconic venue, and the Vancouver soprano's voice-over would be from a recording of world-famous Bulgarian diva Anna Tomowa-Sintow.
Day 19 saw filming at a Burnaby building standing in for the office of Ana's gynecologist, Dr. Green (the highly discreet and high-end physician who had worked with Grey's previous submissives). Production next set up at Anvil Centre Theatre in New Westminster, B.C. to film a courtroom scene not originally in the source material, where Hyde stands before a judge seeking bail. E L James explains the nuance: 'Niall wanted this particular scene in, so that we could see what happens to Hyde, and so that we can also see a possible connection with Linc, Elena's ex-husband. Ana also comes and stays at the back of the room, and when Jack is freed on bail, she becomes immediately sick…but it might be for another reason."
While up to this point, filming on Freed scenes did take place to maximize locations, shooting Freed did not begin in earnest until completion of a good chunk of Fifty Shades Darker, which occupied the shooting schedule up to around Days 32-34. Those three days were devoted to mostly closed-set shooting on the stages of North Shore Studios, where Christian's bedroom, closet and bathroom were built, along with his gym. A few days later, the stage would be made available for construction of sets for Fifty Shades Freed or other productions scheduled to utilize the space. Day 35 saw a split day, where characters common to both films lensed scenes from Darker and Freed.
Day 36 was shot in the popular West Oak restaurant in historic Yaletown, Vancouver, masquerading as the Bunker Club, where Ana goes to meet Kate (against Christian's wishes, given the increasingly dangerous situations confronting the newlywed couple) to discuss Kate's concerns that boyfriend Elliot has reunited with old flame, Gia Matteo. Production filled the trendy site with background, and included the five West Oak chefs among them.
Days 37-39 were scheduled with the final closed-set shooting taking place on the sets for Christian's apartment at North Shore.
The next two days (40 and 41) were filmed at the Cecil Green Park House, the mansion Christian springs on Ana as their future family home. Far from the dilapidated building in the book and film, the Cecil Green Park House is well maintained, so filmmakers had to work their magic to make it look like it had been abandoned for years. Design and greens departments had their hands full, turning back the clock to give the historic home the ragtag appearance detailed in the book and screenplay. Their efforts included: covering the modern drive with gravel and lining it with overgrown and unkempt shrubbery; Coates installing minor build-outs/walls to cover more updated architectural features; hanging/layering old wallpapers; temporarily 'distressing" interior surfaces with the application of dust, dirt, grime and cobwebs; strewing abandoned pieces of broken-down furniture about the place; and dressing oddly random windows with tattered and discoloured drapes.
Also a surprise to Ana, Christian has hired local architect Gia (who first makes herself known at their wedding), on site to share her plans for the renovation with the couple. Kebbel comments: 'What's fun in the scene, it's constantly walking that fine line between showing off her design and showing off for Christian. She assumes Ana is on the mousey side, and right off the bat, she's all eyes on Christian, which makes Ana uncomfortable. As the scene goes on, the tension builds. It's cat-and-mouse, and Gia believes she has the upper hand. Then, when Christian leaves the room, Ana steps up to the plate and protects her relationship with Christian, which then causes Gia to protect herself"and then, of course, cover it all with a smile."
More days of shooting mostly on Darker followed, dotted with Freed scenes taking place in a cemetery, a row of fashionable shops in Aspen (actually one complete build out and facades/partial facades created for boutiques located in West Vancouver's upscale Ambleside Village) and a pivotal scene with Ana in Christian's study. A splinter unit and aerial unit were also dispatched to Whistler to capture arrival footage and views from above.
Production returned to the same office space as Day 19 for Day 56"Jack Hyde, in disguise as a businessman and then maintenance man, enters the server room at Grey Enterprises and plants an incendiary device (the first of many acts of revenge against Christian Grey, his loved ones and his world). Days 57 and 58 were all about flight, with shooting at Boundary Bay Airport (standing in for SeaTac/Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) and aboard the Grey Jet (a Gulfstream G450, the flagship of the fleet for the past 12 years). Scene-work included Christian springing Kate, Elliot, Mia and José on Ana and their surprise getaway to Aspen, among others.
Days 60-62 took production and the cast outside of Vancouver to the Whistler, B.C. home of McLachlan (standing in for the Grey lodge in Aspen), which looks out at both the Whistler and Blackcomb peaks. All present were awed by the natural beauty. E L James recalls: 'What was wonderful was while we were in Whistler, we actually shot at Sarah's beautiful house, and we were honored because she came to see us. At a break, she sat down at the piano and, at production's urging, she played 'Possession""it's a song I included in the second book as one that Christian includes on the iPad he gifts Ana. It was just wonderful, such a treat for the entire cast and crew."
While set decorator Loucks had 'emptied the house," several pieces of artwork and McLachlan's 2004 Yamaha C75 grand piano were left to be included in the design"as one scene called for Christian to tickle the ivories and sing as well. Dornan had mixed feelings about sitting down at the piano, moments after the recording artist herself had serenaded the room. The performer remembers: 'Ten minutes later, I'm sitting up there, pretending to play the piano, and singing dreadfully. I was trying to push Sarah out of the door before I started singing." He laughs: 'I think she heard me rehearse a couple of times and might have made a choice herself to leave"which I don't blame her. But I think she wasn't there when I did a take, which I was quite pleased about because I was not good." (Those present commented that Dornan was 'not too shabby" a singer…)
As the house sits squarely in bear country, those participating in the Aspen scenes were given warning of a mother bear and her cub in the area, and to move about outdoors with caution.
Next up for the production was the highly anticipated wedding of Christian and Ana (Day 66), with the glass-and-wood structure of the Riverway Clubhouse at the Riverway Golf Course in Burnaby as the site. It was dressed to the nines by Loucks"with multitudinous hand-painted silk florals and custom lanterns utterly transforming the space. With the bride in her Monique Lhuillier couture and Rita Ora's Mia in Marchessa, filmmakers gave it all to present the wedding fans have hoped for.
On-hand were such familiar faces as Christian's and Ana's friends and immediate family (along with some staff), including Ana's step-father, Ray (Callum Keith Rennie), Ros Bailey (Robinne Lee), Gia Matteo and others. Tunes were spun by DJ Kiss (American Jakissa Taylor Semple). For the big bouquet toss, Johnson was stylishly outfitted in a pantsuit by Stella McCartney. Per E L James: 'It was fabulous to see everyone decked out in their wedding finery"and see Christian so happy, and Ana as well."
For Dakota Johnson, the experience was a first. She supplies: 'I married Jamie Dornan 14 times that day. It's a funny thing in itself to do a wedding scene and to wear a wedding dress and say all the marriage jargon, but even more silly to do it with him. We both could not remember our vows for the life of us and kept losing it with laughter during takes. It was really great to have the whole cast on set that day though; that is always such fun."
After filming additional significant sequences for Fifty Shades Darker (specifically, the masquerade charity ball), it was finally time for Dakota Johnson to get in touch with her inner action hero, as Days 74 and 75 were slated with Jack Hyde's plan to once and for all destroy Christian's charmed life. For many, these were scenes that had been looked forward to the most.
Eric Johnson recalls: 'The scenes were intense. So we're doing the final showdown between Ana and Jack Hyde. She's brought ransom money to rescue Mia, but it's not the money Jack is after, and I start laying into her and kicking her in the stomach. This guy is horrible. At our first take, I'm not supposed to actually kick her. I'm just kicking at the air, and my line is, -You think you can humiliate me?' Then I kicked the air with such gusto, enthusiasm and internal rage of Jack Hyde that my other foot came with me and I ended up flat on my back. There was an intensity there and it ended up with me flat on my ass, totally humiliating myself."
As one of the targets of Hyde's villainy, Mia transitions from Christian's playful younger sister to a woman in deep peril. Ora appreciated the depths to which she was able to take her character. 'I loved the entire experience of acting in this series. It definitely is another world from my music. I appreciated the thriller side of things in Freed, and how different filming those scenes was. When Mia's kidnapped by Jack, it is obviously terrifying for her." Still, the performer laughs, 'Even though Jack Hyde is pretty scary, Eric is a sweetheart in real life."
As logic (and filming) would dictate, a few days later, production found itself inside the University of British Columbia's Pharmaceutical Sciences building, dressed as the hospital that receives Ana following her near fatal treatment at the hands of Hyde. Multiple scenes involving family"along with key scenes of Christian coming to terms with his future as a husband and possibly father"were captured.
Days 82 to 93 showed production at its most agile, volleying between expository scenes in both features"two days on Darker, two days on Freed, then a succession of single days on each title. Finally, as had been custom on the initial film, the most intense of the intimate scenes in the Red Room were scheduled for the final days of shooting in Vancouver (Days 94 to 97), with production wrapping in Canada on Monday, July 4, 2016.
The Beginning & the End: A Honeymoon for the Ages
The final chapter offered something that was such a refreshing twist for the production. Producer Dana Brunetti says, 'In Freed, we open up with a flashback of the wedding, and then we get to go on the honeymoon with them to the south of France and then to Paris, and get to enjoy the beginning of their new life together."
Producer Viscidi observes, 'We couldn't have planned this better. It's like we've gotten through all of the emotional work, all of the extensive, complicated film scenes and big extravaganza moments; and then, it was nice to finish all that, get on a plane, all come here and be able to relax at Paloma Beach.
Filming the honeymoon, they're running through the streets of Paris, off to a town called Roquebrune. These scenes are not only enjoyable for the characters, they're enjoyable for the crew to escape the rain of Vancouver and a hundred days' shooting."
James Foley found joy in the personal, when he explains: 'The most special thing for me is how Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson were still laughing with each other. We shot a scene on the balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower, Day 103, and they were still giggling and enjoying each other. That, of course, is the essence of the movie and the fact that they were able to have that kind of chemistry"it's the sweetest thing."
All thoughts of relaxation aside, production was indeed in France to work, starting with Day 99, where shooting took place on Paloma Beach, named after Paloma Picasso, as her father and their family used to holiday there"a small paradise on the French Riviera, away from a lot of the customary flash associated with the area, on the exclusive peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Scenes there included sunbathing and jet skiing. (Okay, so maybe a little relaxation in with the hard work…)
Day 100 saw the couple aboard the 164-foot chartered yacht Malahne, an Art Deco craft built in 1937 and lovingly restored in 2015 (non-forthcoming reports put the renovation cost somewhere in the neighborhood of £44 million). At one time owned by Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel, the Malahne served as production headquarters for the making of Lawrence of Arabia, and also played host at one time to such glitterati as Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas and Jack Nicholson. The period interior is by Guy Oliver, who also executed the staterooms at the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.
Cast and crew traveled in from Monaco, where they were housed, to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the seaside village between Nice and Monaco. Water ferries then shuttled cast and 35 crew out to sea; rough waters urged the captain to later reduce the number of production crew onboard for safety. Aerial footage was also captured of the glorious yacht in motion, as well as jet-ski activity.
Montage scenes were on the call sheet for Day 101, with shooting taking place in the medieval village or commune (a French civil township) of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which dates back to 970 A.D. and lies between Monaco and Menton (where shooting took place later in the day). Scenes of the honeymooning couple were largely made up of kisses between the two framed by the glorious architecture of the seaside village, including a panoramic view of the Riviera as seen from atop the highest point of the village's castle, or la forteresse.
For Jamie Dornan, the French schedule represented somewhat of a homecoming. He explains: 'When I was growing up, we used to go camping in the south of France. I did my first movie there, and we shot for two months. Modeling, I spent my fair share of time in Paris. So I was looking forward to the end of the shoot"there is a bit a work, but there's also jet-skiing and lying on the beach. It was just outstanding to shoot the montage scenes"having romantic moments in some of the most beautiful places in the world."
Later in the day, closed set filming took place in a second-floor room of the nearby Musée des Beaux-Arts De Carnolès in Menton, replete with arched windows and balcony, and redressed by designers Coates and Loucks as a hotel room in the South of France. The Musée is housed in the former summer residence of the princes of Monaco (Palace Carnolès) and boasts a collection of paintings from the 13th century up to the present, bequeathed by its former owner, Wakefield Mori, to the city of Menton.
The next-to-last day of principal photography, Day 102, took place in perhaps the grandest location utilised by production"the Palais Garnier, or the Paris opera house. The iconic structure, built from 1861 to 1875, boasts several locations that the Freed production team were more than happy to exploit: the romantic splendor of the white marble Grand Staircase (a late Ana and Christian hurriedly make their way to their seats); the magical mirrored hall of the Grand Foyer (the couple pass; also, later, it features in a nightmare of Ana's); and the Auditorium itself (the reverse shot of them enjoying the aria from Madama Butterfly).
Day 103"the last day of shooting, and the final scenes to be done in the entire trilogy"was scheduled to be one of the longest (if not the longest) days of filming on the schedule, beginning and ending with exterior shots during 'magic hour"…what better way to capture the magic of some of the most venerable sights of the City of Lights serving as backdrop to the couple at the center of one of the most popular love stories told in popular culture. On a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower, Christian presents Ana with a charm bracelet marking every 'first" in their relationship up to that point; they escape the rain into a local café; and they ride bikes through the Arc de Triomphe and past the Louvre.
This was especially poignant for director James Foley: 'When we shot at dawn at the Louvre, the police stopped all traffic that might've been going through"just so we could have a totally intimate scene where the two of them are riding their bikes around the grounds of the Louvre. Nobody else is around. Christian and Ana are totally alone in Paris."
For the deceptively simple balcony shot"planned for filming just as the sun was starting to set"location found a normal apartment with the billion-dollar view in a residential building. The single elevator (designed for two people, max) made hauling all of the necessary filming equipment up to the space a tedious and time-consuming affair. Conversely, set up for the sunrise bike ride was a straightforward effort, but the wait for sunrise seemed to stretch for hours…giving those present sufficient time to reminisce about the last 102½ days of filming (while standing between the Arc and the Louvre and presented with the marvel of silent and empty Paris streets). For both shots, the results more than made up for any/all extra effort to achieve them.
Designer Coates sums: 'The last two days of our Paris schedule were actually in Paris"the opera house, the Louvre, these amazing locations and those magical lights at night. It just seemed the perfect way to end this movie." Perhaps speaking for everyone, screenwriter Leonard reveals: '-Fifty Shades' is a story for our times. It's a classic love story"the romance of a broken man redeemed by love. But it's also -Beauty and the Beast,' plus it's got all these mythic things going on. But it's told with such immediacy and such humanity, with such honesty, and I think that is what people have responded to. Now a movie is not the same as a book"there are lots of different voices in a movie"but we've pulled it off and told the story that Erika set out to tell."
Director James Foley muses: 'This was the first time I've shot anywhere in Europe, but it's funny"when I was in film school, I was focused on French cinema from the New Wave to the present, so I saw many, many films before I ever visited France. I still have this romantic idea of drinking wine in the countryside…but it was thrilling to be here and not be a tourist. To be a worker in the streets doing cinema, because French cinema has always been my biggest influence.
'At the beginning," he concludes, 'I wanted very much to not have that -post-card view' of Paris. I thought, -No Eiffel Tower!' But then…it's right there, and it's so beautiful, and we caught it at just the right height and in the perfect light…we're all very happy."
For those who had been on the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey since the beginning"from the first day of shooting Fifty Shades of Grey, to the last day of shooting both Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed"completion of the entire trilogy provided immeasurable amounts of satisfaction. Dana Brunetti reflects: 'I am extremely proud to be part of this whole project, and the fact that it's turned into a worldwide phenomenon"it's become part of pop culture"it just makes it all the more an amazing, never-to-be-repeated experience."
E L James is her characteristic best when she says: 'The reason I'm doing this is for the fan base. These books came out of fandom, and I absolutely understand what it is to be a fan and how sometimes things don't deliver. All I want to do is keep my fans happy. For me, the strength of the story is that beauty steps up to face the beast and she's gentle, kind and compassionate, and she heals him. Love heals all. I mean, it's terribly corny in a way, but it seems to work in this particular instance."
Mike De Luca appreciates how James has never forgotten the audience who embraced Christian and Ana as their own. He ends: 'What amazes me about what Erika has done is her ability to translate this passion for and dedication toward her fans. Every decision we made in this trilogy has been about how best to serve the story that the audience needs to see on screen. They have been her touchstone, and, more than almost any other creator I know, Erika keeps giving back to those who first gave to her."
Christian Grey, Dornan himself, closes with what this character and this series means to so many: 'There is such enormity of this project"of these books and characters; they are important to people. It's exciting to be involved in something that means so much. Potentially the only time in your career that that'll happen"something with this much scope, this much attention, this many fans. Everyone had a very strong opinion of who Christian Grey was. For many people, I wasn't the exact image they had in their heads"but I liked that, fighting against that a bit, you feel you've got something extra to prove. It's a pretty unique role, in that respect, to be involved in something that is very much for the fans, something that is so meaningful to people."
Fifty Shades Freed
Release Date: February 8th, 2018