There’s no safe word for drama. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy made headlines for its explicit sex scenes, but most of the friction happened off camera — fully clothed.
The tension began before filming even began, when Charlie Hunnam landed the lead role of Christian Grey. Many fans of EL James‘ books were vocal about their displeasure with the choice, taking to social media to offer alternate casting options. (Ian Somerhalder and Matt Bomer often came up in these discussions.)
“Not sure about the #50ShadesOfGrey casting, not seeing it,” Patti Stanger tweeted in September 2013. “I always thought it was [a Ryan Gosling] part hands down. Oh well!”
Just one month later, however, the Sons of Anarchy alum exited the franchise, citing scheduling conflicts as the reason for his departure. “The filmmakers of Fifty Shades of Grey and Charlie Hunnam have agreed to find another male lead given Hunnam’s immersive TV schedule which is not allowing him time to adequately prepare for the role of Christian Grey,” Universal Pictures said in a statement at the time.
When Jamie Dornan replaced the Crimson Peak star in October 2013, fans were seemingly less upset by his casting, but there was still plenty of controversy to come. When the first teaser launched in 2014, some Today viewers took issue with the fact that the R-rated erotic thriller premiered its trailer on a morning show that’s usually family-friendly.
After the first movie premiered in February 2015, the film met criticism from all sides. BDSM enthusiasts argued that Fifty Shades was an inaccurate — and at times offensive — depiction of their lifestyle, while some viewers slammed the movie for seeming to glorify emotional abuse. Other critics, meanwhile, just thought it was a bad movie.
Despite all that conflict, however, the trilogy’s two leads don’t regret participating in the series. “Look, put it this way: it’s done no harm to my career to be part of a movie franchise that has made more than $1 billion,” Dornan told British GQ in October 2021. “Every working actor would say the same thing. It’s provided — a lot.”
Dakota Johnson, for her part, said she’s still “proud” of the films, though she admitted that making them wasn’t always easy. “There were a lot of different disagreements,” the Lost Daughter star told Vanity Fair in June 2022. “I’m proud of what we made ultimately and everything turns out the way it’s supposed to, but it was tricky.”
Keep scrolling for a look back at all the Fifty Shades drama over the years.