Gus Van Sant, the director of Good Will Hunting and a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho might not seem like the sort who would be interested in directing a movie like Fifty Shades of Grey, but that was one directing job he was very interested in. He wanted the job so much that he decided to just go ahead and film a sex scene and use that as an audition piece, thinking that was the way to get attention.
As ideas go, it’s not the worst. Van Sant tells THR that he thought filming a sex scene would show how committed he was to the project, while also giving the studio and the book’s all-important author a real idea of what his version of the movie would look like. At least one of the actors was all for it, as Alex Pettyfer was interested in playing Christian Grey, and supported this approach. Van Sant said…
It was one of the sex scenes. I thought it was a way to get the author [E.L. James] to see my enthusiasm. It’s hard, in the ramp-up, to get people to understand where you’re going if you actually make the movie. Some people make sizzle reels. That might’ve been more the way to go. But Alex Pettyfer really wanted to do it, so I thought, ‘We can just do a scene.’ And we did. And we showed them.
It’s unclear what the reaction to the scene was, though Van Sant ultimately didn’t get the job, so it apparently didn’t impress enough. Sam Taylor-Johnson would be chosen to direct the first movie, but the experience was reportedly not a good one for the director or writer Kelly Marcel. Both clashed with book writer E.L. James over changes they wanted to make in the film adaptation, and neither returned for the sequels, with directing duties being taken over by James Foley.
Of course, it takes two to tango as they say, so one might wonder who the other party was that filmed a sex scene simply as a pitch. Unfortunately, Gus Van Sant doesn’t remember who Alex Pettyfer’s scene partner was, saying…
I forget her name. Ugh! She’d been in Nip/Tuck, I think. She had done some good work.
It is, unfortunately, impossible to tell, even assuming Van Sant has the show right, who the woman in question might be. Nip/Tuck wrapped its run in 2010, which would have been a few years before this scene was being shot. So if that was what she was best known for at the time of filming the scene, it may not be anybody we would recognize, though it's possible that's just where Van Sant saw her. Many people you would recognize did appear on the show during its run.
Gus Van Sant’s big shot to direct Fifty Shades didn’t work out, but kudos to him for going for it. Sometimes you just have to go for it and see what happens.