Producers Mike De Luca and Dana Brunetti have won a pitched competition to produce “50 Shades of Grey,” the best-selling erotic novel that sparked a bidding war in Hollywood, Universal Pictures and Focus Features announced Monday.
De Luca and Brunetti beat out a slew of top Hollywood producers to win the rights to the fast-tracked project, including Imagine's Brian Grazer, Double Feature Films’ Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher and Stuber Productions' Scott Stuber.
Universal, which itself won a bidding war to make the movie, took the unusual step of allowing author E.L. James to pick the film's producers.
James has met several times with the big-name producers to see who was to her liking. In Monday's announcement James said she was "thrilled that Mike has joined Team Fifty,” adding, “[h]e brings a passion for and in-depth understanding of the characters and story, and a wealth of experience in making quality films.”
Also read: Why Hollywood Is Hot for "50 Shades of Grey"
De Luca, producer of “Moneyball” and “The Social Network” and New Line’s former president of production, now has the nod to turn one of the hottest publishing projects in the country into a franchise for the studio.
Brunetti had previously worked with De Luca on "The Social Network."
“Dana and I are both grateful and honored to be invited to join this team," De Luca said.
“At its core,"Fifty Shades of Grey" is a complex love story, requiring a delicate and sophisticated hand to bring it to the big screen,” Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley said. “Mike and Dana’s credits more than exemplify what we need in creative partners and we’re glad to have them as part of our team.”
He has a long and close friendship with Langley, whom De Luca hired at New Line and mentored there.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features prevailed in an intense bidding war for James' trilogy last March, beating out Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros., Fox 2000 and others for the opportunity to make the films.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" traces the relationship between a recent college graduate and a billionaire businessman. It originated from a piece of "Twilight" fan fiction and, thanks to its steamy plot line, has since sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. In March, Universal and Focus announced that they had acquired the rights to the "Fifty Shades" trilogy of books, which also includes "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed."