Two-time Oscar nominee Gus Van Sant has shot a steamy sex scene featuring Alex Pettyfer as Christian Grey in a bid to direct "Fifty Shades of Grey," the film version of the erotic bestseller, individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap.
The scene, insiders said, is when the ingénue Anastasia Steele loses her virginity to Grey.
Van Sant previously directed "Promised Land" and "Milk" for Focus Features, which has the rights to EL James' novel along with Universal Pictures. Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti are producing.
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Insiders stressed that Pettyfer was cast as Grey just for the tape, not the movie, though Universal just got into bed with the 23 year-old actor on its sexy remake of "Endless Love," which he is currently shooting in Atlanta. TheWrap was unable to confirm the identity of the actress cast at Steele, the impressionable young woman who falls for kinky billionaire Grey.
Universal and Focus have declined to comment on any list stories, long or short, though a Universal spokesperson said that the studio isn't out to directors or actors, nor have they commissioned any test reels. WME has also declined comment.
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Van Sant has not settled on a follow-up film since wrapping "Promised Land," which makes him available to begin working on the project as soon as writer Kelly Marcel delivers a finished draft of the script.
Van Sant was not officially asked by the studio to shoot a test tape. But doing so may indicate how badly he wants the coveted assignment.
Universal and Focus spent at least $3 million in a bidding war to crack the whip on "Fifty Shades of Grey," and they'll certainly be expecting the pop culture phenomenon to be a hit, and a franchise for the studio. Van Sant has only directed one film to cross the domestic $100 million mark — 1997's "Good Will Hunting" grossed $138 million in the U.S. — and only one more to cross the domestic $50 million mark, as "Finding Forrester" grossed $51 million in 2000.
Van Sant has long been considered a director who confronts themes such as sex and sexuality head-on, from his debut film the "Mala Noche" to the hustlers in "My Own Private Idaho" to Nicole Kidman's provocative dance in "To Die For" to serving as the executive producer of Larry Clark's explicit "Kids."
Van Sant's candidacy confirms the producers' intentions to hire a high-class filmmaker to deliver a tasteful adaption of the steamy novel. It's possible the success of Steven Soderbergh's male stripper movie "Magic Mike" and its appeal to female audiences is why Van Sant chose to use Pettyfer in his test tape.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" sold to Universal and Focus in March 2012, just two months after WME-repped Van Sant did Focus a favor by stepping in late in the game to replace his "Good Will Hunting" star Matt Damon as the director of "Promised Land," which Focus released to generally strong reviews in December.