"50 Shades of Grey," the erotic bestseller by English writer E. L. James that sparked a bidding war among studios, has sold to Universal Pictures and Focus Features, Universal said Monday.
Studios spent the weekend fiercely competing for film rights to the book, which has been called "'Twilight' for mommies."
No producer has been attached to the project, and an individual close to the project told TheWrap that the writer will be deeply involved in many aspects of the film's development — and that Universal wants her to be.
James is a former television executive.
Also read: Why Hollywood Is Hot for ‘50 Shades of Grey’
"The 'Fifty Shades' Trilogy is a one-of-a-kind series of stories and we're thrilled to be collaborating with E.L. James to bring them to the big screen, Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley said in a statement. "Like so many readers all over the globe, we've fallen in love with 'Fifty Shades of Grey.'"
James Schamus, CEO of Focus, said that "at its core, this is a romance of the most emotionally resonant, but delicate, order."
Langley led her studio's charge to acquire the project. At Sony, co-chairman Amy Pascal personally pitched the studio's bid.
James and her London agent, Valerie Hoskins, were in Hollywood last week, letting studio chiefs and producers pitch them.
Producers who pitched them included Brian Grazer, Adam Shankman, Scott Stuber, Doug and Lucy Wick and Stacy Cramer.
The steamy novel made the New York Times best-seller list. It tells the story of a college student, Anastasia Steele, who finds herself in a sexual relationship with a 27-year-old billionaire, Christian Grey, involving submission, sadomasochism and a whole lot of hot times.
Follow-ups to the book, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed," explore the couples' deepending relationship.
The book is the No. 1 bestselling trade paperback and the No. 1 bestselling eBook. "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" are the No. 2 and No. 3 bestselling eBooks.
Vintage plans a new trade paperback edition of "Fifty Shades of Grey" on April 3. The other two novels have a paperback release date of April 17.
TheWrap reported March 23 that rights to the novel could sell for as much as $5 million.