Some longtime Entertainment Weekly readers may be familiar with my 66-year-old mother, Joyce Bierly. A retired school teacher who saw Magic Mike four times in the theater, she’s popped up from time to time over the years, from awards show live blogs to the pages of EW when I was doing a Stupid Questions interview with Michael Bolton and we phoned her to ask how many buttons he should undo on his shirt for maximum hotness. (See photographic proof below.) Typing that, I now realize it comes as no surprise that she’s read Fifty Shades of Grey. I actually bought us both copies of the book a couple of years ago to read on vacation. I paged through it the first night while she finished up her latest Sherryl Woods novel or something and immediately called the book club off — but she read it anyway. And the two books that followed. In 10 days.
Because I work at Entertainment Weekly, she would occasionally ask me if I knew anything about the casting rumors she was reading about. I didn’t. When Charlie Hunnam’s name came up recently, I told her why that one might actually pan out: He’s done nude scenes before. He can play an extreme badass that you still like, as seen on Sons of Anarchy. The blockbuster Pacific Rim didn’t make him a household name as expected, but this film definitely will. Even though women do watch SOA, Fifty Shades of Grey will introduce him to a lot more of them. And he’s been kicking around long enough that I don’t think anyone in the industry would fault him for gunning for name recognition at this point — whether or not the film gets a better letter grade than Twilight.
So how does my mother — who’s really your mother — feel about the film now that the leads are officially cast? I phoned her. Here are her thoughts:
On Charlie Hunnam as Christian Grey:
Your mother: I was a little disappointed because I had pictured someone else in that part, that guy from White Collar. What’s his name?
You: Matt Bomer. He’s from Magic Mike as well.
Your mother: Yes! The movies never put who you think you want in roles, they put who they want, so it’s gonna be their job to prove to me that this guy is really Christian.
You: Did you know Charlie Hunnam’s name before this?
Your mother: No. But I’ve seen Sons of Anarchy, so I’d recognize him as someone from TV. But just looking at his picture, it’s okay. You can see it in his eyes that he isn’t all innocent, but yet his smile led you to believe that. It’s an innocent smile with the devil shown in his eyes.
Your mother: [Laughing] You’re awful. And he definitely has to get a haircut. I’ll live with blond hair, but he needs to get it cut. The way I pictured him from the book, he was kind of a conformist in the book, as far as his looks and his dress. But the way he showed his individuality was … in his personal life.
You: [Laughing] I love how hard you’re working not to say S&M.
Your mother: [Laughing] I hate you, you little sh–.
On Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele:
Your mother: I never heard of her. I had to look her up. I think it’s good in that respect, that there aren’t that many preconceived ideas of the roles that they’ve played before. So I’m not picturing them as somebody else necessarily. She does appear to have that blond, innocent idea of what the book portrayed Anastasia — is it Anastasia? — as. But there again, in my estimation, I thought someone like Emma Watson.
You: But she said she wouldn’t do it.
Your mother: Yeah, I know. Just like Armie Hammer* said he wouldn’t do it. I was kinda disappointed that he felt that way, that he was kinda degrading it, like, oh, he would never do that. It was just “mommy porn.” Mommies make the world go ’round. The point of it is you’ve got to look beyond the physical part of the story. It had to be so graphic in the first book so you could see how they both kind of changed for each other and came to a place where they both were comfortable in their actions to please each other. I liked it because they were such different people coming from different directions. It showed the growth of a relationship where they start at the far ends, and their differences kind of meld together, and they make a new normal for each of them.
You: Wow, mom.
Your mother: How’s that?! Whoo! Whoo! Whoo! Do I get paid for this? Is it $2 a word?
On whether she really wants to see serious sex scenes in the movie:
Your mother: Yes, of course. But you have to remember, you have to stress the whole story — more of their mental, emotional relationship. It shouldn’t stress the S&M, because they just won’t be able to show all that. [Laughs] If you go too far one way, it is gonna be porn. I think it’s gonna be very interesting to see how they develop their relationship because it was more than just the physical. I mean, when they had a baby in the third book, they both changed so much. He used the S&M as a means of being different. His relationship with her enabled him to get away from being a total controlling person and made him more ready to accept doing something for the other person instead of having that person always do something for him. … Yes, a check, please.
On what she’s most excited for now:
Your mother: I’m just anxious to see how they portray the first time that he — I don’t know whether he spanked her or he physically hurt her. It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. And I want to know who they’ll get to play the older woman — I forget what her name is [Elena Lincoln] — that he was sorta involved with. She’s the one who introduced him to S&M. She was, like, the one person he couldn’t get away from for a long time, and she resented Anastasia, and Anastasia was very leery of her. Seeing Charlie … maybe someone like Demi Moore. Demi Moore or Sharon Stone.
UPDATE: Your mother has now shared a shirtless photo of Charlie Hunnam on Facebook. So I think she’s onboard.
* You saw The Lone Ranger with her because, Johnny Depp is in her Top 3 (along with Nathan Fillion and Jeff Goldblum), so she does know Armie Hammer’s name.