The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey: two literary sensations that have whipped readers into a frothy frenzy. The librarians of the world must be (very quietly) ecstatic.
Last weekend the first film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling book series about dystopian teenage blood-sport massacred the competition at the box office, raking in an astronomical $152.5 million and taking its place as the third biggest opening weekend of all time. Jennifer Lawrence’s headstrong heroine Katniss Everdeen shot her way into the hearts and wallets of moviegoers the world over, as well as onto our newsstand cover. (Subscribers will receive a slightly steamier cover featuring our exclusive story on Fifty Shades of Grey, the massively successful erotic novel that has everyone talking, if perhaps only in hushed tones.)
Even the folks who were banking on The Hunger Games being a success were shocked by how many fans and not-yet-fans alike crammed into multiplex seats to watch Katniss fight for her life. “This has exploded beyond anything we could have imagined,” says director Gary Ross. “There are days where it feels like we’re in the middle of some national media event that has nothing to do with entertainment. We keep looking around trying to figure out how this could have actually happened.” Lionsgate is aiming to release the sequel, Catching Fire, around Thanksgiving 2013, but everyone will be returning to work much sooner. “It’s fantastic to finally have the movie out in the world and to see all of these people who love it,” says producer Nina Jacobson, who first picked up the rights to Collins’ novel back in 2009, “but at the end of the day we’ll roll up our sleeves and it’s on to the next one.”
Even as The Hunger Games heats up movie theaters, another literary wildfire is threatening to turn Kindles into kindling. Copies of Fifty Shades of Grey have been flying off shelves and into the hands of millions of women — and possibly tens of men. EW has the first Stateside interview with press-shy author E L James (that’s a nom de plume, by the way), as well as the full story behind how the sexy novel went from unpolished Twilight-inspired fan fiction to a full-on phenomenon.
From her perspective, creating a runaway word-of-mouth success wasn’t all that difficult. “I came up with a story and I wrote it,” James told EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum. “I read an interview with Stephenie [Meyer] where she said, ‘You’ve got to start at the beginning.’ So I did that.” Now Universal and Focus Features have picked up the movie rights for reportedly close to $5 million. It may seem a bit unbelievable, but James understands her book’s appeal. “It’s fantasy,” she says. “It’s a romantic fantasy story. That’s it. It’s just a fun read. I don’t see it as erotica. I see it as a contemporary romance. Yes, it’s quite graphic, but when people fall in love they have sex. Well, actually, they have a lot of sex. In the beginning. So that’s what this is about. It’s for ordinary women who like some spicy sex.”
For more on The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, March 30. You can order extra copies of our covers by clicking to the right.
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