By Sharon Waxman
LOS ANGELES, March 23 (TheWrap.com) - The heat continues to rise around the sexy trilogy, "Fifty Shades of Grey," as its writer and her agent prepare to accept formal bids for the movie rights to the novel on Friday evening.
Writer E.L. James and her agent Valerie Hoskins met with another handful of producers while holding court at Soho House on Thursday, after meeting with major studios out on their lots all week.
Friday will be decisive, since the studio bids will begin to be accepted in the evening after a final series of meetings.
Major studios including Universal, Sony, Paramount and Warner Brothers have been making their case that they would be best suited to make the book into a film.
And major producers including Brian Grazer, Adam Shankman, Scott Stuber, Doug and Lucy Wick and Stacy Cramer have pleaded their cases to produce the movie.
The e-book book tells the story of a college student, Anastasia Steele, who finds herself in a sexual relationship with a 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey that involves submission, sadomasochism and a lot of hot action.
It's an Internet-era "9 1/2 weeks," the erotic thriller with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke that became a cult hit in 1986, and studios are prepared to shell out major dollars to get it.
"I think it will get insane," one producer predicted about the studio bidding. "It will go for an upfront fee between $3 and 5 million."
This project is upending Hollywood's usual way of doing business of late. Instead of choosing a producer first, the writer will first choose the studio that will distribute it.
If bidding does stray as high as $5 million, that will be a staggering figure for a novel that is on The New York Times bestseller list, but whose ultimate popularity is still unfolding. (After all, MGM just announced on Thursday that it lost money on the movie version of the wildly popular novel, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.")
But veteran observers say agent Valerie Hoskins couldn't have timed her strategy better, stoking a bidding war on the very weekend when another literary property, "The Hunger Games," is poised to smash box office records.
It's become the must-have property. Apparently not only did Paramount show a video of its female executives extolling the novel, but according to one insider they turned their conference into a "Red Room," after a sex room in the novel.
Another studio offered to fast-track the movies - there may be as many as three, since it's a trilogy - but Hoskins wasn't interested in that in particular.
"They see the property as continuing to grow as the publisher sells it. It's only going to get bigger, there's no need to force a movie out," said one person involved in the process.
But they will force the bidding up, that's for sure. (Editing By Zorianna Kit)