Zach Galifianakis has been cast as the male lead in the upcoming film adaptation of of the bondage-themed Fifty Shades of Grey series.
According to a report on Deadline.com, the comedian known for his playful role in The Hangover trilogy will tackle the the character of Christian Grey, the billionaire entrepreneur with a devious sexual life.
The move marks the second time producers have recast the role, which had previously gone to Sons of Anarchy‘s Charlie Hunnam and subsequently to Irish newcomer Jamie Dornan, who bowed out of production yesterday because of a family emergency.
The choice has puzzled most Hollywood observers who see Galafianakis as an A-list comedy star, but an unknown commodity in drama and an unlikely sex symbol. But Galafianakis reportedly lobbied hard for the role and sees it as a stepping stone to a new career path.
“Zach has been looking to make the transition to dramatic roles for quite some time now,” says a source close to the actor. “He’s hoping his work in Fifty Shades will be like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting or Bill Murray in Lost in Translation — a breakthrough performance that will establish him as more than just a funnyman.”
Between Two Burns
The Fifty Shades of Grey book series is a three-part erotic romance that has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide. It is credited with bringing BDSM culture into the mainstream and reviving a moribund publishing industry desperate for mega bestsellers.
The film versions are eagerly anticipated and are expected to blockbusters for Focus Features and Universal Pictures. Some fans, however, worry that today’s casting announcement could dampen their enthusiasm for the project.
“I dunno. The thought of Zach Galifianakis rubbing baby oil on a woman’s freshly spanked behind doesn’t really turn me on,” says Juliette Anderson, a housewife and Fifty Shades superfan from North Dakota. “And what about all those make-out scenes. How’s he gonna pull that off with his beard?”
“Just the thought of this has ruined masturbation forever,” says another devoted fan. “I literally feel the ability to climax dying inside of me … Besides, Zach is too funny to be dominant. Sex shouldn’t be funny. It should be as painful as possible.”
Galifianakis is receiving some unexpected support, however, from the series’ author E.L. James.
“I think it’s a fantastic choice,” she told Variety. “I originally conceived the Christian Grey character as someone furry and hilarious. In later drafts he became more clean-cut — but in a way this is more fitting.”
The first installment of the Fifty Shades trilogy will start filming in Vancouver next January and is set to be released in August 2014.