Profiles: Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson, stars of Fifty Shades of Grey

Profiles: Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson, stars of 50 Shades of Grey

We measure up the two newly-announced stars of the 'mommy porn' adap against the roles they'll play

Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson have been announced as the two leads in the much-anticipated film adaptation of EL James best-selling erotic novels. Here's a brief rundown on what they've done so far.

Charlie Hunnam

Born: Newcastle, England, 1980 (33 years old)

You'll know him from...
Robots vs aliens blockbuster Pacific Rim, in which he played the pilot of a ginormo-bot tasked with punching the ruddy daylights out of behemoid extra-terrestrials. You might also know him as the central character in TV series Sons of Anarchy, about a crew of motorcycle outlaws.

Why he's a good fit for Christian Grey...
Jokes about motorcycle leatherwear aside, he just about fits the profile for the age gap between his character Christian (who's in his late 20s) and the protagonist, Anastasia Steele (who starts the books as an early-20s ingenue). The notion of an Englishman playing an American and seducing an American innocent fits a profile previously established by Robert Pattinson in the Twilight Saga – the books of which were the inspiration for the fan fiction from whence Fifty Shades of Grey originally spawned.

Who it could've been...
When artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson was announced as director, speculation was rife that her husband, Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson, might take the lead role, but he was always going to be a bit too young (one year younger, in fact, than the announced Ms Steele – see below). James Franco once said he'd be interested if Gus Van Sant got the directing gig – which, if you ask us, would've been a movie well worth seeing. Finally, Ryan Gosling was the top of a lot of people's wish lists, but he's also the top of people's lists for most things, so he barely counts.

Dakota Johnson

Born: Austin, Texas, 1989 (23 years old)

You'll know her from...
The bit in The Social Network where they introduce Justin Timberlake's character by having him exchange witty, well-scripted banter with a semi-naked girl (that's her). She had a similarly small role in 21 Jump Street (she played another member of the youngster cop contingent to which Jonah Hill and Channing Tatumwere assigned), and took a lead role in short-lived sitcom Ben and Kate last year.

Why she's a good fit for Anastasia Steele...
As you can see from the paragraph above, she's not exactly household name material, which means there'll be no baggage attached to Steele in the same way there would if, say, Kristen Stewart had taken the role. The majority of Johnson's previous roles have had at least some measure of sexuality involved (in Jump Street, she lusted over Channing Tatum; in Social Network, her whole appearance is a morning-after scenario), which will serve her well when it comes to exploring Anastasia's more adventurous side.

Who it could've been...
Anastasia was always likely to be a lesser-known face, so those who had Kristen Stewart or Scarlett Johansson on their list (a la Brett Easton Ellis) were indulging in some wishful thinking. Emma Watson was also considered a less-than-likely-but-still-interesting contenders, but that's worrying on a whole other level – is the world ready for Hermione in handcuffs?

Fifty Shades of Grey is due for release in August 2014.

Fifty Shades of Grey

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 2h 5min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
  • Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle
  • UK release: 13 February 2015

Despite its troubling gender politics and distinct lack of plot, the likeable Johnson brings nuance and charm to a paper-thin character; Dornan manages to offer a hint of humanity; and given the many constraints, this sleek, fairly trim and occasionally sensual adaptation is the best imaginable outcome.