Ever since Universal Pictures and Focus Features secured the rights to author E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy in March 2012, the names of dozens of stars have been tossed around as possibilities to play romantic leads Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson were selected to play the parts on Monday, Sept. 2, beating out peers like Garrett Hedlund and Shailene Woodley.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hedlund was heavily courted by Universal Pictures. The 28-year-old reportedly passed on the project in July 2013 because he couldn't connect with the character. Producers had previously expressed interest in Ryan Gosling, though the feeling wasn't mutual.
Woodley is said to be one of James' early favorites. The 21-year-old didn't balk at the sexually charged material, but conflicting Divergent press commitments prevented her from taking the role. Elizabeth Olsen, Imogen Poots and Alicia Vikander were also considered. Felicity Jones was in the running to play Anastasia, but at age 30, producers reportedly felt she was too old to play a 21-year-old college student.
Fifty Shades of Grey is tentatively scheduled to begin filming in late October. Directed by Sam-Taylor Johnson, the movie is aiming for an August 1, 2014 release.
Not long after Hunnam and Johnson were hired, an online petition was started asking producers to recast the film with Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel. More than 18,000 signatures were collected in a matter of hours. Despite the backlash, a source previously told E! News that James is "very happy" about the selection of Hunnam, saying, "She is obsessed with Charlie's work!"
(E! and Universal Pictures are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)