Why Sam Taylor-Johnson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Romance Is Still Fifty Shades of Passionate

While outsiders may be bothered by director Sam Taylor-Johnson and actor husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson's 23-year age gap, the England-based couple have found all they need in each other.

By Sarah Grossbart Apr 20, 2024 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Aaron & Sam Taylor-Johnson Planning New Movie Together

Sam Taylor-Johnson and her husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson may just be proof that all you really need is love

Because 16 years into a romance that began when Sam, 57, directed Aaron, 33, in his role as Beatles legend John Lennon in 2009's Nowhere Boy they have all they need. They've got their daughters—Angelica, 26, and Jessie, 18, from Sam's 11-year marriage to art dealer Jay Jopling and Wylda, 13, and Romy, 12, the girls they welcomed ahead of their 2012 vows. "Four very strong, opinionated young women," as Sam recently described them to The Hollywood Reporter

And they have their home base, relocating to a five-bedroom, 16th century farm house in Somerset, England after spending their COVID years locked down in the Hollywood Hills.

Most importantly, though, they've mastered the art of shutting out the sort of speculation that began when a then 42-year-old Sam connected with her 18-year-old star. "There are times where it's uncomfortable," Sam allowed to THR of the attention. "Most of the time we zone it out and stay pretty private. We tend to retreat. Kids and school runs keep you pretty grounded."

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Together, they've quietly built a successful 12-year marriage. One that's already outpaced Sam's union to Jay, she recently pointed out.  

"So, if you think of it in that way," the Back to Black director put it to The Guardian, "then the age gap doesn't really make any difference." Certainly not to them, anyway. "It comes up on the outside perspective of people who don't know us," she explained, noting they've come to accept that some observers will always have questions. "We're a bit of an anomaly, but it's that thing: after 14 years you just think, surely by now it doesn't really matter?" 


What does hold significance, is the Calvin Klein spokesmodel's ability to balance her out. 

"He gives me that sort of stability, calmness," the London native continued of her fellow Brit. "I'm definitely the kind of frenetic, mad energy that needs someone to anchor me. Keep me a bit more grounded. Which he certainly does. He really loves being quiet, in nature. He's a real stay-at-home person."

Such was the case even when he was a teenager. 

Already years into his career when he auditioned for Sam in 2008, the Kick-Ass star noted to Rolling Stone U.K. this past March, "What you gotta realize is that what most people were doing in their 20s, I was doing when I was 13." 

So, yes, he understands that it might feel a bit expedited how quickly they went from colleagues to engaged parents-to-be, Aaron dropping to one knee in 2009, as he would later share with Harper's Bazaar, "a year to the minute after we met." He just doesn't get why anyone else really cares. 

"You're doing something too quickly for someone else?" he posed to Rolling Stone. "I don't understand that. What speed are you supposed to enjoy life at? It's bizarre to me."

Because he was certain that the director was his person pretty much the moment he spied her wearing "this white shirt that she still has, that I love," he told Harper's Bazaar.

He'd been preparing for the audition for the past six weeks, certain that it would change his life. And it did. But not because he nabbed the part of the iconic musician. 

"I knew instantly that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this person," he recalled to The Telegraph in 2019. "I knew I wanted a family with her, I knew I wanted kids, and a month later she was pregnant with our first child."

Wylda came along in July 2010 with little sister Romy following 18 months later. Five months after that, Sam—in a dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, the same designer Kate Middleton relied on for her vows—wed her Tom Ford-clad groom in Somerset, England. 

Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images

"If I had been cynical for a second, it wouldn't have worked," Sam noted to The Guardian. "If I had questioned anything, it would never have worked. I'm quite instinctual. I've gone feet first into everything in my life. I'm always, 'This seems amazing', and I jump straight in and go through the experience, whether good or bad. It's definitely a 'F--k it, let's go with it' approach. And I'm a great believer that the heart overrides everything. Love conquers all."

Not that the pair have had to navigate all that many hardships. 

Each have continued to nurture red hot careers with Sam behind the camera for 2018's A Million Little Pieces and a little film you may have heard of called Fifty Shades of Grey and Aaron's collection of roles in Godzilla, Tenet, Bullet Train, The Fall Guy and as a Marvel villain in Kraven the Hunter making him the presumed frontrunner to fill James Bonds' black loafers. But to them, nothing is more compelling than their private life at home. 

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

"We live behind walls," Aaron explained to Harper's Bazaar. "Literally, figuratively, and deliberately. You'll never see our children or any of our most personal moments on social media or in the press. We have our professional lives and our life together, and we keep them apart."

They did team up for A Million Little Pieces (after Nowhere Boy, she explained, "We always wanted to replicate that experience, to do something that had that type of intensity, to make another film together") but before that, said Aaron, he turned down more parts than he took. 

Though he revealed to Esquire last year that he was up for some roles in "big, huge" franchise films, "I wanted, purely, to be with my babies," he explained. "I didn't want to be taken away from them. I battled with what that would be like." 

Because despite collecting a Golden Globe in 2017 for his role in Nocturnal Animals, the day-to-day drudgery of being Dad feels even more rewarding. 

"In my opinion, the actor that goes job to job becomes f--king boring," he explained. "You know that someone's going to pick you up, take you to work, do your makeup, tell you, 'Here's your mark. These are your lines. You're f--king great!' And on to the next job. F--k off. I'm sure people dream of that. If this is what you want to do, that's great. It doesn't feed my soul. I enjoy the normality of things, the everyday stuff. Getting my kids ready in the mornings, taking them to school and activities—that's plenty. That feeds my soul."

As for the rest of the trappings, well, the kids have a fun time playing with his trophy. "It's quite funny," he told E! News. "They do like their acceptance speech, which is a lot better than mine, that's for sure. It just pops around the house. it's quite nice."

Quite nice is also an apt way to describe the romance that has seen the pair spend just a handful of days apart in their decade-plus together. Keep reading to learn more about their love, love, love. 

May 2009

Love at first read? “I wasn’t expecting anything that day," Sam Taylor-Johnson told Harper's Bazaar of future husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson's 2008 audition for her directorial debut Nowhere Boy. "Just to see a bunch of actors pretending to be John Lennon.”

The 18-year-old impressed in more ways than one—nabbing the role and eventually the director's heart. "I knew instantly," she later told The Telegraph of him nailing the read. "I could see how much research he'd done already just by the way he was standing and the few words he said."

October 2009

Though she would later tell Harper's Bazaar they "were very professional through the entire film," after they wrapped, she continued, "He told me he was going to marry me. We had never been on a date, or even kissed.”

Precisely one year after they met, he shared, "I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me.” The pair announced their engagement at their film's London premiere. 

June 2010

By the time he was 11, Aaron recounted to Esquire, he was already planning for a big family. So not only was he ready to embrace the role of stepdad to Angelica and Jessie, Sam's daughters with ex-husband Jay Joplin, but he was eager to add a few of their own. 

"I knew I was going to be a young father," he explained. "I knew I was going to have many kids.” The couple welcomed daughter Wylda in July 2010. 

December 2011

Receiving an OBE recognizing her artwork and photography from the future King Charles III at Buckinham Palace, Sam brought along Aaron and her eldest daughters. 

December 2011

A year and a half after Wylda's birth, daughter Romy joined the team in January 2012. "The great thing about Aaron is that he's happy not working and being at home with the kids while I work," the director told The Guardian in 2015. "We're actually fighting over it. He's like, 'No no, I like being an at-home dad, doing the cooking and the school runs.'"

October 2012

Months after their June wedding in Somerset, England, the couple (at the London premiere of Skyfall) revealed they'd decided to combine their last names into one. 

"I just don't see why women need to take the man's name," Aaron explained to the London Evening Standard. "I wanted to be a part of her just as much as she wanted to be part of me."

October 2015

Mrs. Taylor-Johnson will see you now. While promoting Fifty Shades of Grey, the director raved about her years-long romance.

"Being in an amazing relationship, having come out of a difficult one, it felt so good," she noted to The Guardian. "And I feel like that stability has enabled me to get on with doing this momentous project."

But, no, she never once considered casting her man as Christian Grey. "We both read it and knew right then that when she went into direct it, I wouldn't be the one to step into those shoes," he told Marie Claire U.K. "And that was fine. It didn't feel like one of us was like, "I really wanted to do that'...I'm obviously really, really proud of Sam and it was great to see her take that project and make it her own, and not have to feel like just because there's a role...I feel like I'm too young for that role anyway!"

January 2017

When the actor won his first Golden Globe, as the star of Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, he shouted out all of his girls. 

"I want to thank my wife for being there with me, supporting me through this," he said. "Thank you for putting up with me. Jesus, that was not very pleasant in this role, so you're my soulmate and I love you very much."

"I'm blessed," he continued. "I have four beautiful daughters: Anjelica, Phoenix, Wylda, and Romy, I love you all very much."

September 2018

Before teaming up for A Million Little Pieces, the duo teased their future plans. "We are definitely working towards something interesting," Aaron told E! News at the 2017 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. "Hopefully we can get it off the ground. I mean, this is the best director right here I'm desperate to work with again."

June 2022

Forgoing the traditional tin, the pair celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal. "Yesterday was the most beautiful day, summer solstice, our 10th anniversary," Aaron wrote, sharing the photos on Instagram. "We renewed our vows to one another and confessed our love in front of our nearest and dearest friends and family it was a celebration of love and joy!"

Echoed his bride, "10 glorious years. My incredible husband, father to all 4 girls. I love you, I love you, I love you."

April 2024

While the stars (at the London premiere of Back to Black) are aware others want to address their age gap, "When you're solid with someone in your own love," she told The Sunday Times, "you don't think about it." 

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