'Fifty Shades of Grey' director Sam Taylor-Johnson bows out of franchise

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    LOS ANGELES — Sam Taylor-Johnson will not be returning to direct the sequels to "Fifty Shades of Grey," she announced Wednesday night.

    "Directing 'Fifty Shades of Grey' has been an intense and incredible journey for which I am hugely grateful," she said in a statement to industry site Deadline in which she thanked Universal Pictures.

    Taylor-Johnson's $40 million adaptation of author E L James' erotic novel has grossed a staggering $558 million worldwide in just six weeks in theaters, but even before the film debuted, rumors circulated that she would not likely be the person ushering "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" to the big screen.

    Stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are expected to return for both sequels, which have yet to be officially announced.

    While it is nothing new for directors to exit franchises after the first film — "Twilight," ''The Hunger Games," and "Divergent" all made directing changes between their first and second installments — Taylor-Johnson and James' fraught on-set relationship was widely reported.

    Earlier this year, James, also a producer on the film, alluded to their conflicts, telling The Associated Press that she "had to fight for a lot of things really hard," which included a disagreement over the last line of the film.

    Still, in her statement, Taylor-Johnson made sure to note the "close and lasting relationships" she formed with the cast, producers, crew and "most especially, with Dakota and Jamie."

    She added: "I wish nothing but success to whosoever takes on the exciting challenges of films two and three."

    A representative for Universal Pictures had no comment.

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