Chris Pine & Aaron Taylor Johnson Interview - Outlaw King
2014 Women Who Dare: Sam Taylor-Johnson
In fact, the story of young Anastasia Steele's psychosexual coming of age at the hands of BDSM-enthusiast billionaire Christian Grey has connected with so many people that theFifty Shades of Greytrilogy, which began life in 2010 as a piece ofTwilightfan fiction by British author Erika Leonard (who writes under the name E L James), has now sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. "I think the whole of people's psychology and where they are in life interests me, and the decisions you make that take you on particular journeys to different places," says Taylor-Johnson, who was short-listed for the Turner Prize in 1998. "And thenFifty Shadesbeing about a tale of a woman going on this sort of sexual exploration and empowerment—which is the way I see it—that definitely interests me."
Taylor-Johnson is at home in London for a few days, but she has been camped out in L.A. since the end of summer finishing work onFifty Shades,which is due out on Valentine's Day, with her husband, the actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson; their girls, Wylda Rae, four, and Romy Hero, two; and Sam's daughters from her 11-year marriage to the art dealer Jay Jopling, Angelica, 17, and Jessie Phoenix, 8; in tow.
Sam (formerly Taylor-Wood) and Aaron (who used to be just plain Johnson) got together after they worked together on her first feature film, 2009'sNowhere Boy,in which he played a young John Lennon.She was 42, and he was 19. Sam's marriage to Jopling, with whom she'd made up one of the British art world's shiniest power couples, had recently ended, and the 23-year age difference between her and Aaron became a frequent talking point. But two kids and a wedding later, Sam, now 47, and Aaron, 24, seem to have outlasted the chatter.
They were married in June 2012 at Babington House in Somerset, England. Aaron wore Tom Ford, and Sam wore a dress by Sarah Burton, which held special significance for both bride and designer. Months before his death, in February 2010, Sam's friend and Burton's boss, "Lee" Alexander McQueen, joined Sam and Aaron for dinner. "Lee was a close friend, so when I met Aaron, Lee obviously wanted to meet him and vet him," Sam says. "We had this really fun dinner, and at the end of the evening Lee said, 'I so see you two getting married and staying together forever. I want to make your wedding dress.' So I said, 'Yes, of course!' " McQueen was excited, and shared the news with Burton; not long after, he took his own life. "After that terrible thing that happened, Sarah sort of picked up the mantle and said, 'I'll make it in the spirit of him,' " Sam says. "It was quite an emotional experience for both Sarah and me to go through the process of making that dress. There were lots of tears. But it was nice to feel in wearing that dress that he was part of the ceremony in a way."
The closeness that Taylor-Johnson has fostered in her friendships and family as an adult is a stark contrast to her childhood, whether it's in the way that friends like Elton John and Stella McCartney rallied around her after she was diagnosed with cancer not once but twice after Angelica's birth or in her determination that her family travel together whenever she or Aaron have to go away for work. Her early years in South London were far from idyllic: Her father left when she was nine to ride with the Hells Angels, and her mother moved her and her two siblings to a commune in East Sussex, only to leave too, when Sam was 15. "The way I was grew up gave me a slight fearlessness and a sense of independence," she says. "There are things about it that have definitely informed me. And then, as a parent, it's done the opposite. It's made me feel much more protective. There are boundaries in my kids' lives that I don't think I had."
Taylor-Johnson recently unveiled another project that proved a different kind of departure. In 2010,Harper's BazaarU.K.'s current editor in chief, Justine Picardie, who was writing a book about Coco Chanel, brought Sam and Aaron to the designer's apartment, at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris. The space had been preserved just as it was when Chanel died in 1971, so Sam proceeded to photograph designer's furniture, books, ornaments, and possessions to create a portrait of the woman through her environment. The images were shown at Saatchi Gallery earlier this fall. "It was fascinating because it was a completely unique way of tackling a portrait," Taylor-Johnson says. "We have a sense of this woman that's quite different from how you'd imagine her knowing what we know about her."
It wasn't the first time, though, Taylor-Johnson had gotten lost in someone's house. In 2004, she was invited to a luncheon at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen, with a guest list that included J.K. Rowling, Tamara Mellon, Vivienne Westwood, Cherie Blair, and Margaret Thatcher. "It was this group of inspiring women in Britain, so it was very humbling because there were women there who'd worked for St. John Ambulance for 40 years, and the first woman subway driver," she says.Taylor-Johnson had gone to the event with another of her friends, Kate Moss. During a break they left the room where the lunch was being held and inadvertently drifted into an area of the palace that wasn't open to the public, ducking in and out of hallways before making their way back. "Kate and I were running around the corridors," she says. "It was just sort of one of those crazy, fun moments where you think, 'Wow, we're running the halls of Buckingham Palace like a couple of naughty schoolgirls.'"
Now Taylor-Johnson is preparing to venture into other new territory withFifty Shades."I met with James L. Brooks, the director"—of movies likeTerms of EndearmentandAs Good As It Gets—"and I asked him, 'What would you advise me?' she explains. "He said, 'The most important advice I can give you is that you should change your socks at three o'clock every day.' So I thought, 'I'm going to try this.' It's funny because it makes you stop and take five minutes where you look like you're doing something, but it gives you some thought space. I've actually found that to be really good advice. I've gotten such off-the-wall, strange advice from people …" She pauses to consider this for a moment.
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