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British artist Taylor-Johnson to direct '50 Shades' film

LONDON (Reuters) - British artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson was named on Thursday as the director of a film adaptation of EL James' hit erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey", ending months of speculation about the project.

News of Taylor-Johnson's appointment came from the British author who became the publishing sensation of 2012 when her erotic trilogy sold more than 70 million copies worldwide.

"I'm delighted & thrilled to let you guys know that Sam Taylor-Johnson has agreed to direct the film of Fifty Shades of Grey," tweeted James.

Taylor-Johnson, 46, made her name as a visual artist, nominated for the prestigious Turner prize in 1998 and whose works include a video portrait of a sleeping David Beckham that is on show in London's National Portrait Gallery.

She came to prominence in the film world with her 2009 feature debut "Nowhere Boy", the story of John Lennon's childhood in Liverpool before he joined the Beatles.

She garnered two BAFTA nominations for the film and last year Taylor-Johnson, formerly known as Sam Taylor-Wood, married the 23-year-old star of the film, star Aaron Johnson.

Taylor-Johnson said she was excited to be charged with the evolution of "Fifty Shades of Grey" from page to screen.

"For the legions of fans, I want to say that I will honor the power of Erika's book and the characters of Christian and Anastasia. They are under my skin too," she said in a statement.

The trilogy follows the sadomasochistic relationship of a 27-year-old billionaire, Christian Grey, and college student Anastasia Steele, gaining attention for its graphic sex scenes.

Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp, paid $5 million to secure the film rights for the trilogy in March last year.

No actors have yet been announced for the film although a host of names have been suggested for the lead roles.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)

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