Samantha “Sam” Taylor-Johnson (born March 4, 1967) is an English filmmaker and photographer. Her first feature film was Nowhere Boy,  a film about John Lennon’s childhood. She is also the director of the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Taylor-Johnson is among a group of artists known as the Young British Artists. She is married to actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who was the star of her film Nowhere Boy.

Sam Taylor-Johnson Early Life

Sam Taylor was born in Croydon, Surrey, England in 1967 to David and Geraldine. She also has a younger sister, Ashley, and a maternal half-brother, Kristian. Her parents divorced when she was 9 and her family left the London area for East Sussex. Samantha attended secondary school at Beacon Community College, which is now known as Beacon Academy.

Sam Taylor-Johnson Career

Taylor-Johnson began her career in the field of fine art photography in the mid-1990s. Her exhibitions mainly centered around multi-screen video work, including works such as ‘Killing Time,’ ‘Travesty of a Mockery,’ and ‘Pent-Up.’ Her work landed her shows around London and also came with critical acclaim. She won the Illy Café Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale and was nominated for the 1998 Turner Prize.

Taylor-Johnson created a wraparound photomural around the scaffolding of a London department store in 2000 which included photos that referenced famous works of 21 cultural icons. Two years later she was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create a video portrait of soccer superstar David Beckham. Her work ‘Crying Men,’ which depicts many Hollywood celebrities crying, also became one of her most well-known projects. In 2006, she had a survey exhibition at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art at Gateshead. That year she also contributed a short to the British version of ‘Destricted,’ a film that contains a series of shorts that explore the intersection of art and pornography. Taylor-Johnson also created a short film titled ‘Love You More,’ which premiered in 2008.

The big screen called Taylor-Johnson’s name when she was selected to direct a biopic on the childhood of legendary Beatles singer and songwriter John Lennon titled Nowhere Boy. The film premiered at the London Film Festival as the final feature in 2009 and was later released to the general public on Boxing Day of the same year. The film received positive reviews and gave Taylor-Johnson a BAFTA Award nomination in 2010.

2011 saw Taylor-Johnson working on two major collaborations. She directed the music video of R.E.M.’s song “Uberlin,” which starred her then-fiancee Aaron. She also worked with Solange Azagury-Partridge on the short film Daydream to help promote Azagury-Partridge’s new jewelry collection. Taylor-Johnson went back to her photographic roots in 2014 with an exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery that depicted some of the most exclusive private rooms in Paris.

Taylor-Johnson beat out a list of big-name directors to land the directing role for the film adaptation of E.L. James’ massively popular novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The film, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, will premiere in February 2015 to much anticipation from the book’s fan base. The film will be the first in a trilogy, with the second film on slate to premiere in 2016.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Taylor-Johnson said once she came in to discuss directing the film with the studio and James, there was no going back. “The minute I said the words Fifty Shades of Grey,” she said, “it was like I’d gotten on to a bullet train and I couldn’t get off.” She also told them that although there were some difficulties filming, she knew she had to stay the course and in the end everything would work out well. “I kept trying to remind myself that they hired me for a reason,” she admits. “Some people said to me, ‘I’m surprised you haven’t quit.’ I was like, ‘Why would you think I’d quit?’ I never quit anything. Not without a fight.”  She said of James that they had “battled all the way through. She’d say the same. There were tough times and revelatory times. There were sparring contests. It was definitely not an easy process, but that doesn’t mean to say that it didn’t come out the right way.”

Sam Taylor-Johnson Personal Life

Taylor-Johnson has won two fights against cancer in her life. In 1997 at the age of 30, she survived a late-diagnosed form of colon cancer. In 2000 she once again had to fight, this time with breast cancer. Since then she has been cancer free without any remission. Sam told Vanity Fair magazine that “once you’ve experienced the kind of fear I’ve experienced (from cancer), the fear of taking on something big like fifty Shades is a silly fear, that’s just fear of your own ego.”

In 1997, Taylor-Johnson married art dealer Jay Jopling. They had two daughters together, Angelica (1997) and Jessie Phoenix (2005). After 11 years of marriage, the two announced that they would separate in 2008.

Sam began to develop a relationship with Nowhere Boy star Aaron Johnson shortly thereafter. Taylor-Johnson told uInterview in an exclusive interview in 2009 that she felt Johnson “embodied the spirit and intensity of Lennon” at the auditions for the role. “I saw a lot of people and no one really came to the audition with that ability to carry such a role. When he (Aaron) arrived… he came in the room as Lennon and that was pretty impressive for a first casting.” From there, things came to place quickly for the two. She said their relationship didn’t evolve during the filming, as she felt both of them were “at work” when shooting the movie. However, she says after the filming was over, the two began to fall in love. At the premiere of Nowhere Boy in October 2009, the two announced their engagement.

Sam married Aaron on June 21, 2012. They both took the last name Taylor-Johnson in the process. The couple has two daughters, Wylda Rae (2010) and Romy Hero (2012).

Taylor-Johnson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2011 for her service to the arts.,

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