Fifty Shades of Grey - Christian and Anastasia

Charlie Hunnam’s sudden departure from Fifty Shades of Grey sparked rumors that the erotic romance might not be able to make its planned summer 2014 release date. And now, it has indeed been pushed back to Valentine’s Day 2015 — but not, Universal insists, because of the casting change. Or not just because of it, anyway.

Fortunately for disappointed fans, Universal is taking advantage of that six-month delay to get the hype machine started nice and early. The first pics of stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in character have just hit the web. Read more about the delay and soak in the new images after the jump.

As reported by EW, Universal explains that the decision to move Fifty Shades from August 1, 2014 to February 13, 2015 was an effort to avoid the steep competition next summer. The original date pitted Fifty Shades against Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was pushing even more movies into August than usual.

Moreover, the new date allows Fifty Shades to take advantage of the Presidents’ Day holiday, which falls on February 16 in 2015. Other titles currently scheduled for that weekend are the Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Longest Ride and SpongeBob SquarePants 2.

Universal claims that it probably would’ve changed the date even if Hunnam had stayed on board. Maybe that’s true, or maybe it’s just spin, but either way Valentine’s Day seems like a better fit for this steamy romance anyway. The film is expected to begin shooting in December under the direction of Sam Taylor-JohnsonKelly Marcel adapted E.L. James‘ bestselling book, and Patrick Marber and Mark Bomback have done additional work on the script.

In the meantime, anyone dying to see kinky billionaire Christian Grey (Dornan) and naive college student Anastasia Steele (Johnson) get it on will have to settle for these fully clothed, in-character portraits from EW. Click through to the end of the gallery to see the pair’s EW cover, and read more about the movie at the magazine’s website.

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