If ever a novel could be described as review-proof, it is “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which, with its two sequels, has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide despite being ridiculed by virtually every critic who has read it. (Salman Rushdie, for one, said that it “made ‘Twilight’ look like ‘War and Peace.’ ”)

Turning the book into the much-longed-for film, a romance replete with spicy sex released just in time for Valentine’s Day, was a fraught undertaking, made even more complicated by the high expectations of its legions of opinionated fans. But adapting something so popular yet so derided, potentially X-rated and freighted with preconceptions was never going to be simple.

“It’s been hard all the way through,” said the director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, a British artist who had made just one feature film, “Nowhere Boy” (2009), and one short before being hired for “Fifty Shades.” The film stars Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, a clueless college student and hardware-store clerk, and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, her 27-year-old lover, a billionaire control freak whose exotic erotic tastes extend to whips, cable ties and other naughty accouterments not usually seen at the cineplex.

“It felt like a very tough job from the beginning, for many reasons,” Ms. Taylor-Johnson continued. Sipping water in the bar of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Columbus Circle the other day, she was a self-contained oasis of calm in the midst of the huge publicity operation — interviews at 10-minute intervals, publicists wielding clipboards and barking into their cellphones, suites filled with snacks for the flagging stars and functionaries — taking place around her.

“Taking such a beloved book to screen, figuring out what stays in and what goes, working so closely with the author, having such huge fan expectations — every single thing of it was challenging,” she added.

Negative rumors have been swirling about: Ms. Johnson and Mr. Dornan hate each other. Ms. Taylor-Johnson feuded endlessly with the book’s author, E. L. James. The sex is too graphic, not graphic enough or not sexy at all. The film is demeaning to women.

But the movie is enjoying tremendous advance sales — more, according to the ticket website Fandango, than for any other R-rated film in the site’s history.

How to handle the sex that consumes so much of the book was a puzzle. Leave too much out, and the fans would feel frustrated. Put too much in, and the movie would run afoul of the ratings system and potentially turn off conservative moviegoers. (It is rated R; in Britain, it has an “18 certificate,” which means no one under 18 is allowed to see it.)

Read more: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ the Movie, as a Fairy Tale

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