Dakota Johnson has opened up about her experience filming the controversial ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy
Seven years on from the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson does not regret taking on the role of Anastasia Steele — but recalls just how “psychotic” the whole experience was.
“If I had known what it was going to be like, I don’t think anyone would’ve done it,” Dakota Johnson revealed in a recent cover interview with Vanity Fair. “It would’ve been like, ‘Oh, this is psychotic.’ But no, I don’t regret it.”
Dakota Johnson did not walk onto the set of Fifty Shades of Grey as an out-and-out newbie. Daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, she was no stranger to the glitz and glam of Hollywood and had also previously appeared in smash-hit The Social Network… but it’s no secret that the steamy film trilogy is what thrust her into the public consciousness.
Starring alongside Jamie Dornan in a film trilogy based on English author E. L. James’ erotic novel series of the same name, Johnson played the role of the innocent Anastasia Steele, seduced into a relationship with billionaire Christian Grey. Essentially, the movies follow the pair as they push the boundaries of pain and pleasure, and it caused quite the controversial stir at the time of its release.
Ahead of the upcoming release of her adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Johnson spoke to Vanity Fair about her feelings while on the set of Fifty Shades, a conversation the publication described as “an unburdening.”
“I’m a sexual person, and when I’m interested in something, I want to know so much about it,” Johnson admits. “That’s why I did those big naked movies. I signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making.”
Revealing that it was a combination of the studio, the directors and the author that caused problems on set, Johnson elaborated that E. L. James was the source of many issues while filming the trilogy.
“She had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen,” the actor continues. “There were parts of the books that just wouldn’t work in a movie, like the inner monologue, which was at times incredibly cheesy. It wouldn’t work to say out loud. It was always a battle. Always. When I auditioned for that movie, I read a monologue from Persona” — the Ingmar Bergman classic from 1966 — “and I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be really special.’”
Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy was originally set to take on the role of Christian Grey, and when he pulled out due to scheduling issues, Johnson scrapped the script entirely.
Though there are rumours that Johnson and Dornan are involved in some kind of longstanding feud, the How to be Single actress is quick to dispel that myth. “There was never a time when we didn’t get along,” she says. “I know it’s weird, but he’s like a brother to me. I love him so, so, so much. And we were really there for each other. We had to really trust each other and protect each other.”
Johnson smiles as she remembers the more outrageous scenes. “We were doing the weirdest things for years, and we needed to be a team … There are things that I still cannot say because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s career and I don’t want to damage anybody’s reputation, but both Jamie and I were treated really well. Erika is a very nice woman, and she was always kind to me and I am grateful she wanted me to be in those movies.”
“I was young. I was 23. So it was scary,” she says of the contract she signed. “It just became something crazy… There were a lot of different disagreements. I haven’t been able to talk about this truthfully ever, because you want to promote a movie the right way, and I’m proud of what we made ultimately and everything turns out the way it’s supposed to, but it was tricky.”
“We’d do the takes of the movie that [E. L. James] wanted to make, and then we would do the takes of the movie that we wanted to make,” Johnson says. “The night before, I would rewrite scenes with the old dialogue so I could add a line here and there. It was like mayhem all the time.”
When asked if she believes the movie could be made in today’s climate, Johnson responds that they probably couldn’t, but questions the logic behind this mindset. “What’s wrong with them? It’s about a specific sexual dynamic that is really real for a lot of people.”
“Look, it was great for our careers,” she says. “So amazing. So lucky. But it was weird. So, so weird.”
While the roving discussion covered themes ranging from bodily autonomy to professional endeavours, the conversation later veers into the widely discussed topic of Depp v Heard.
Many celebrities were roped into the legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard; Dakota Johnson’s name came into the conversation when a video resurfaced of her reacting to Depp’s infamous bandaged finger at a 2015 press conference.
Speaking on the video that quickly amassed over 3 million views, Johnson says: “I was like, ‘For the love of God, why? Why am I involved in this?’ … I don’t remember that at all, but please, take me out of this. Don’t let this go further. Can you imagine if I was called to the witness stand?
“I can’t believe that people are watching [the trial] like it’s a show. It’s like it’s a courtroom drama and my heart breaks. It’s so, so, so crazy. Humans are so f*cking weird. The internet is a wild, wild place,” Johnson concludes.