Dakota Johnson on The Lost Daughter, Fifty Shades of Grey & Chris Martin – The Hollywood Reporter
Dakota Johnson walks into the Tower Bar in West Hollywood, a location she picked and one that provides a juxtaposition of previous Hollywood provenance (it was as soon as Bugsy Siegel’s condominium) and new millennial stylish. The identical could possibly be stated for Johnson, who hails from Hollywood royalty because the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson and granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, however who has a mode and profession strategy all her personal.
On this chilly October afternoon, Johnson has simply come from her home within the Hollywood Hills that she purchased in 2016 (she and her associate of 4 years, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, just lately moved into their shared Malibu property as soon as owned by Ryan Kavanaugh, however she’s utilizing the Hollywood pad right this moment to atone for script studying and different work). She is sporting a lush inexperienced knit gown, purple velvet Gucci purse and black leather-based jacket, a tattoo of the phrase “heaven” peeking out from below the sleeve. The ink is latest.
“I used to be pondering, ‘What if this life is heaven, and that is nearly as good because it will get? Then what?’ ” she explains as she sips an iced espresso with almond milk. “As a result of throughout COVID, I began to really feel fairly darkish. It felt inspiring to embrace [that existential question] otherwise. And to be extra conscious of what I can do in every little minute to make issues really feel higher for me and the individuals round me. And that’s actually only a alternative. It’s only a choice.”
Earlier than she made her approach to our desk on the terrace, she stopped to speak together with her Fifty Shades of Gray director Sam Taylor-Johnson and MGM film chairman Michael De Luca, who produced the $1.3 billion movie trilogy. The second symbolizes the actress’ previous, one which noticed her prevail as Anastasia Steele in one of many extra scrutinized casting processes in latest reminiscence. However as an alternative of parlaying Fifty Shades‘ success — it made historical past again in 2015 with the largest-ever opening for a female-directed characteristic — right into a filmography targeted on field workplace, Johnson opted for a unique path.
“I believe it’s actually sensible when actors who attain that degree of ubiquity and will springboard into extra standard, mainstream success keep disciplined about working with high quality administrators,” says De Luca. “Dakota has been actually sensible about ensuring she’s at all times aligned with high quality administrators. Then, the whole lot’s at your disposal — industrial motion pictures, attention-grabbing and provocative indie movies. Now she will have all of it.”
And refreshingly, whereas different actresses of her technology seem scripted once they plug their initiatives on TV, Johnson typically affords a refreshing zero-fucks-to-give reprimand of the established order. In an trade with Ellen DeGeneres that went viral in 2019, the speak present host complained that she wasn’t invited to Johnson’s thirtieth celebration. “Truly, no. That’s not the reality, Ellen. I did invite you and also you didn’t come … ask all people,” she stated flatly. It was a transfer that Drew Barrymore was nonetheless praising two years later when Johnson appeared on her speak present, eliciting large laughs from the actress.
Johnson, 32, is actually Hollywood’s subsequent technology and poised to have all of it in a method that eclipses even her well-known forbears, with the end result of a slow-burning pivot that involves fruition with 4 upcoming movies she shot in the course of the COVID-19 lockdown. First up is Venice Worldwide Movie Pageant breakout The Misplaced Daughter, which Netflix will launch Dec. 31. Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal and primarily based on Elena Ferrante’s 2006 best-seller, Johnson offers a haunting efficiency as a younger lady drowning in ambivalence about her position as a mom. However she wasn’t the plain alternative for Gyllenhaal.
Again within the fall of 2019, Johnson learn Gyllenhaal’s script and set her thoughts to touchdown the position of Nina. “I hadn’t ever learn ladies written like that,” she remembers. “Nina is struggling, she’s disappearing. To have this lady whose inner panorama is so completely different than what she’s projecting, that was actually, actually particular. Since you see her, and nobody is considering that lady’s thoughts. I’m not a mom, however I do know what it feels prefer to be scared or to be like, ‘Will I be a superb mom?’ However for some motive, there’s this stigma round speaking about that. And there’s a stigma round having simply the considered, ‘What if I walked out that fucking door? For every week or a minute for a cigarette.’ However you’re not alleged to say that out loud. Why? It’s so human and so relatable.”
The 2 ladies met for lunch at a small cafe in downtown Manhattan after Johnson reached out. Gyllenhaal, who had by no means seen the Fifty Shades motion pictures, thought her concepts have been compelling however had been skeptical about casting her — till sitting down together with her.
“Inside 5 minutes, we have been speaking about essentially the most intimate, weak elements of being ourselves, being ladies on the planet and inside. And that’s how Dakota is,” Gyllenhaal remembers. “I’ve by no means had every other expertise together with her. She’s simply type of not concerned with something besides that type of very intimate, actual dialog. And I’m additionally up for that.”
Within the movie, Olivia Colman performs Leda, a yin to Nina’s yang as an older lady who has taken the reins of her life, though it prompted ache to herself and her household. Holding one’s personal reverse an Oscar and Emmy winner like Colman is not any straightforward job. Because of this, Johnson finds herself within the awards-season dialog within the supporting actress race.
“She’s somebody that I hope to by no means drift away from in my life,” Johnson says of Colman. “We have been texting this morning, and she or he’s great to be round on a regular basis. This film is admittedly intense, however the minute we weren’t rolling, it was giggles and silliness and laughter. Each day after work, we might go swimming and have wine and dinner. I believe a part of the explanation why there’s such an vitality on this movie is as a result of it wasn’t like we have been at all times on this twisted, fucked-up, miserable mindset. We have been in a position to play. So we might go to those actually excessive locations inside the scene. Then the minute we’d name ‘lower,’ Olivia and I are taking a look at furnishings on-line and laughing and bullshit.”
The Misplaced Daughter is simply one of many divergent movies set to bow over the subsequent yr that provides 50 shades of Dakota. Additionally on the horizon is Carrie Cracknell’s interpretation of Persuasion, with Johnson as protagonist Anne Elliot, essentially the most unbiased and arguably nuanced of all of the Jane Austen heroines.
The earlier yr additionally discovered the actress tackling a brand new position totally, that of producer. Two years in the past, she launched TeaTime Photos with former Netflix govt Ro Donnelly and quietly constructed a slate of some 25 initiatives, together with two completed movies, the Tig Notaro- and Stephanie Allynne- directed Am I OK? (the lesbian coming-out drama has been submitted to Sundance) and Cooper Raiff’s Cha Cha Actual Clean, which revolves round a mom and her autistic daughter.
Donnelly and Johnson, who’re equally tattooed and appear like sisters, met in 2016 by means of a mutual buddy. Their initiatives are actually arrange throughout city, together with TV collection Cult Following (Johnson will star alongside Riley Keough, her finest buddy since age 15) and Mad, Dangerous, and Harmful to Know at MGM with De Luca (the movie facilities on an an identical twin who tries to steal her sister’s “good” life).
“I believe what drew us to one another was, we’ve got this identical style that was very particular,” says Donnelly, a local of Eire. “We’ve this bananas slate that’s so thrilling, as a result of I imagine she will do something; I’ve seen it. I’ve seen her do take after take after tackle set, and she or he’s the actual deal. She’s an actual artist, and so artistic in each capability that I really feel we’ve solely scratched the floor with what we’ve seen from her.”
As a baby, there was no “aha” second when Johnson realized her calling. “Performing was at all times — actually at all times — what I wished to do,” she says. “Even after I was so little and I’d be on set with my mother, it was a deep craving to do it. I wished to take a look at all people doing their jobs. I couldn’t get sufficient.”
In these youth, she obsessively watched motion pictures, the identical one twice a day day by day. First it was Mary Poppins after which The Wizard of Oz after which Dwelling Alone. She will nonetheless go body by body and recount what everybody’s carrying and what their traces are. Griffith lastly caved in to her 10-year-old daughter’s pleas and allowed her to play a small position in her then-husband Antonio Banderas’ Loopy in Alabama.
“I used to be enjoying my mother’s daughter, and my little sister [Stella Banderas] was in it as effectively. It was a household affair. However I took it very critically,” Johnson says. “After that, I didn’t work till I used to be 18 or 19. If it have been as much as me, I’d’ve left faculty. However my mother and father wished me to complete, which was ironic as a result of the primary half of my life was touring and by no means going to high school and being with a tutor. I didn’t go to a full yr of college till I used to be 11, and that was in San Francisco as a result of my dad was filming Nash Bridges.”
There, she excelled academically however then was pulled out to maneuver again to L.A. and enroll in yet one more faculty. After that, there have been 4 extra colleges. “Possibly it was destabilizing, however I by no means checked out it that method,” she says. “I used to be raised by plenty of individuals, my mother and my dad after which stepparents and nannies and tutors and mates and lecturers after which mates’ mother and father and boyfriends’ mother and father. I wished to be taught from all people. And I nonetheless am like that. I’m grateful to my mother and father and my loopy life as a result of the one motive I’m the best way I’m is due to how I grew up. And that got here with seeing some gnarly issues as a child, having to take care of grownup content material at a younger age and in addition having a public life at instances. However then additionally on the lighter facet of that, issues that have been actually stunning and privileged and academic and the journey and the artwork and the artists. It was each: It was darkish, darkish, darkish, darkish, and it was gentle, gentle, shiny lights.”
As for her mother and father’ edict to complete highschool earlier than pursuing appearing, Johnson harbors no resentment. “I’m joyful. I believe all of it goes because it’s alleged to.”
On the age of 18, she signed with supervisor Jason Weinberg. Subsequent, she added WME agent Andrew Dunlap. In a Hollywood rarity, she stays with each to this present day. (She’s additionally with the identical publicist, Robin Baum, whom she’s identified since she was 6 years previous, when Baum was representing Griffith and Banderas.)
“I wish to develop with individuals. I’m not concerned with stepping on individuals’s shoulders to get someplace,” she says. “I care a lot about trusting individuals and being trusted as a result of this trade, it thrives on collaboration. You possibly can’t do it by your self.”
It didn’t take lengthy earlier than Johnson landed her first position as an grownup in David Fincher’s The Social Community, which De Luca produced with Dana Brunetti. (The pair went on to provide the Fifty Shades trilogy.) “I bear in mind Dana and I being blown away by simply her temporary look in The Social Community,” De Luca says. “Even in that one scene she has with Justin Timberlake, we thought she actually was fairly compelling. So having labored together with her, we have been speaking about her for Fifty Shades. And simply actually having the entire weight of that franchise fall on her shoulders and making that character three-dimensional for it was fairly wonderful.”
Throughout her first Fifty Shades audition, she was requested to ship a monologue from Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. She learn the script and was excited by Taylor-Johnson’s imaginative and prescient of a stripped-down model of EL James’ guide that harkened again to 9½ Weeks, Adrian Lyne’s 1986 cult erotic thriller.
“I couldn’t discuss it to anyone. No person in my household knew,” Johnson notes. “I used to be forged [and] I bear in mind I spoke to Emily Blunt, and I used to be like, ‘Ought to I do that trilogy? As a result of I wish to have a extremely particular profession, and I wish to make a sure type of movie. And I do know that that is going to vary issues.’ She was like, ‘Fucking do it if it feels proper. Simply do it. At all times do what you wish to do.’ “
Issues did change, specifically the script (a number of writers have been introduced in to carry it extra according to James’ erotic fantasy), and Taylor-Johnson inexplicably wasn’t introduced again for the second movie (the director battled creatively with James). Nonetheless, Johnson has no regrets.
“I really feel like I haven’t been pigeonholed into something [because of the role],” she says. “I assume I might have gone in a sure course, however that’s simply not what I used to be concerned with.”
What did curiosity her was persevering with to work with auteurs like Fincher and Taylor-Johnson. And her selections that adopted Fifty Shades signaled that she prioritized high quality over stardom. Name Me by Your Identify director Luca Guadagnino turned a champion in Johnson’s profession when he forged her in his 2015 psychological drama A Larger Splash. Guadagnino had been trying to find an actress to play the movie’s sultry 17-year-old pretending to be a 22-year-old, Penelope. An agent buddy slipped him an early secret promo reel of Fifty Shades, and Guadagnino stopped in his tracks.
“I noticed a component of mysteriousness and fierceness and in addition a stupendous type of timeless and traditional face, and an actress,” remembers Guadagnino, who then met with Johnson at his dwelling in Italy. “I instantly was struck by her intelligence, her depraved humor, and all of these components have been precisely what I used to be on the lookout for in Penelope but in addition in somebody with whom I wish to set up a robust relationship. She turned certainly one of my finest mates.”
Guadagnino went on to develop the script for his 2018 supernatural horror remake Suspiria particularly for Johnson. “As an actress, I like the alternatives she’s making as a result of she’s doing one thing very clever and holistic,” he provides. “She’s not on the lookout for a personality, interval. She’s on the lookout for an ideal character that may be on the identical time a part of an ideal mission to be concerned with.”
Because the Fifty Shades trilogy performed out, Johnson took smaller roles in movies that featured prime expertise, like Scott Cooper’s 2015 Johnny Depp starrer Black Mass and 2019’s The Peanut Butter Falcon, reverse Shia LaBeouf, the latter a shock indie hit that earned over $23 million worldwide. “I don’t take note of the noise,” says Johnson, who practices Transcendental Meditation every day. “I take note of if the script is nice and the individuals concerned are nice.”
Some noise is inconceivable to dam out. Like the facility of the #MeToo motion and the clamor of cancel tradition, which have swept by means of Hollywood lately and put so lots of her former male co-stars, like Depp, LaBeouf and Armie Hammer, in jeopardy of by no means returning to the occupation following abuse allegations and which, for some, enable no alternative for redemption.
“I by no means skilled that firsthand from any of these individuals,” she says. “I had an unimaginable time working with them; I really feel unhappy for the lack of nice artists. I really feel unhappy for individuals needing assist and maybe not getting it in time. I really feel unhappy for anybody who was harmed or harm. It’s simply actually unhappy. I do imagine that folks can change. I wish to imagine within the energy of a human being to vary and evolve and get assist and assist different individuals. I believe there’s positively a significant overcorrection occurring. However I do imagine that there’s a method for the pendulum to seek out the center. The best way that studios have been run up till now, and nonetheless now, is behind. It’s such an antiquated mindset of what motion pictures ought to be made, who ought to be in them, how a lot individuals ought to receives a commission, what equality and variety appear like. Typically the old-fashioned must be moved out for the brand new faculty to come back in. However, yeah, cancel tradition is such a fucking downer. I hate that time period.”
On this fall afternoon, Johnson is debating whether or not to catch an Eternals screening (“Chloé Zhao is a genius”) or maintain a deliberate dedication together with her mom. Household time has been scant throughout COVID. She spends as a lot time as doable together with her grandmother, Hedren, and stays near her prolonged tribe of half- and stepsiblings. “I didn’t see my dad for a very long time as a result of he lives in Montecito and is in his 70s, and we wished to be secure,” she says. “I noticed my mother a bit. It’s been bizarre. If I’ve been working, I can’t actually be round my mother and father as a result of they’re older. However my mates and my associate [Martin], we’ve been collectively quite a bit, and it’s nice.”
Like every couple world wide, she and Martin have been watching Squid Sport. “It’s so intense,” she enthuses. “It’s confusingly fucked up as a result of it’s joyful at moments after which it’s horrifying. And that’s a extremely attention-grabbing combo.”
Being at dwelling affords Johnson the type of anonymity that has been elusive since her Texas delivery to 2 of Hollywood’s greatest stars of the ’80s. Now, as one half of a famed couple, she is hounded by paparazzi, even within the COVID period. “They’ve graduated to being sneaky, sneaky vermin into pests you can see. They’re invisible germs. They’re like COVID, horrible and lethal,” she says. “They disguise in vehicles. In the event you’re going to have that job, at the very least do it with some integrity. Get out of your automobile and take an image. It’s actually horrifying to by no means know for those who’re being photographed. It’s psycho. However then it’s like, ‘You selected this profession, take care of it.’ However no, nobody ought to must take care of that. Fortunately, I found out methods to evade them, and I’m not gifting away my secrets and techniques. However actually it takes quite a bit to have a personal life.”
It’s one thing that creator Elena Ferrante, which is a pseudonym, has managed to do regardless of international efforts to unmask his/her/their identification. Johnson says that Gyllenhaal has corresponded with Ferrante and obtained a blessing. Past that, nobody is aware of something concerning the good thoughts behind The Misplaced Daughter. “The factor that’s actually cool is that she could possibly be a girl. She could possibly be a person. She could possibly be two ladies. She could possibly be a person and a girl, which completely turns this feminist gaze on its head.”
For now, Johnson is taking a break to benefit from the fruits of her productive lockdown earlier than diving again into the grind. She and Donnelly have sufficient initiatives lined as much as maintain her busy by means of a subsequent generational altering of the guard. She has an Amazon movie within the works with Euphoria director Augustine Frizzell and is creating a guide adaptation that will mark her characteristic directorial debut. Again in 2013, she appeared within the collection finale of The Workplace, which was poised to arrange a derivative collection that she would topline. It by no means got here to be, which doubtless modified her trajectory.
“If the whole lot else simply falls away, perhaps you’ll discover me in that Workplace spinoff that nobody desires to observe,” she says, laughing, earlier than turning critical. “I don’t know in what world that will’ve labored for me creatively. I’ve discovered that when one thing is profitable, even when there’s nothing left, they only maintain making an attempt to wring out the towel of story. Typically issues want to finish once they’re supposed to finish.”
This story first appeared within the Nov. 3 difficulty of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click on right here to subscribe.