Interview's Transcription by Us
"The best way to describe my relationship with Jamie…" Dakota Johnson begins, haltingly, “is the one way I can’t. You see he’s, he’s…” Like a brother? “He’s like a brother!” she winces, breaking out into a low laugh. “I mean, we tease each other constantly, and we’re always goofing around. I trust him, I love him and I’ve been trying to find a way to put that relationship into words, but, honestly, I feel it’s closest to a brother-sister relationship. Still, I can’t say that, can I?”
It’s a tricky one, admittedly, what with all the naked romps, the spankings, the floggings and the ingenious usages of duct tape the pair have indulged in on screen over the years – ever since they were both cast in the film versión of EL James’ mega-hit, Fifty Shades Of Grey. Not quite your traditional sibling relationship, is it? It’s also not what I expected to hear. After all, from the day filming on the trilogy began, gossip has swung wildly from the torrid affait Dakota and her married Northern Irish co-star have supposedly been having, to (more recently) the ill-concealed hatred the pair allegedly feel for one another. The truth is a lot less scandalous, but a whole lor more amusing, and it takes the 27-year-old daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson a minute to stop chuckling. “Seriously, though, we were lucky: from the moment I first met Jamie, way back when, we both had this feeling that somehow it would work with each other.” The elusive chemestry we hear so much about? “Yeah: it’s like you’re both hearing the same music. So for us it worked out extremely well – and thank God. Can you iamge being in those movies with someone who sucked? Because, at this point, Jamie and I are so used to each other that it’s not even uncomfrotable any more, just exhausting. It’s more a case of: ‘Well, here we go again!’”
I know plenty of women who would be happy to experience the kind of “simulating sex for seven hours straight with Jamie Dornan” Brand of exhaustion, but Dakota sounds genuinely weary, and when the final scene of the trigoly wrapped last summer (Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed – nor to be released until 2018 – were filmed back-to-back), the actress declared herself “over it.” “It’s not that it has put me off entirely,” she explains, when I ask whether she’s no won a sex-scene-free diet. “But I’m ready to do other stuff. And maybe they will be sexy [projects], or maybe they will be the complete opposite. But I do know that I’m ready to move on.” No one could blame her. After all, it was three years ago that Dakota first donned the BDSM gear to play eminently corruptible student Anastasia Steele to Jamie’s corruptor-in-chief, Christian Grey, and with the trilogy now completed, the actress “feel[s] funny talking about it now.” “It’s like I’m on another planet.” She explains.
“Or 40 years older, suddenly. Because I’ve moved on so much since the films were made, and the work I’ve done since is completely different, so it’s kind of bizarre. But I guess that’s the glory of making movies: all that diversity.”
When audiences on both sides of the pond pack out movie theatres on Valentine’s night – just after Fifty Shades Darker is released on February 10 – they’re going to want to know how Christian manages to win Ana back, whether their relationship can move from kinky to vanilla, whether it’s actually posible to have the biggest soul-splitting orgasm in existence in a packed lift – and if so, how to acomplish this without the old lady to your right noticing. But they might also wonder, as I did throughout the first film, where the actress brave enough to take on one of the most controversial roles in movie history at the start of her carrer will be in then year’s time. And whether she can ever imagine a time when she thinks: “I wish I hadn’t done those films.” “It comes in waves,” she says quietly – and I’m surprised by her honesty. “But this project is not going to be my swansong. It has put my life on a path that I didn’t plan to go down, but I do feel proud of it. And the films have allowed me to do so many different projects and travel so much. In the end, Fifty Shades has plopped me in a world that I really wanted to be in."
Given her talent (the director of Fifty Shades of Grey, Sam Taylor-Johnson, was mesmerised by Dakota’s brief appearance in The Social Nerwork, describing her as “a seene stealer”) and her lineage (not only are her parents two of the most respected actors in Hollywood, but her grandmother is Tippi Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds). Dakota would have founf her way into that world one way or another. Her mother’s advice has always been to “go for the thing that makes your heart beat the fastest”, she tells me, “and most of the time those projects are, like Fifty Shades, the most unconventional, controversial and difficult to accomplish.” Difficult for her family to watch too, I should think? Have her parents seen any of the films? “They haven’t,” she admits, “because it’s such a tricky thing. It’s too uncomfortable for them. It’s one thing if a film has one sex scene in it, but with this, a large part of the premise is the are of their sexual relationship, and I think that’s a little inappropiate for my family to watch. But it was Ana’s emotional are I was drawn to, the transformation she goes through in the movies – and how exploring her sexuality and her inner strength turns her from young woman into grown woman.”
It would be easy to draw parrallels with Dakota’s own emotional are over the past few years. In recent films (particularly 2015 drama Chloe and Theo, and last year’s How to be Single), she has shown steel beneath that surface fragility that’s still there when you meet her. She may claim to be able to walk down the street unnoticed (“I’m one of those people who walks around like and invisible person. People literally run into me, and it’s always been that way”) but the overnight calebrity Fifty Shades brought Dakota has taught her a lot: namely, not to try and be someone you’re not – something she discovered when she found herself getting a little overzcalous on Instagram. “Because there I was and it was making me feel like I was being exploited – only by myself. I was literally exploiting myself,” she says with a laugh. “And I felt so raw and vulnerable, and it was all my own fault. Which is why I don’t get that need to offer up information about myself to strangers. I couldn’t care less what models are doing on Instagram. I make movies bacause that’s my passion, and people can interpret them as they please, but anything else for me is way too much.”
Dakota tells me she still has insecurities to iron out. She’s working on conquering the self-doubt that still “plays out like an orchestra at full volumen every time I step on set – even if I know I’m capable of pulling a part off.” And yet, within the past three years, Dakota has somehow founf the time to set up her own production Company and start work on three different film projects – “one about eugenic sterilisation and the Supreme Court” – but this is just the start, she assures me. “There are quite a few stories I’ve heard about or read that I’m excited to make into films, and what’s so great is that now I don’t have to wait around for someone to tell me that something is posible – I can just make it happen myself.” Jennifer Lawrence’s campaign to highlight the gender imbalances in Hollywood has been an inspiration to her, she says, and if there aren’t enough good solid female leads out there, “I´ll just make those films myself,” she shrugs. “Because Hollywood is really fucking brutal, and if you want to see the movies you want to see, and hear the stories you want told, you have to do it yourself. Everyone is out for box-office numbers: I mean, how many more superhero movies are they going to make? So, I guess being able to create my own stories is the fire beneath my creativity – and that will probably end up being the biggest way my life has changed since Fifty Shades.”
Hang on a second. I’m all for gender quality in every industry, but I’d Heard that the biggest change in her life was a newfound – and entirely aestheric, of course – appreciation for the world of sex toys? “Oh, some of that stuff is just so beautiful!” she agrees. “When we first started on Fifty Shades, that wasn’t a world I was privy to at all, and I soon found out there are really grimy and nasty, and then there are really beautiful, intricate and chic toys. Actually, whole aspects of the BDSM world are truly beautiful.” And I’m assuming that just like Ellen Degeneres, who showered the actress with high-end kink when she appreared on her show last year, every friend and fan now makes a point of sending her snakeskin body straps, premiun horsehair whips and patent leather ball gags? “Weirdly, that hasn’t happened at all,” Dakota laughs. “Or maybe they’re all being delivered elsewhere?” Maybe. Perhaps her agent’s gradage is currently home to the biggest sex.toy collection in Hollywood? “With 10, 000 vibrators in it! Maybe you’re right.”
Out time is up, and there’s one last question – a question it was perhaps too soon for Dakota to answer on that Ellen show last year – that I want to ask. Given her single status, do men nw find her too intimidating to approach? “I still can’t tell…” she muses. “I don’t think I’m a very intimidating person, so I think anyone who took the time to talk to me would very quickly realise what I am.” Which is? Dakota seems surprised by the question, as though the answer were self-evident. “Well, just a goof.”