Fifty Shades Of Dakota
In 2011 a genre-defining book was launched onto an unsuspecting audience, bringing BDSM themes to the mainstream like never before. That book was Fifty Shades of Grey, the first in a best-selling trilogy (a fourth book, Grey, told from Christian Grey’s point of view was released in 2015). The books have topped best-seller lists around the world, with Fifty Shades of Grey becoming the fifth best-selling book of all time, selling a staggering 100 million copies.
Tasked with the no small feat of bringing the trilogy’s female protagonist, the innocent yet curious, Anastasia Steele, to life on the silver screen was the little-known Dakota Johnson.
While not her first appearance in a big budget movie, (Dakota appeared in The Social Network (2010), Beastly (2011), 21 Jump Street (2010) and 2014’s Need for Speed with Aaron Paul), it was most certainly her most significant, and daunting, yet.
Anticipation of who would be cast in the roles of Anastasia and Christian was high, with social media rife with speculation. News of Dakota’s casting was confirmed, via Twitter, by the novel’s author EL James: “I am delighted to let you know that the lovely Dakota Johnson has agreed to be our Anastasia in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.”
From this moment on Dakota’s life was set to change forever.
Born into Hollywood royalty, it may seem like somewhat of an inevitability that Dakota was always destined for the silver screen. She made her first big screen appearance in 1999 aged just 10, acting alongside her mother, eighties superstar, Melanie Griffith in Crazy in Alabama and while she may not have been aware of it at the time, Dakota’s journey to success had begun.
Born in Austin, Texas, in 1989, Dakota is the daughter of 80s icons– Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Django Unchained) and Melanie Griffiths (Working Girl, Mulholland Falls). Her former step father is international movie star, Antonio Banderas (Evita, Puss in Boots) and rather befittingly for a child of superstar parents, Dakota’s early years were unconventional.
Spending her time travelling with her parents, who famously married and divorced - twice - from a young age Dakota was used to spending time on sets, making (and losing) friends and being surrounded by actors and directors.
Speaking of her childhood to Vogue magazine, Dakota said:
“I was so consistently unmoored and discombobulated. I didn’t have an anchor anywhere.” She continued: “I never learned how to learn the way you’re supposed to as a kid - I thought, why do I have to go to school on time? What’s the point when you’re living in Budapest for six months while your stepdad films Evita and you go to school in your hotel room? I was a disaster, and I thought for so long that there was something wrong with my brain. Now I realize that it just works in a different way.”
While acting was always an option for Dakota, she explored other interests before settling on pursuing her craft, including training in ballet until the age of 16 and carving out a career as a model.
Whether it was her Hollywood pedigree that initially opened doors for her in the world of cinema we’ll never know, but her mix of innocence, humour, intelligence and screen-loving good looks have proven her to be a box office, and industry, favourite.
Director, Luca Guadagnino who worked with Dakota on the 2015 movie A Bigger Splash, told www.anothermag.com: “Alfred Hitchcock said actors shouldn’t be intelligent because they are cattle to be used by the director,” he continued, “I am one of the greatest Hitchcock admirers but I have the contrary advice. I want very clever people and a capacity for surprise. Dakota is incredibly intelligent, with a determination and wit that’s very exciting. I think she has a big box of surprises that will go on for a long time.”
What was probably not a surprise, given the hype, was the box office success of Fifty Shades of Grey which took $248 million in its opening weekend in February 2015.
While fans flocked to see it, critics were less than favourable, with film critic Claudia Puig at USA Today describing it as a:
“plodding, inane and wretchedly acted movie.”
If Dakota was phased by the negative critical response she didn’t show it.
She told Glamour magazine: “… 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.”
Speaking to Vogue magazine about the movie she said: “I’m truly proud of it. It’s a cool story, and I think it’s different, and different is what I’m about.”
To date Fifty Shades of Grey and its follow-up Fifty Shades Darker have raked in over $900 million at the worldwide box office, with Dakota and her on-screen love interest, Jamie Dornan banking big pay packets too.
That’s not to say the pair didn’t earn their wages. With an eager viewing public expecting to see the pair get up to all the explicit antics covered in the novels, including BDSM, the costars had to get comfortable with each other and spent large parts of the shoots, naked.
“Nudity is really interesting for an actor,” said Dakota in a Vogue interview, “Jamie and I worked so incredibly closely for so long. There were no inhibitions, and it was very honest, very trusting.”
In fact, speculation about the nature of the co-stars’ relationship has been rife from the beginning with claims of an illicit off-screen affair to reports of them being unable to stand each other.
The pair however consistently maintain a warm, if slightly professional, rapport when promoting the movies. Speaking of Dakota, Jamie told USA Today that:
“She’s an easy person to get along with. She’s sweet,” He continued: “We instantly had a thing. It’s so important, given what we had ahead of us. If we hadn’t liked each other, I wouldn’t have been cast. I got cast because they thought it worked. Dakota and I get on so well. We’re friends now.”
With filming of the final instalment (Fifty Shades Freed) already wrapped for a Valentine’s Day 2018 release. Dakota has turned her attentions to her post-Fifty career, telling Glamour magazine:
“It’s not that it has put me off entirely, 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.”