“WHEN I was growing up I was taught that women are beautiful. We should be comfortable with our body and there’s nothing wrong with it,” says Dakota Johnson. “That came from my mother.”
Johnson, 27, took her mum’s words to heart and brought to life the sexually adventurous character of Anastasia Steele from the Fifty Shades of Grey novels. In doing so, she discovers the world of BDSM under the tutelage of charismatic business magnate Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).
“As an actor you do your research, especially where there is such a prevalent concept and so I learned as much as I could about that lifestyle and about all the things that go along with it.”
Johnson is referring to the many and varied sexual paraphernalia used in this specific kind of sex. “There are some really beautiful aspects of it, but I don’t have a favourite sex toy,” she tells news.com.au.
Although her mum, Melanie Griffith, encouraged her daughter to feel positive about her body, and in fact assumed a sex kitten persona for many of her many movies in the 70s and 80s, she was against Johnson taking on the role of Anastasia.
Likewise, her father, Don Johnson, best known for his role in the 80s crime series, Miami Vice, advised her against it. Naturally, as veteran actors, they’re protective of their daughter taking on such a sexually charged role which attracts much criticism and requires a thick skin.
Tellingly, her favourite is word is “tender” which she has tattooed on her arm and would imply her parents are indeed correct when it comes to her vulnerability. However, she says dismissively, “I think I am equally as sensitive as I am tough. I just feel things more than the average human maybe.
“And when it comes to taking on this role, they didn’t have a choice. I was pretty adamant,” she says, firmly.
“I think they would like to be able to see the movies that have put me in this place in my life, but because it’s pretty inappropriate, they haven’t seen them.”
Nevertheless, she has a good relationship with both mum and dad. “They don’t judge me on what projects I decide to do. They judge me on what kind of human I am to other humans.”
Now in the second instalment, Fifty Shades Darker, Johnson explains Anastasia’s continued journey of self exploration. “This film, as opposed to Fifty Shades of Grey, is more about discovering Anastasia’s arc as a woman and also her sexual journey. She’s trying to figure out who she is and what she likes alongside this other person who is so steadfast in his goals. This film focuses on the details and the relationship between the two people.”
Johnson and Dornan shot two of the three films back to back (Fifty Shades Freed will release in 2018). “We spent six months shooting the two movies and we became so close. I think that is quite a lucky thing to have happen, especially in this situation because we are so intimate.
“Even the scenes that are not sexually explicit, they are emotionally intimate so the fact that we get along and can hang out outside of work and do stuff on the weekends, it’s a lot nicer than it could have been.”
Naturally, due to their evident chemistry, there were unsubstantiated rumours that she had an affair with the Irish actor who is married to actress Amelia Warner, and father of their two daughters, Dulcie, 3, and Phoebe, 12-months.
Given the sexual nature of her roles in the Fifty Shades franchise, as well as A Bigger Splash (2015) and How to be Single (2016) these films must have made an impact in her romantic life.
“If I ever left my house, I would probably find that out. But I am a homebody,” she insists. “I would rather be at home with my close friends or be alone than I would being in public.”
Even so, she has reportedly been romantically to Jake Gyllenhaal and Andrew Garfield, though she remains currently single.
Known for a career-defining role, especially one embedded in such controversy, has its obvious advantages, but it can also forge an image from which can be difficult to escape. Does she ever regret her choice in taking on the role of Anastasia Steele?
“Regrets, well, these films are juggernauts (Fifty Shades of Grey drew $745 million at the box office). Sometimes they can be frightening but I don’t necessarily regret it, though at the same time, I don’t always feel completely one hundred per cent positive. I get waves of fear and I get waves of insecurity, and I wonder what people are going to take from this.”
Understandably, the more famous she’s become, the less she is active in social media. “I abstain from it and I don’t feel the need to explain to the world who I am to anyone. If there’s some sort of perception of me, then so be it. I am still figuring it out and I have found power in knowing that I don’t need anybody to truly understand me,” she says.
“That is the last privacy I have really.”