LOS ANGELES—Having wrapped up the last two “Fifty Shades” films and even finished shooting another movie, “Suspiria,” Dakota relishes having the time to spruce up her house in LA. Freed from the “Fifty Shades’” world of BDSM and sex toys, the actress told us she enjoys adding period-appropriate flourishes to her midcentury style abode.
Dressed in a simple black Shaina Mote top and skirt, Dakota updated us about “Suspiria,” Luca Guadagnino’s remake of a 1977 Italian horror flick directed by Dario Argento. She costars with Chloe Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton and Jessica Harper, who topbilled the original movie.
She also dished about hanging out with Jamie Dornan even when they were off the set of “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” which they shot back to back in Vancouver. “That is quite a lucky thing to have happened, especially in this situation, because we are so intimate and even the scenes that aren’t sexually explicit are emotionally intimate,” Dakota said.
James Foley took over from Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first in the erotic romantic drama film series that cast Dakota and Jamie as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, respectively.
Excerpts from our conversation:
Let’s talk about your other interests. You went back to dance because of your role in “Suspiria.” You’re also into architecture. How involved are you with these two passions of yours at this period in your life? A lot with architecture because I’ve been working on my house for about a year now. That’s taking up a lot of my time. The ballet—not so much anymore, because we finished filming.
It’s not modern. But it’s expressionist dance and more, coupled with German expressionist dance from the ’30s and ’40s, like Mary Wigman. It’s not necessarily pretty, which goes with “Suspiria” (laughs).
What about architecture that interests you?
I’ve only just started learning more about it because I became obsessed with midcentury houses.
These days, the kitchen has become the center of any house. Can you describe the kitchen in your new house?
I love cooking so much. The kitchen in my house is actually hidden. It’s not really a hangout area. There’s not so much space. But I did pick a paint color the other day called “alligator alley.” I’m pretty proud of that (laughs).
Are you good at cooking? What do you like to cook?
I quite like baking. I can do anything (laughs)—I grill stuff, steak, chicken, vegetables, pasta.
In returning to this series for the second and third films, how did you keep it fresh?
In the first one, we were setting up this story and the characters, and telling people who they are and what they’re doing. In this one, it was more about discovering Anastasia’s arc as a woman, her sexual journey, trying to figure out who she is and what she likes alongside this other person, who is so steadfast in his goals. It was more about focusing on the relationship between the two people.
In a magazine interview, you talked about sex toys and discovering them for the first movie.
Yeah, doing a film where they (sex toys) are such a prevalent concept, you do research and learn as much as you could about the (BDSM) lifestyle. There are some beautiful aspects. I don’t have a favorite sex toy, though (laughs).
How was it like doing these next two movies with Jamie?
We were lucky enough to shoot them back-to-back. We spent six months together, and we became so close. So, the fact that we get along, can hang out outside of work and do stuff on weekends, it’s a lot nicer.
Can you talk some more about hanging out with Jamie off the set?
We were in Vancouver for six months and his beautiful babies were there. To hang out with kids on a weekend is like a breath of fresh air.
How was it like shooting in Paris?
It was the kind you imagine happening in old cinema, where you had actors running around the streets of Paris and rain towers. It was a dream come true. We shot at the Paris Opera. It was completely shut down for us. I was running around that place like it was my last day on earth. It was just one of those very special moments that I will never forget.
You were on location in the Nice area when the terrorist attack happened last year. Can you talk about that?
That was an incredibly devastating moment. What was bizarre was that I was driving from Cannes to Monte Carlo. A few hours before that, we had driven through Nice. We were thinking whether to stop and have dinner, but we decided to go back because we had to shoot at 4 a.m. the next day. Then, the terrorist attack happened. I had my little sister with me. I went into extreme mama bear protective mode. I felt that we shouldn’t be there. I felt that we were invading a space that needed to grieve on its own. But we found out that our entire French crew and their families were safe. Everyone said that you should go back to work the next day, and you don’t let something like that stop you from living your life, which I thought was incredibly powerful.
How was the transition from Sam Taylor-Johnson to James Foley as director of the next two films?
Working with James and Sam was a completely different experience altogether. But it was great. James did an incredible job. It has more of a thriller aspect … more suspenseful. It was interesting going from working so closely with a woman to then working on the same material with a man. That was enlightening.
As Anastasia gets to know Christian, his past becomes more relevant. How important is it to know the details of a friend’s past?
It’s important to know about somebody’s past for you to understand why they make the decisions that they make or why they act the way they do.
Does Anastasia have more empathy for Christian when she realizes what happened to him at age 15?
Yeah, completely. All she wanted for him was to divulge this information. Then, he does—and she understands why he has chosen the path he has chosen.
Do you sometimes regret signing on to this film series?
These films are juggernauts. Sometimes, they can be frightening. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I don’t always feel 100 percent positive. I get waves of fear, wondering what people are going to take from this.
Can you give an update on “Suspiria”?
We just finished it. It was, thus far in my career, the most incredible experience of my life.
I can’t tell you (laughs). First of all, I love the original film so much. We did our best to elevate the story. The level of artistry is just through the roof.
You went virtually from an unknown to a movie star. How has your life changed?
The thing I’ve realized that has changed the most is, now I’m in a position where I get to have constant conversations with my peers and people I admire … about the movies they’re making. I get to talk to them about what we like and what we don’t like. Before, it was mostly just trying to do well at auditions (laughs).
Are your dad and mom protective to this day? How has your mom reacted to you growing up and taking on these revealing roles?
My dad is pretty protective. But when it came to doing this job, they didn’t have a choice. I was pretty adamant. They don’t judge me about the projects I decide to do. They judge me more on what kind of human I am to other humans.
You’re very comfortable with your body. What gave you confidence at such a young age?
That probably came from my mother. I grew up being taught that women are beautiful…and to be comfortable with your body. And that it’s OK to have a beautiful body.
After the first “Fifty Shades” movie, are guys more afraid or more excited to talk to you?
If I ever left my house, I’d probably find that out (laughs).
Why aren’t you leaving your house?
I’m a homebody. I’d rather be at home with my close friends or alone, than being in public.
The first film deals with issues of control. With the women’s movement getting stronger, how do you balance control between standing up for yourself and for so many people around you?
I abstain from social media because I don’t feel that I need to explain who I am to anyone. I have found power in knowing that I don’t need anybody to truly understand me.
How do you deal with rejection?
I shatter (laughs). I’d rather feel kindness and warmth, instead of feeling aggressive about things.
If you look at the trilogy and understand the pain that made Christian who he is, do you think love can heal a person?
I do think that love can heal a person, even if it’s just a little bit. I have my best friends who are like my heart and soul. They let me fall apart, be messy, confused and exhausted. That kind of love—that acceptance—is very healing.
How important is music in your life?
I grew up in a household where both my mom and dad have pretty exquisite tastes in music. My two older brothers are musicians. My younger brother is also a musician. So when I started working, acting and music went hand in hand. Music in films amplifies the story, and you understand more about a character because of a song that is playing.
Do you play music a lot, like when you read a script?
I am constantly playing music. I always have a record on.
What kind of music?
Everything, really. This morning, it was Bruce Springsteen (laughs).