MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
Dakota Johnson says she did not consider the consequences of a lead role in a film charged with eroticism, because the story appealed
Christian Grey’s headline-grabbing sexual predilections are really the least of Dakota Johnson’s problems. As a third-generation actor trying to make a name for yourself in Hollywood, it’s hard enough to get the suits to take you seriously.
Add the prejudices, preconceptions – and fervid fan commentary – that are part of any screen adaptation of a book as infamous as Fifty Shades of Grey and you have a degree of difficulty that would make most people quake in their boots.
Interviewing Johnson about her first lead feature film role – as Anastasia Steele, the virginal college graduate who experiences her sexual awakening at the hands of the handsome, filthy rich, bondage and discipline-oriented Christian Grey – it’s tempting to ask her what on earth was she thinking?
The late French actor Maria Schneider, who was only 19 when Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci cast her as the freespirited Jeanne in Last Tango In Paris, spent years trying to move beyond the role and the notoriety that came with it.
“I wanted to be recognised as an actress and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy,” Schneider told London’s Daily Mail in 2007.
Johnson, perhaps unsurprisingly, defends the 1972 classic.
“Last Tango In Paris is one of the best movies of all time,’’ she says.
“I completely understand looking back on something and having some regrets, but maybe the only reason she felt that was because of the judgment she received from people who were perhaps more closed minded than other people.”
Up until this point, Johnson, 25, has made a name for herself with small roles in big films such as The Five-Year Engagement, 21 Jump Street and The Social Network.
Johnson says she did consider the consequences of playing the lead in an erotically-charged film.
“But I feel like you just can’t go into a project wondering if you are going to be exploited.
“If the material is fascinating, and the people are good creative people, then there is no reason not to do it.
“I was intrigued by the arc of the character and the story itself is fairly magical, I think.
“The time in a woman’s life when she loses her virginity is a really profound and intimate moment. (Anastasia) becomes a woman and begins to understand parts of herself that she didn’t know existed.”
In Fifty Shades Of Grey that discovery is set against a sexual backdrop of bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism (BDSM.)
“I didn’t know anything about BDSM subculture. I didn’t even know how massive it is,” says Johnson.
It helped to know she had a female director – Sam TaylorJohnson ( Nowhere Boy).
“Absolutely. I felt very safe and protected with Sam. And she has such a wonderful vision and she is such an incredible artist and director that it was very comforting.”
Taylor-Johnson has said that unlike male predecessors, she has tried to be very equal opportunity with the nudity – “a nipple from Anastasia, a butt cheek from Christian”.
Some critics of the book have described the naive, submissive Anastasia as a prefeminist throwback.
“I think it’s an uneducated point of view,’’ says Johnson primly. “This film is made by women. For women and men.
“I think people will be pleasantly surprised. I think they will be able to relate to the characters. It’s a love story ultimately.”
A scene from the movie
Fifty Shades of Grey,
which actor Dakota Johnson describes as “a love story, ultimately”.