SURPRISINGLY, DAKOTA JOHNSON DOESN’T ACT LIKE a ‘Movie Star’. This, despite the fact that she is the daughter of Melanie Gri th and Don Johnson, the former stepdaughter of another movie star (Antonio Banderas), and the granddaughter of movie legend Tippi Hedren. She was protectively told what a tabloid was at the age that other girls were getting their rst dolls. She’s been acting since she was 10, and her star status was cemented last year when she delivered a near awless performance as the winsome naïf (‘I’m here to see… Mr Grey’) turned wary bondage participant Anastasia Steele in the blockbuster movie from the blockbuster book that needs little more hint than ‘the red room’ for you to know what we’re talking about. She lit up the screen in February’s How to Be Single, a chicks-gone-wild feminist frolic that calls to mind the too-likable-to-be-jealous-of screen sweetheart that Meg Ryan was to a previous generation. In May’s A Bigger Splash, she ditches the relatability to become a devious nymphet in Lolita glasses who may or may not be the daughter of a larger-than-life record producer (played by Ralph Fiennes, with Tilda Swinton as his rock star ex-lover). ‘She’s more of a pro than any of us,’ says Tilda. ‘She is extremely experienced and knows exactly what she is doing.’
Given all that, you expect a polite but blasé young woman to waft into Cafe Luxembourg on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for lunch. But when Dakota, 26, bounds in – not a trace of make-up on her pale, awless skin, her light-brown hair falling in wisps to the shoulders of her black polo neck – she is more like a bouncy, wry graduate student than a third-generation celebrity. Dakota does this fame business strictly on her own terms. With her, being an anti-star seems both a personality trait and a mission. When asked a personal question, ‘Are you back with [Drowners lead singer and guitarist] Matthew Hitt?’, she emits a ‘nice try!’ snicker. In-between bites of steak, Dakota makes it clear there’s thoughtfulness, candour, vulnerability and outrage at what’s wrong with the world behind her quippy bon mots and genial sarcasm. There’s also a sweetness.
In How to Be Single, Dakota is Alice, who half holds on to a too-safe relationship in order to live on her own in Manhattan. Alice learns the hard way the di erence between ‘ unattached’ and ‘independent’. It’s something Dakota is familiar with. Does she care to elaborate? ‘No!’ She abhors gossip. ‘It just sucks! It sucks!’ she repeats, as if doing so could banish old items (including those linking her to actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Jordan Masterson) from the web. Despite the fact that the latter was true, ‘Don’t trust anything on the internet’ is her anthem. ‘I would like to think that people in this industry have one another’s backs,’ she says, ‘but sometimes they don’t. I’ve become increasingly wary and protective of who I speak to honestly, of who my friends are.’ Then there are those invasive photographers. ‘Just because I’m in the public eye, does that mean that my business is everyone’s business? I don’t feel tough enough to be accosted by people,’ Dakota has concluded.