Dakota Johnson’s idea of a good time: reading. Alone. In the tub. That idea would be anathema to Alice, the co-dependant suddenly-solo Manhattan dweller she plays in “How To Be Single,” opening Friday. The comedy deals with the travails of dating and co-stars Alison Brie as Lucy, who embarks on an often-desperate, frequently ill-advised and always amusing quest to find the perfect man. Johnson’s Alice, meanwhile, adrift in the big city, is befriended by Robin (Rebel Wilson), who hooks up, drinks up, and still sort-of makes it to work sort-of on time.
“The things that she does are not things that I do,” says Johnson of Alice. “It’s fun to think about going out and partying and having different relationships with people. I’ve been in long term relationships mostly so I’m more used to that.” Johnson, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, has emerged as a fashion icon (those red lips!) and critically respected actress; she headlined the erotic thriller “Fifty Shades of Grey,” opposite Jamie Dornan. Of course, being famous means talking about herself ad nauseum, something that doesn’t come naturally to Johnson. “I don’t know who I am anymore,” she jokes, after a day of interviews. “It’s definitely not easy. It’s always weird to talk over and over about the same thing. I feel crazy but the other person doesn’t. So I feel like a psycho.”
Unlike Alice, who can’t fathom a life without being tethered to another person — be it her drinking buddy, her sex buddy, or her sister (played by Leslie Mann) — Johnson loves her solitude. She hangs out with friends who are low-key like her and basically tries to be a couch potato.”I just love being alone. I cherish my solitude sometimes. I like it. I like to be able to do whatever I want with my brain. If I feel like taking a bath and painting my nails, that’s OK. I don’t know how I got there. I also understand the desire to have someone there and feel loved,” she says. Next up for Johnson: reprising her role as Anastasia Steele in “Fifty Shades Darker.” What can she say about it? Not much. “It is under duper lock and key. I don’t even know anything. Just kidding. I know everything but can’t tell you,” she says.
Johnson appears regularly on magazine covers, but isn’t often seen on the red carpet circuit, save for major events. Losing her anonymity, and making peace with that, has been a work in progress for the actress, who doesn’t bark out sound byte after byte in interviews, but takes her time giving more thoughtful answers. “It’s kind of wild. Sometimes things can get a little scary. It can feel very invasive. I feel vulnerable. But then I think about the jobs I’m able to do and I just feel pretty grateful,” she says. “I always knew that I wanted to make movies. I grew up on set. Earlier today I was like, I don’t have a backup career choice. What if I felt like I didn’t want to do this anymore? I don’t have any other talents. I can cook. I can bake. But not under pressure.”
Still, don’t let her relaxed demeanor fool you. This woman knows what she wants, and goes after it. “I’m fairly ambitious. I’m at an age that I’m discovering patterns of mine. I can really win in the procrastination department when it comes to accomplishing things. There are times when I’m more ambitious and can take things on,” she says. The biggest take-away for her, after filming “Single”? Alice and Dakota are two very separate beings. “I am not a party animal. We shot a lot of the exterior night scenes, at night. We were on nights for a month and it was really hard. It’s not easy to do that,” she says.