Dakota Johnson Interview with Toronto Sun

It literally pays to know people who know people In Hollywood. Case in point: Connections came up in casting the new romantic comedy How to Be Single, which turns the usual rom-com gender politics topsy-turvy by making the gals free of the guys.

So, when Lily Collins (daughter of English rocker Phil Collins) was forced to drop out of the lead role as Alice because of a scheduling conflict, writer-producer Dana Fox knew exactly what to do for director Christian Ditter. She called her close friend Dakota Johnson (daughter of American actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) to fill in. Suddenly, the movie had a bigger breakout star, thanks to Johnson’s 2015 mega-hit, Fifty Shades of Grey.

“She is such a great friend,” Fox says of the 26-year-old Johnson. Fox and Johnson had worked together on the short-lived TV series, Ben and Kate. They instantly bonded and hung out even after the TV series was cancelled.

“This was the next thing I asked her to do,” Fox says of casting Johnson in How to Be Single,“and we got to work together again — and hopefully we’ll be doing it to the end of time!”

This really is a mutual admiration society. “She’s so great!” Johnson says of Fox in an exclusive one-on-one interview following a series of group sessions. “She’s such a wonderful woman, isn’t she? Don’t you think? She is so brilliant. She is so smart.”

As a result, it was a no-brainer to say yes to starring as Alice in the R-rated comedy, with its salty language and sexual romps (although it is far tamer and less twisted than Fifty Shades). How to Be Single is poised to be a hit among young women when it opens Friday for the Valentine’s Day weekend.

With her star ascending in Hollywood, Johnson is proud of her family heritage in Hollywood, which includes Antonio Banderas as her former stepfather (Griffith and Banderas divorced in 2014 after 18 years of marriage). Johnson also happens to be the granddaughter of former Hollywood star and animal rights activist Tippi Hedren, who debuted in Hitchcock’s eerie 1963 classic, The Birds.

“Those are the things that I love about this industry, the historic threads,” Johnson says. “I think that’s what keeps it special. Otherwise, it’s a total s—show!”

Johnson says she does not take her family connections for granted. “I just feel lucky about that. But I grew up on-set. I grew up around actors and storytellers and people who had a magnetic energy to make other people feel things. So that’s where my admiration comes from. That’s (the inspiration for) my drive.”

As for the gender politics in How to Be Single, Johnson is totally on board with what Fox did in juicing up the screenplay by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. That included adding a lot of F-bombs, hotter sexual situations and some off-the-wall comedy from co-star Rebel Wilson.

“You can’t talk about being single without being able to swear and talk about sex,” Fox says.“Why would we tell that story if we can’t do that?”

Johnson agrees. “I think this movie portrays women behaving however they want to behave and being true to themselves. This is a movie about women who are funny and smart and real — and that’s important. I think it is so important for women to feel that it is not only okay but it is encouraged to be alone and to expand your mind and your experiences and your personal growth.

“For me personally, I love to be alone and read and watch movies and to go into a K-hole of Google in researching something. But society has put this pressure on women to really pay attention to their biological clock and find a mate and be a wife and make a family.”

In the movie, Johnson says, “everyone is just figuring out what they want.” In life, that is what she finds herself doing in her twenties.

“There are times when I’m like: I wish I was married and had babies now because I like that.” Then she retreats and goes travelling … alone.

Johnson is also modest about her lifestyle in Hollywood — and she does not hit the party circuit like Alice in How to Be Single. “I’m a pretty quiet person. I like to stay home. I don’t think you’d ever see me in a super-club environment or going out and raging. I mostly just do that on my couch …” She laughs coyly at the thought.

Not surprisingly, Johnson’s advice to single women on Valentine’s Day weekend is simple, and a bit cheeky: If you are not going out to see How to Be Single, stay home and “get drunk!” she says.

Johnson smiles mischievously and adds: “Get a bottle of wine, get f—ed up and go to sleep!”


Actress Dakota Johnson is making no apologies for her co-starring role in the Fifty Shades trilogy, despite the furor over its sexual politics, her explicit nudity and the celebration of S&M bondage in the first one, Fifty Shades of Grey.

“It’s kind of a fairytale story,” Johnson says happily about the trilogy, which is based on the novels by British author E.L. James (a pseudonym for 52-year-old writer and mother Erika Mitchell, who originally created her novels as Twilight fan fiction).

Johnson, who will start shooting Fifty Shades Darker in British Columbia on Feb. 9, plays Anastasia (Ana) Steele). She is a college student who gets caught up in a sexually deviant romance with billionaire businessman Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan.

“In that relationship,” Johnson says in a tangent during a one-on-one interview for her new romantic comedy, How to Be Single, “these two people find each other and I think they’re supposed to be together and there is that innate soulmate-magnetic connection.”

Johnson admits that the gender politics of How to Be Single are exactly the opposite of those in Fifty Shades and that her Single character learns how to be an independent woman without a man to shape her destiny. “I think it’s really important,” she said of How to Be Single. “I would prefer to see young women admire characters in films and stories who are capable of being alone!”

Regardless of that noble notion, the two Fifty Shades sequels are coming. They will be shot back-to-back by director James Foley, with Fifty Shades Darker due in theatres on Feb. 10, 2017, and Fifty Shades Freed scheduled to debut on Feb. 9, 2018.

The sequels follow in the naked footsteps of Fifty Shades of Grey, which filmed in Vancouver and environs in 2013-14 under director Sam Taylor-Johnson. With its release early in 2015, the first instalment shucked off bad reviews to win over female audiences and generate a stunning $571 million in worldwide box office.

“The stories unfold in a really interesting way,” Johnson says of the sequels, which were adapted to the screen by James/Mitchell’s husband, Niall Leonard. “It’s more of a thriller (going forward),” Johnson says, “and there are some psychological changes that seem to carry the characters through multiple ups and downs. It’s cool!”

So, contrary to rumours that she was loath to work again with Irish actor Dornan, Johnson says she is eager to get back into the Fifty Shades world. She is even considering how to sneak a peek at the Marlon Wayans spoof, Fifty Shades of Black, which opened Jan. 29. “I don’t know if I will be able to see it in theatres, but it looks awesome,” Johnson says. “I would love to see it.”

Source: Toronto Sun

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