When a movie is titled How To Be Single, you can get away with a lot of questions not normally encouraged at film junkets. Which is why the surprisingly shy and soft-spoken Dakota Johnson is dutifully trying to come up with an anecdote about her best and worst date ever.
“I haven’t really been on a lot of dates, I’ve only been in long-term relationships,” the 26-year-old actress says hesitantly, fully aware of the irony, given the film’s title. “But I did go skydiving with one of my boyfriends and I thought that was an interesting choice for him because he could have killed me,” she muses. And the worst date? “I got broken up with once, when I was wearing a Halloween costume,” Johnson begins, adding in anticipation of the question she knows is coming, “I was dressed as Steve Jobs but I’m not sure that had anything to do with it!”
How To Be Single stars Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie and Leslie Mann as four women living in New York City, discovering the right and wrong way to be single. Think Sex and the Citymeets Bridget Jones’ Diary as Lucy (Brie) is shopping for a husband online, Robin (Wilson) will sleep with anyone who wants a one-night stand, Alice (Johnson) wants her old boyfriend back and Meg (Mann) has no time for relationships and is having a baby on her own.
“Before we started filming, Rebel, Alison, Leslie and I all had a dinner together and we were just lucky that we got along straight away,” Johnson says of the female-driven ensemble cast. “It was very smart casting for this kind of movie because everyone had worked in comedy and we all wanted to make each other laugh, which really comes across in the film.”
Johnson, a third-generation star following her parents Melanie Griffiths and Don Johnson and her grandmother, Tippi Hedren, acknowledges further irony in the fact she was dating British musician Matthew Hitt while making the film and is only single now she’s promoting it. “But it’s interesting because I am not really the type of person who likes to stay out all night in a club drinking and raging anyway,” she shrugs. “I think the film is saying it’s OK to go and do the things you want to do; that it’s important to be on your own and have that core understanding.”
She credits her own mother, who was married four times and recently divorced from Antonio Banderas, with teaching her independence regardless of her relationship status. “My mom is of the mindset that you can have multiple marriages and it’s fine,” she smiles endearingly, “but she raised me to always work for myself and do life for myself and not for anyone else, especially for a man, because that will ultimately lead to disappointment in some regard.”
Given the family profession, it’s not surprising Johnson identified her own thespian ambitions at an early age. “I spent my entire childhood on sets, surrounded by filmmakers and actors and people who have magnetic energies,” she recalls. “That’s all I knew; aside from school and friendships, that was the main staple in my life, so I always knew that acting was in my future.”
Making her film debut in the 1999 drama Crazy in Alabama opposite Griffiths and directed by her then-stepfather, Johnson segued into small roles in The Social Network (2010), 21 Jump Street (2012) and The Five-Year Engagement(2012) as well as a role on the short-lived sitcom, Ben and Kate. Last year, she finally broke through with two films. One was arguably the most talked-about film of the year, the raunchy S&M drama Fifty Shades of Grey, and the other was Black Mass, an awards contender co-starring Johnny Depp.
Asked if her racier role could affect her future relationship status, Johnson can only joke, “I guess they’re like, ‘oh look at that girl, I have already seen her naked, so at least I can ask her out!'”
How To Be Single opens on February 18.