Dakota Johnson Details ‘Psychotic’ Experience Making ‘Fifty Shades’: I Signed Up for a ‘Very Different’ Movie

With rewrites and battles for creative control, Johnson revealed that making the bodice-ripping trilogy was "mayhem all the time."
Fifty Shades Darker Jamie Dornan Dakota Johnson
"Fifty Shades Darker"

Dakota Johnson is now “Fifty Shades Freed” about details from her breakout trilogy.

Johnson, who skyrocketed to fame after starring opposite Jamie Dornan in 2015’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” and its subsequent two sequels, revealed that she “signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making.”

“I’m a sexual person, and when I’m interested in something, I want to know so much about it,” Johnson told Vanity Fair. “That’s why I did those big naked movies.”

Johnson auditioned for the film by reading a monologue from Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” and at first thought the adaptations of E.L. James’ “Twilight” fan-fiction novels would be “really special” to bring to the big screen. Yet James, the studio, and the directors were a “combo” of the issues on set.

“[E.L. James, who goes by Erika,] had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen,” Johnson admitted. “There were parts of the books that just wouldn’t work in a movie, like the inner monologue, which was at times incredibly cheesy. It wouldn’t work to say out loud. It was always a battle. Always.”

Charlie Hunnam was set to star as Christian Grey and “Closer” playwright Patrick Marber penned the revised script. But when Hunnam dropped out of the film due to a scheduling conflict, author James was so upset, she scrapped the new script.

“I was young. I was 23. So it was scary,” Johnson said. “It just became something crazy. There were a lot of different disagreements. I haven’t been able to talk about this truthfully ever, because you want to promote a movie the right way, and I’m proud of what we made ultimately and everything turns out the way it’s supposed to, but it was tricky.”

Dornan eventually replaced Hunnam and Sam Taylor-Johnson, the film’s director, tried to bring back Marber’s script.

“We’d do the takes of the movie that Erika wanted to make, and then we would do the takes of the movie that we wanted to make,” the “Persuasion” star continued. “The night before, I would rewrite scenes with the old dialogue so I could add a line here and there. It was like mayhem all the time.”

The one Marber scene that made it into the first film was the contract negotiation where Johnson’s Anastasia and Dornan’s Christian go into details about their BDSM agreements. “And it’s the best scene in the whole movie,” she added.

Johnson added that she and Dornan worked well together because they were “doing the weirdest things for years” together. They also would speak up on set: “‘We’re not doing that,’ or ‘You can’t do that camera angle,'” Johnson shared.

While Taylor-Johnson parted ways with the franchise after the first film, she was replaced by James Foley, who brought a “different energy.”

“Sam didn’t come back to direct after the first movie, and, as a female, she had brought a softer perspective,” Johnson said. “James Foley came on to direct, and he’s an interesting man. It was different doing those bizarre things with a man behind the camera. Just a different energy. There are things that I still cannot say because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s career and I don’t want to damage anybody’s reputation, but both Jamie and I were treated really well. Erika is a very nice woman, and she was always kind to me and I am grateful she wanted me to be in those movies.”

Asked if she regrets making the “Fifty Shades” films, Johnson said, “No. I don’t think it’s a matter of regret. If I had known…If I had known at the time that’s what it was going to be like, I don’t think anyone would’ve done it. It would’ve been like, ‘Oh, this is psychotic.’ But no, I don’t regret it.”

She concluded, “Look, it was great for our careers. So amazing. So lucky. But it was weird. So, so weird.”

And the films “probably not” could be made today.

“But what’s wrong with them?” Johnson said about the subject matter. “It’s about a specific sexual dynamic that is really real for a lot of people.”

Daily Headlines
Daily Headlines covering Film, TV and more.

By subscribing, I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PMC Logo
IndieWire is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2023 IndieWire Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.