Dakota Johnson is one of Hollywood's up-and-coming actors, and prime for a breakthrough role. Following a starring role in the promising but unfortunately short-lived Fox comedy Ben and Kate, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson seems to have set her sights on feature work again with a part in Need for Speed among her upcoming credits. Is Fifty Shades of Grey also in the cards? Johnson is the latest actor whose name is in the running for the lead role of Anastasia Steele in the feature adaptation of E.L. James' steamy novel.
The Wrap reported this update, but the site is careful to point out that nothing is firm here, just that Johnson is one of the starlets being considered for the part of Ana.
In case you haven't gotten around to checking out the novel, the story centers on a young college grad who's swept off her feet by the dreamy and successful slightly-older businessman, Christian Grey. Christian's about as perfect as it gets on the outside, but he has his demons to battle, oh and did we mention he likes his sex really rough? So there's that, which proves a stark contrast to Ana's sexual inexperience. She finds herself drawn to Christian, and cautiously willing to cater to his needs. It's a romance novel, and one that may or may not work for a big screen adaptation.
The film is already set for an August 2014 release date and Sam Taylor-Johnson is on board to direct. But we still don't have an Ana or a Christian. The Wrap says their sources say they won't settle on a Christian until the role of Ana is cast. It seems likely that chemistry is the key issue there.
Johnson is an interesting name to throw out there, particularly because she's a bit more active in comedy than she is in drama. Among her credits are 21 Jump Street, The Five-Year Engagement and as mentioned, Fox's Ben and Kate. On the drama side, she appeared in Beastly and she played a small role as Sean Parker's (Justin Timberlake) one-night-stand in The Social Network. Though the latter is a drama, there was humor in her small but memorable role. So, my initial reaction is to say that I don't see her as Ana at all. Not because her hair's the wrong color. That's fixable and not all that important in my opinion, though die-hard fans do tend to dwell on appearances when it comes to adaptations. It's more that Johnson always stood out to me as funny and charming, in addition to beautiful. Ana strikes me as a bit more serious, with a side of awkward. With that said, casting an actor with comedic experience might not be the worst thing in the world, especially if the director's aiming for a bit of humor to offset some of those intense moments in the story.
Other names once said to be in the running were Shailene Woodley and Emma Watson, the latter of whom shot down rumors of her potential involvement in the film with an amusing Tweet ("Who here actually thinks I would do 50 Shades of Grey as a movie? Like really. For real. In real life.") In the case of Woodley and Watson, I can picture them taking on Ana's personality, but I'm inclined to agree with The Wrap that there's limited upside to this role for an established star. This film has the potential to put its stars on the map. Woodley and Watson are already there. As young actors working to establish their names in the industry, what would they stand to gain by taking on this part? Johnson, on the other hand, is still making a name for herself, and a role like this would certainly be added exposure. Probably a lot of exposure. If this report does turn out to be confirmed, however, I hope it means they're aiming for an Ana with a sense of humor, as that's one of Johnson's best demonstrated assets.