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Dakota Johnson Gets Candid About Fifty Shades Of Grey Problems On Set And The ‘Battles’ She Had

Dakota Johnson in 50 Shades of Grey
(Image credit: Universal)

While Dakota Johnson made her first major film appearance as Sean Parker’s one-night stand in The Social Network, her debut as a lead came from being cast as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey. Based on the book series that originally started out as Twilight fanfiction, this film trilogy showed off the wild and sexy methods of BDSM to mainstream audiences. While Fifty Shades of Grey may have helped Dakota Johnson achieve success as an actress, she got candid about the problems she had on the set of the film and the "battles” she faced.

While Anastasia starts out as someone who is bashful about these non-traditional forms of sex, Dakota Johnson has no fear of expressing herself sexually on camera. During an interview with Vanity Fair, the 32-year-old actress spoke about how comfortable she is doing “big naked movies,” but didn’t exactly have the experience she expected when filming Fifty Shades of Grey. She explained:

I’m a sexual person, and when I’m interested in something, I want to know so much about it. That’s why I did those big naked movies. I signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making.

Anastasia Steele gets mixed up with young businessman Dorian Grey, who tends to control his women through BDSM methods. He discovers that Anastasia is actually a woman who cannot be controlled as she has no problems expressing what works and doesn’t work for her. The reason why Dakota Johnson took on the Fifty Shades lead role was her love for the character’s fierceness and discovering her own sexual preferences through Dorian Grey. Just like Anastasia had no fear of attempting new sexual adventures, neither did Johnson in portraying sexual expression on-screen.

One thing that the Suspiria star had issues with during Fifty Shades of Grey was dealing with the creative control of E.L. James, the author of the book series. In the actress' words:

She had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen. 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.

This is understandable, as sometimes inner monologues can come as cringeworthy. While Bella Swan’s inner monologue for Twilight can pass since we’re getting some insight into her complex emotions being in the vampire world, other times it could come off as unnecessary. We already understand the thought processes of Anastasia Steele due to Dakota Johnson's stellar expressions. It turns out E.L. James actually had a miserable time filming Fifty Shades of Grey because of her clashes with the director of the first movie, Sam Taylor-Johnson. It can be a struggle when an author and a filmmaker have creative differences in how to make a piece of literature come to life. If you want more proof, watch the movie Saving Mr. Banks.

Despite being proud of the work she did for the erotic romantic drama, being able to complete the films was a very messy ordeal. Seven years after the release of the first movie, Johnson continued to be honest about just how messy filming really was, saying:

I was young. I was 23. So it was scary. 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. 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 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 experience Dakota Johnson went through for Fifty Shades of Grey proves that a messy start can have a satisfactory conclusion. Her life changed after the first film in that it opened the doors for directors and writers to discover who this talented actress was and paved the way for many projects like Black Mass, Suspiria, and The Peanut Butter Falcon. 

You can watch Dakota Johnson's latest movie, Cha Cha Real Smooth, on your Apple TV+ subscription; she co-produced the flick and stars as a single mother who starts a relationship with a party starter. She will also be in Netflix’s Jane Austin adaptation of Persuasion, which you can stream on your Netflix subscription on July 15th. Additionally, Johnson is leading Madame Web, which comes out in summer 2023.

Carly Levy
Carly Levy

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.