The Classic Movies Dakota Johnson Watched To Prepare For Bad Times At The El Royale

Dakota Johnson in Bad Times at the El Royale

Drew Goddard's Bad Times at the El Royale is unlike any movie playing in theaters. It is, at times, familiar in its seedy intent. And yet, in the hands of this wickedly creative filmmaker, the twisty and deceitful neo-noir crime thriller comes up with something fresh and new for modern audiences.

Dakota Johnson plays one of the strangers who arrives at the El Royale hotel with suspicious motives, and when we asked her what movies she watched to prepare to play this femme fatale, she surprised us with her answers, stating:

I was, when preparing, watching a lot of Steve McQueen movies. Because Emily doesn't say much, so I wanted to tell her story without needing to verbally explain it. And I watched Klute. Which was kind of an important film, style-wise. And Gimme Shelter.

What interesting answers, though they make sense once you feast your eyes on Drew Goddard's spectacular film. Dakota Johnson makes references to movies that are very much of a specific time frame. Steve McQueen's biggest films, from The Thomas Crowne Affair to Bullitt, came in the 1960s and 70s. Same goes for Klute, a 1971 mystery thriller starring Jane Fonda (a great reference point for Dakota Johnson's character) and Donald Sutherland.

The Gimme Shelter reference might see like it doesn't belong. Dakota Johnson is referring to the 1970 documentary centered around a Rolling Stones tour. The emphasis, though, lands on the tragic concert at Altamont, where the Hell's Angels posed as "security" for the Stones, and an audience member was stabbed to death.

The chaos and uncomfortable vibe of Gimme Shelter actually applies to the back half of Bad Times at the El Royale, but not in any ways that I can explain to you until you see the film. So, let's just let Dakota Johnson tells us about it.

Truthfully, though, the less that you know about Drew Goddard's Bad Times at the El Royale, the better the experience. Set in the fictional hotel of the title, it is a twisty and mysterious crime thriller that finds four strangers trying to unearth a buried treasure at the locale. Only, they all have unpredictable motives, and success at the El Royale means totally different things for each person. Also, the mirrors in the hotel rooms are two-way. What could that mean?

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Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo and Dakota Johnson are the main players in Bad Times at the El Royale, with Chris Hemsworth joining the party later as a wild card. This one is a must see, and it's in theaters starting Thursday evening, October 11.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.