Dakota Johnson Reveals Why Making Fifty Shades Films Was A 'Psychotic' Experience

The star candidly reflected on making "those big naked movies" in a new profile.
“It was like mayhem all the time," star Dakota Johnson said of her experience making the "Fifty Shades" films.
“It was like mayhem all the time," star Dakota Johnson said of her experience making the "Fifty Shades" films.
MICHAEL TRAN via Getty Images

Watching the Fifty Shades trilogy was at times a less than pleasurable experience, but making the films was downright “psychotic,” according to Dakota Johnson.

The actor, who starred alongside Jamie Dornan in the adaptations of E.L. James’ bestselling and bondage-heavy book series, detailed the behind-the-scenes struggles of bringing “those big naked movies” to the big screen.

“I’m a sexual person, and when I’m interested in something, I want to know so much about it,” Dakota told Vanity Fair in cover story published on Tuesday. “I signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making.”

“I was young. I was 23. So it was scary,” she added. “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.”

Problems first arose when actor Charlie Hunnam dropped out of Fifty Shades of Grey due to scheduling conflicts. His exit resulted in Jamie coming aboard to play the title role and James scrapping the original script.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson attend a "Fifty Shades of Grey" screening in 2015.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson attend a "Fifty Shades of Grey" screening in 2015.
D Dipasupil via Getty Images

Dakota said that author exerted “a lot of creative control, all day, every day” over the production and “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,” she said. “It wouldn’t work to say out loud. It was always a battle. Always.”

Dakota and director Sam Taylor-Johnson took it upon themselves to salvage parts of the first script, rewriting certain scenes with old dialogue the night before shooting.

“We’d do the takes of the movie that [E.L. James] wanted to make, and then we would do the takes of the movie that we wanted to make,” she explained. “It was like mayhem all the time.”

When Taylor-Johnson left the franchise after the first film, director James Foley was brought on to helm the two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Dakota somewhat cryptically described him as an “interesting man” who brought 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,” she said.

Despite longstanding rumours that she and Jamie clashed behind the scenes, Dakota insisted there was “never a time when we didn’t get along.”

“I know it’s weird, but he’s like a brother to me,” she remarked, explaining how they would protect each other on set by vetoing certain camera angles during sex scenes.

When asked if she regrets starring in the films, Dakota said: “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.”

The actor ultimately acknowledged that the trilogy was “great for our careers” but “so, so weird.”

The role indeed launched Dakota into the spotlight. She’s gone on to appear in decidedly more highbrow film fare, including the horror remake Suspiria, the Oscar-nominated The Lost Daughter and the new release Cha Cha Real Smooth.

She can next be seen in Netflix’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Olivia Wilde’s forthcoming DC superhero film Madame Web.

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