Dakota Johnson Reflects on “Mayhem” of Filming ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Trilogy
Speaking about author E.L. James, Johnson said, “She had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen … It was always a battle. Always.”
Dakota Johnson is looking back on filming Fifty Shades of Grey, which she said was “mayhem” behind the scenes.
In a Vanity Fair cover story, the actress opened up about starring in the $1.3 billion film trilogy, based on E.L. James’ bestselling books, as Anastasia Steele after being intrigued by director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s vision of a stripped-down version of the book. However, the script would eventually change, with James maintaining creative control.
“I signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making,” Johnson told Vanity Fair.
Of James, Johnson said, “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.”
Charlie Hunnam was originally set to star alongside Johnson as Christian Grey, but he dropped out, citing a scheduling conflict — Jamie Dornan eventually replaced him. Meanwhile, playwright Patrick Marber revised the script, but Johnson explained that James scrapped Marber’s script.
“I was young. I was 23. So it was scary. It just became something crazy,” she reflected. “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.”
While filming, Johnson said they’d “do the takes of the movie that [author] Erika wanted to make, and then we would do the takes of the movie that we wanted to make.” She 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.”
Despite everything, Johnson has no regrets with making the films: “I don’t think it’s a matter of regret. 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.”
As for speculation that she and co-star Dornan didn’t get along, Johnson debunks the rumors, explaining the close bond they had while filming. “There was never a time when we didn’t get along,” she said. “I know it’s weird, but he’s like a brother to me. I love him so, so, so much. And we were really there for each other. We had to really trust each other and protect each other.” Johnson also said that they “needed to be a team” especially given they “were doing the weirdest things for years.”
Taylor-Johnson did not return for the second film, with James Foley stepping in to direct the following two films, which Johnson recalled felt “different.”
She explained, “Sam didn’t come back to direct after the first movie, and, as a female, she had brought a softer perspective. 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.”
Overall of the films Johnson said “it was great for our careers. So amazing. So lucky. But it was weird. So, so weird.”
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