Dakota Johnson Recalls 'Weird' 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Experience: 'I Signed Up to Do a Very Different Version'

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Nearly a decade after her debut as Anastasia Steele, Dakota Johnson is candidly pulling back the curtain on her experience with the franchise that turned her into a worldwide star. 

As Johnson tells Vanity Fair, “I signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making.” In addition to the studio and directors of the trilogy, Johnson cites the books' author, E. L. James, as another kink in the process. 

“She had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen," the 32-yea-old actress explains. "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."

There had also been other significant changes, including Charlie Hunnam's exit as Christian Grey, which allegedly spurred James to scrap Patrick Marber's script, according to Johnson. Still, the scene in which Anastasia and Christian negotiate her sexual contract in the first film is a remnant of Marber's work. 

“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,” Johnson recalls. “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.”

Of that contract scene, Johnson tells Vanity Fair, "It’s the best scene in the whole movie.”

As for the rumors of a feud between Johnson and Jamie Dornan, who ultimately brought Christian Grey to life on screen, she speaks to the contrary. “There was never a time when we didn’t get along,” she says. “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.”

Fifty Shades Freed, Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

Christian Grey (Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Johnson) get married in 'Fifty Shades Freed' movie.

Universal Pictures

In addition to actors and scripts, directors also changed -- and with that, a different perspective. "Sam [Taylor-Johnson] didn’t come back to direct after the first movie, and, as a female, she had brought a softer perspective," Johnson shares. "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."

While Johnson admits that she hasn't "been able to talk about this truthfully ever" because of movie promotion, she still isn't saying everything. "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," she notes, "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.”

Dakota Johnson Vanity Fair
Ryan McGinley/Vanity Fair
Dakota Johnson Vanity Fair
Ryan McGinley/Vanity Fair

Of the both 'weird' and beneficial experience, Johnson doesn't have regret and is "proud of what we made ultimately." Still, there is another caveat. “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," she admits. "It would’ve been like, ‘Oh, this is psychotic.’ But no, I don’t regret it."


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