Dakota Johnson Calls '50 Shades' Experience 'Psychotic'
by Justine Fisher
29 June 2022
Four years after the 50 Shades trilogy wrapped, the master of shade Dakota Johnson is revealing intimate details of what she calls a “psychotic” film experience, with the author, studio and directors causing a set full of conflicts.
At 23, Johnson signed the contract for 50 Shades, the erotic drama that solidified her rise to fame. Young and optimistic, having auditioned with a monologue from 1966 film Persona by Ingmar Bergman, she detailed to Vanity Fair, “I signed up to do a very different version of the film we ended up making.” Though she has no regrets, as filming progressed, she added, “If I had known 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.’”
In the film based off of the book series written by E.L. James (or Erika Mitchell), Johnson starred as Anastasia Steele, alongside co-star Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. 50 Shades of Grey in 2015 was directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, and 50 Shades Darker in 2017 as well as 50 Shades Freed in 2018 were both directed by James Foley.
Johnson said that though the film was originally cast with Charlie Hunnam as Christian Grey, he later dropped out due to a schedule conflict. Johnson describes that the author was so upset that she got rid of the script that playwright Patrick Marber adapted. With James and Johnson, along with the rest of the crew, often having conflicting visions for scenes, Johnson said she would often end up rewriting the night before filming. This was only the beginning of conflicts Johnson and others had with James.
“She had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen.” Johnson said to Vanity Fair. “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.”
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In terms of directors, Johnson noticed a shift when Foley replaced female director Taylor-Johnson for the second two films. She said to Vanity Fair, “It was different doing those bizarre things with a man behind the camera. Just a different energy.” On the other hand, she said she always got along with co-star Dornan because they had to trust and look out for each other throughout the process.
Ultimately, she clarified that she doesn’t want to damage any careers or reputations and doesn’t feel wronged by anyone, including James whom she is grateful for. While she is happy with the result of 50 Shades, she added to Vanity Fair, “... it was weird. So so weird.”
Photo via Getty/ Rachpoot/ Bauer-Griffin/ GC Images