Dakota Johnson: making Fifty Shades of Grey was ‘psychotic’, ‘crazy’ and ‘always a battle’

Dakota Johnson has described the making of the hit erotic drama Fifty Shades of Grey as “crazy” and that she “signed up to do a very different version of the film [she] ended up making”.

Johnson, who is currently appearing in award-winning indie comedy Cha Cha Real Smooth and about to release an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, spoke to Vanity Fair about Fifty Shades of Grey, in which she starred opposite Jamie Dorman as Christian Grey in a 2015 film version of EL James’ best selling novel directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. Two further films, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, were released in 2017 and 2018 respectively, with James Foley replacing Taylor-Johnson as director and over which James was given what has been described as “unprecedented control”.

Johnson suggests the film-makers’ battle over the script was the main source of problems. The credited writer is Kelly Marcel, best known as the co-writer of Saving Mr Banks, and it was widely reported that Taylor-Johnson hired Notes on a Scandal’s Patrick Marber to “polish” the script. According to Johnson, after Charlie Hunnam, the actor originally cast as Grey, dropped out, James “scrapped” the script.

“It just became something crazy,” Johnson said. “There were a lot of different disagreements.”

Johnson added: “[James] 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 … We’d do the takes of the movie that [James] wanted to make, and then we would do the takes of the movie that we wanted to make … It was like mayhem all the time.”

Johnson also said she derived a mistaken impression of the film after being asked to read a monologue from Ingmar Bergman’s classic psychological study Persona as an audition piece. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be really special.’ ”

Asked if she regretted making the film, she regrets making the films, Johnson 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.”

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