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A Chip Off the Old Block

Like her famous parents before her, actress Dakota Johnson has made an impression in Hollywood with bold choices like her newest role as a superhero in Madame Web.

A multifaceted talent in the world of entertainment, Dakota Johnson has already made a lasting mark on both Hollywood and the global stage—regardless of the fact that she is only in her mid-30s.

Born in Austin, Texas, Johnson hails from a family deeply entrenched in the entertainment industry, with her parents being Academy Award-nominated actress Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, the Golden Globe-winning actor. It means stardom is practically in her genes.

Johnson’s rise to prominence began in earnest with her breakout role as Anastasia Steele in the highly acclaimed Fifty Shades of Grey film trilogy, based on E.L. James’s bestselling novels.

Her portrayal of the complex and enigmatic character garnered her widespread recognition and critical acclaim. Johnson’s success in the franchise opened doors to numerous opportunities in Hollywood.

Beyond her blockbuster trilogy, the 34-year-old has demonstrated her flexibility in film by taking on diverse roles in both independent and mainstream projects. Her performances in films like The Social Network, Suspiria and The Peanut Butter Falcon have showcased her acting prowess and range.

In addition to her acting career, Johnson is also making waves as a producer, championing compelling stories through her production company, TeaTime Pictures. With her passion for storytelling, she’s poised to shape the industry’s narrative landscape in the coming years.

Johnson and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin have been in a relationship since late 2017 and live together in a cozy Malibu home, where they spend time not only with Martin’s children, but have holidayed with his ex-wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, and her husband, Brad Falchuk.

Looking ahead, the Spider-Man spin-off Madame Web will assist Johnson in continuing as a prominent figure in her craft. She takes the lead in this gripping thriller as Cassandra Webb, a paramedic working in Manhattan, whose latent clairvoyant talents come to the fore.

As she grapples with shocking revelations from her own history, she forms a connection with three young women whose destinies hold immense potential, provided they can navigate the perilous challenges of their current circumstances.

So, Madame Web—how excited should we be?

Very. I’m incredibly excited to be a part of the Marvel world, especially with a lesser-known character. There’s a lot of potential to make her really cool and I’m genuinely thrilled.

That’s really the way I want to come into a project—I want to be able to shape my own narrative and put my own fingerprint on what’s in front of me. Most actors do, to be fair, yet not all get the opportunity, so I am very grateful for that.


Your character is a clairvoyant and precognitive mutant. That’s quite a burden!

It is, and it enabled me a nice venture in that world and the elements of psychic ability. It’s a diversion from the norm, but one I enjoyed.


Do you have any psychic powers yourself, as Dakota?

I knew you were going to ask that!

Not really, I’ve grown up in the glare of Hollywood, but despite the craziness and the fantasy of it all, I’ve always been grounded and aware of the realities of the industry.

Perhaps when I retire from the movie world, I’ll find some alternative reality, but right now I’m happy enough and busy enough coping with what’s real around me, rather than gazing into the future to try to see what’s coming further along the track!


How does it feel to be part of the superhero world?

Playing a superhero has been a longtime dream of mine, as has to be in a big action movie, like a female Indiana Jones. I’ve always been inspired by those kinds of films, like the new Top Gun, which I thought was fantastic.

Regarding the cast, it’s shaping up to be incredible, especially with Sydney Sweeney joining. I am a huge fan of hers.


Can you feel your film choices evolving?

Certainly, this marks a pivotal point in my career, allowing me the creative freedom to explore uncharted territories. I feel like I now possess the confidence to embrace risk here and there, when the right thing comes along, selecting projects that deeply resonate with me. The newfound freedom I feel is definitely thrilling.


Have you always wanted to follow in your parents’ footsteps?

Of course, and being in this industry is everything I ever dreamed of, and it brings me immense joy. My grandmother, Tippi Hedren, has been a significant source of inspiration for me. Her straightforward yet profound advice, like ‘trust yourself’ and ‘believe in the goodness of others,’ continues to guide me.

My family, including my grandmother, instilled in me the value of finding happiness within myself. They’ve encouraged me to savor this special phase before marriage and parenthood, emphasizing the unique importance it has in life’s journey.

While all that does sound pretty deep and profound, it was so nice to hear those kind words of support, because the older I’ve gotten, the more I feel like I have to prove something to people.


What fascinated you about the movie business when you were growing up around it so much?

This is the world I grew up in. I always enjoyed being on a film set when I was a kid, and I knew I wanted to act for my whole life. I never really made a decision to become an actress; it’s just something I always knew.

For me, it was like a playground where I could use my imagination. When my dad worked on Nash Bridges, I spent a lot of time on the San Francisco set and I loved it. A film set feels like home to me, where I belong and feel most at ease.


Do you still ask your parents for advice?

I’m my own person now. What I had was a beginning. When you follow in your parents’ footsteps, it’s natural to worry about making your own name in the industry. Even today, I’m always searching for roles where I’m judged solely on my acting, not anything else.

My parents have supported me, but I take things one step at a time, which helps me stay calm about decisions and what happens. They taught me to not get caught up in the hype and stay calm.

I grew up understanding what actors go through because of stories and paparazzi. I remember going out with my parents and sometimes it bothered me when people kept coming to our table for autographs, although I was more upset about it than they were!


Do you feel there’s a pressure on people and, in turn, on yourself, to couple up, settle down? Does society look down its nose at single people?

Throughout history, society has expected women—more than men—to marry and have kids. This pressure has always been there. If women don’t follow this traditional path, they can face criticism.

In my life, I’ve realized that making choices about relationships is a lot like making career decisions. It’s all about listening to your heart and doing what feels right.


While that is really nice and lovely, is it entirely realistic?

I just think that it’s a very natural way of thinking, and sometimes we’re too influenced by societal norms and expectations. But what’s the alternative?

It’s like the part of me that says, ‘I love you,’ and that’s it. But then it keeps wondering, ‘Why haven’t you replied? Do you love me too? Are you coming over?’

Then it gets even more intense: ‘When will we get married? Hello? Are you there?’ And then it becomes too overwhelming, ‘I can’t handle this anymore,’ and maybe even adds a middle finger emoji as the final message [laughs].


Is that your go-to emoji?

Thank goodness they added that one [laughs]. That’s all for me and it happens pretty quickly, maybe in just five minutes or less.

The way people meet these days is still pretty weird to me. I don’t like it; it makes me uncomfortable. I find it creepy. I’m not really into social media like Twitter or Facebook. I do have an Instagram, but I don’t use it much and I rarely check it.

I have a more traditional and romantic view. I believe men should be polite and sometimes pay for things!

Someday, I’d like to settle down and have a family. I don’t necessarily think that two people have to stay together forever. If that happens, it’s special, but even if a marriage doesn’t last, it can still be beautiful.

People change over time, and sometimes they go in different directions. It’s possible to love more than one person in your life. The most important thing is to be honest.


Do you think that fame has changed how you live your life in any way?

No, not really. I mostly do the same stuff. I spend a lot of time at home, and sometimes I worry a lot about people taking my picture.

I’m actually very normal, though I don’t feel the pressure to prove that in any way. Certainly something I did learn during my childhood was the fact people will always view you in a way they want to view you, when you’re in the public eye. My parents suffered that, to an extent, though with the internet today it’s much more prevalent. Back then it would mostly be gossip in newspapers.

Ultimately, if someone decides they really like you then you can do quite a lot and they will still like you. And the opposite it true—when you are disliked people will always try to find fault in you.

And that’s not just a celebrity thing—I think it’s human nature. We build ideas and opinions of one another based on information and experience, and sometimes it can be difficult to change that into something else.