USA Today - Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson seem to go together like peanut butter and gasoline.
Put them in front of a TV camera, and they're awkward. Uneasy. Stiff. Cautious. Guarded.
So do the two leads, who play dominant Christian Grey and submissive Anastasia Steele in the movie adaptation of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey (in theaters Friday, with select Thursday screenings), detest each other? The answer, from a variety of parties, is no.
"She's an easy person to get along with. She's sweet," says Dornan, who replaced Charlie Hunnam in the role just four weeks before shooting started. "We instantly had a thing. It's so important, given what we had ahead of us. If we hadn't liked each other, I wouldn't have been cast. I got cast because they thought it worked. Dakota and I get on so well. We're friends now."
That's a good thing, given that Dornan spanks, handcuffs and blindfolds Johnson and introduces her to the chamber of titillation (or horrors, depending on your take) known as the S&M "Red Room," the place where Christian feels most comfortable in his own skin.
For Johnson, who played the wide-eyed college grad wooed by Christian, the scene where Ana is tied to the bed proved the hardest to shoot.
"Your senses are taken away when you're blindfolded and tied up. It's a really interesting brain exercise." When the director calls "cut," she says, "you're still tied up and blindfolded and not in the most comfortable of positions. Having those experiences, I understand how they make sense to people in their private home. In a filming environment, it was difficult."
Which is why, the actress says, connecting with and trusting her co-star was more important than ordinarily is the case. She had read with a slew of Hollywood's top actors before Dornan met with her.
"It was weird because I'd gone through so many men at that point. He was very calm and funny. He was able to keep up with my joke-making and that meant a lot."
USA Today - You'll be seeing plenty of Dakota Johnson.
At 25, the actress has disrobed to play one of the leads in the hotly anticipated romantic thriller Fifty Shades of Grey, opening Friday (with select screenings Thursday). And, yes, she says it's unsettling to put herself out there like that.
"Sometimes I feel very nervous about it," she says. "I don't feel ashamed of my body. I think more women should be less ashamed of their bodies. It's an empowering thing.
"Obviously, it's a scary thing that a lot of people in the world will see me completely naked. But it's not me. It's not like they're watching me in my room."
Instead, they're seeing her as Anastasia Steele, the virginal college student who gets all tied up with Christian Grey, a millionaire man-about-town with a penchant for S&M. The film has an R rating, and avoided the NC-17 kiss of death by steering clear of full-frontal nudity. Still, there are ample amounts of flesh on display. Jamie Dornan, the Christian to Johnson's Ana, is also nearly nude.
"The thing to take from that is 'almost,'" says Dornan, 32. "I'm not massively uncomfortable with it. There's quite a long shot of my (butt). I wasn’t hugely comfortable with it when I watched it. That's my bum. Still my bum. Wow. You hope the end result is sexy and sensual."
Certainly, that was the goal for director Sam Taylor-Johnson when she signed on to direct the first installment of E.L. James' blockbuster sexual trilogy.
"This was not going to be gratuitous or salacious. It was never my intention to exploit them or their bodies," she says. "That was the only way to garner their trust — to make things sensual, beautiful and erotic. You don't have to be explicit."
Taylor-Johnson isn't worried that the mind-boggling amounts of attention lavished on the film will suddenly go to her leads' heads and turn them into crazed egomaniacs.
"Jamie is unfazed. Fame will just wash over him. Dakota is the sweetest person — she just wants to play with the kids and hang out with the family. They're both very grounded people," she says.
Johnson says she wasn't really prepared for the berserk response to the film, including the fans waiting outside her hotel on a cold Saturday to get a glimpse of the stars. That's one reason she has a bodyguard for the media tour. But she's not complaining, nor is she freaked out by anything that wound up on screen.
"Going into this, the books were so massive that you have a sense of it. But there's no way to prepare for it. The only thing I want to try to do is handle everything with as much grace as possible and still maintain my life as much as I can," says the actress, who is dating musician Matthew Hitt.
Her Ana is tough, manipulative, sexy, naive and passionate. But she's never a victim.
"People bring up abuse against women. That's something Sam and I were really conscious about and it was really important to both of us. In no way — she's not abused," says Johnson. "Everything is consensual. I thought that her sense of quiet confidence was so special and attractive."
The infamous Red Room, Christian's locked-up den of pleasure (or pain), isn't unveiled until nearly the end of the movie. Thankfully, says Dornan, those scenes were filmed at the shoot's end, when the co-stars were totally at ease with ach other.
"It's a tough way to spend a day. She was naked and tied up," the Irish actor says. "But we'd built up a rapport with each other. We'd have a bit of a pep talk every morning. Can you imagine how many sexual innuendos happen on a set like that? It's hard not to find humor in it."
Shooting the movie's finale, in which he lets loose on Ana and feels her disgust and wrath, left Dornan emotionally drained.
"It was brutal. It's the moment he realizes, 'What the (expletive) is wrong with me?' It made me feel a bit like that as well. I wasn't welting her with a belt," Dornan clarifies. "I'm hitting a cushion for the most part. We've also got that to deal with, to keep up in the intensity and the emotion when you're hitting a cushion. I was really going for it. That was tough."
Johnson, the daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, grew up on movie sets. It's where she feels most like herself, she says. Yet she's not sure if her parents will see Fifty Shades, for obvious reasons. Maybe, she says, they can give it a try and walk out if they're weirded out by seeing their daughter whipped, spanked and blindfolded.
"It's one of those really epic fairy-tale love stories," she says. "And it's coupled with this topic that's really intriguing and kind of naughty."
She found Anastasia an attractive character. "She has such a sense of self-worth that she doesn't feel the need to go out and party and be with boys until she really finds someone who can spar with her on all levels."
Dornan was cast four weeks before shooting started in Vancouver. He and his pregnant wife Amelia Warner relocated to Canada, where she gave birth to daughter Dulcie three days before her husband morphed into cool, controlling Christian.
"It was a mad time. It was mental when I think about it," says Dornan.
It also meant he didn't have much time to sculpt his body into physical perfection. "We trained as much as I could. I keep myself in relatively decent shape anyway. I seem to have quite good metabolism. That's natural and I'm lucky for that," Dornan says. "He didn't need to be a beast or a monster. He just needed to be in good shape. He didn't need to be like Thor.
"They tried to get me to do five protein shakes a day. One of them, I had to set an alarm for in the middle of the night. My wife was like, 'You stink of chocolate all the time.' It was pretty grim. I haven't had a protein shake since."
Now, the film is out of their hands, although both are signed on for two more installments, should they happen. And Johnson is up for it, saying she found even the steamiest sex scenes complex and ambitious, but fulfilling.
"It was using my body as a vessel," she says. "It wasn't my body. Someone else is having to move it in the right way to tell a story.
"It was exhilarating. I'd go home really exhausted some days. But most of the time, it was creatively gratifying."
USA Today - Fifty Shades of Grey will likely leave audiences all tied up when it opens on Friday.
Two people who won’t be in theaters, watching the erotic film on opening weekend: Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian Grey, and his wife, Amelia Warner. In the film, he ties up Dakota Johnson, whips her, spanks her, and seduces her in his red room. And he shows his posterior.
Little wonder that his better half has no plans to sit through the movie just yet.
"She doesn’t want to watch this. [But] She wants to support me and my work. I won’t be able to sit there myself. I am not going to put any pressure on her either way. It’s her decision. She’s well aware that it’s pretend, but it’s probably not that comfortable to watch."
Thanks to KSF for UHQ portraits.