The Stunning Transformation Of Dakota Johnson

Dakota Johnson is Hollywood royalty, but it's easy to forget the daughter of the legendary Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson isn't as ubiquitous on screen as some of her contemporaries. Still, the lady who made Fifty Shades of Grey her breakout in spite of everything working against it, similar to Kristen Stewart's take-notice spin on Twilight's Bella, is only just getting started.

In fact, it's likely that no matter how much praise she racks up Dakota Johnson will always feel like a bit of a pretender by her own admission. Whereas some famous kids coast by, she's eager to impress in her own right, and while many are content with living off their names, Johnson wants to forge her own path. The actress may not have grown up in front of our eyes via Disney shows and cereal commercials, but she has certainly transformed into a stunning woman over the years.

Dakota Johnson grew up in a famous family

Dakota Johnson comes from generations of Hollywood royalty, as her grandmother is the legendary Tippi Hedren of Hitchcock's The Birds fame and her mother is actress Melanie Griffith. But, as Johnson explained in a 2016 interview with Vogue, her childhood was relatively normal. Johnson grew up in Woody Creek, Colo. with her parents, proudly recounting how she "worked at the local store and did odd jobs like wash horses and babysit," rather than living off her folks' riches.

After Johnson's parents divorced in 1996, the youngster split her time between Colorado and L.A., Calif., where her mother lived with none other than The Mask of Zorro star Antonio Banderas. Although it wasn't a typical upbringing, Johnson acknowledged, "My parents' friends had children and we understood each other's lives." Thinking back on those formative years, she said, "The way I grew up is the way I grew up. I didn't know different." Besides, she noted, "In LA there's a wider awareness of celebrity families."

Dakota Johnson struggled with normalcy as a child

Due to the nature of her parents' work, as well as splitting her time between two different households, young Dakota Johnson found it difficult to put roots down. Speaking to Vogue in 2017, the actress, who began therapy at age 3, admitted to not being raised anywhere in particular, tagging along with her folks on sets with school tutors or nannies along for the ride. Neither schools nor friendships stuck.

The media circus surrounding her parents' divorce, as well as their own issues, was tough to contend with, too. "I was so consistently unmoored and discombobulated. I didn't have an anchor anywhere," Johnson explained. Studying presented its own set of problems, as she was so used to being on set. She admitted, "I never learned how to learn the way you're supposed to as a kid. I thought, Why do I have to go to school on time? What's the point when you're living in Budapest for six months while your stepdad films Evita and you go to school in your hotel room?"

Dakota Johnson experienced a not-so-charmed life as a teen

As she got older, Dakota Johnson increasingly had to deal with her parents' fame. In 2014, she told Elle that her first regular high school experience at a Catholic boarding school in northern California was horrible. "I was just miserable there. It was a great school, but girls in that concentration are so horrific, just horrific," she explained. Johnson eventually got her father to bail her out, leading to a transfer to Santa Monica's prestigious New Roads School, which counts the Olsen twins as alumni.

Still, although she was more settled, Johnson was confronted with stories about her family on a regular basis. "Things get made up. It's so, so sad. And there's absolutely nothing you can do about it as a 16-year-old. You're like, 'What the f**k? Why? What did I do?'" she railed. A story about Johnson supposedly being in rehab for a month as a teen was reportedly made up, according to the actress, who reasoned, "As a child, you trust someone and then they f**k you over."

Dakota Johnson joined the family business

In spite of the issues with her parents, becoming an actress was always Dakota Johnson's goal. It did, however, surprise her father who told The Guardian in 2019, "I didn't know that she wanted to do it. She hadn't shared that with us. So she's 18, I think, at the time and I'm going: 'OK, I'll just keep my eye on her and reach out and catch her.'" However, he soon realized she was serious, acknowledging, "She has the goods. She's a wonderful actress, and in some ways better than her mother [Melanie Griffith] and me."

Dakota Johnson's grandmother Tippi Hedren confirmed with Vogue in 2017 that the family's influence wasn't to blame either. She explained, "I didn't push Melanie into films, and she didn't push Dakota. I think neither of us is the type to push." Regardless, the grandmother and granddaughter don't tend to talk shop. "But I have told her that I think it's important to do different things in life, to have a sense of balance," Hedren noted. 

On Johnson's part, she told Vogue simply, "I thought, this is just what my family does. It's like, my dad's a lawyer, so I'm a lawyer."

Dakota Johnson took on a role her mother had held decades prior

Dakota Johnson's first personal brush with fame came via the second most prestigious awards show in the world. With just one small role under her belt (1999's Crazy in Alabama, in which mother Melanie Griffith featured), the wannabe actress took to the stage for one of Hollywood's biggest nights of the year as Miss Golden Globe in 2006. Vogue noted that Johnson was actually following in her mother's footsteps, as Griffith had the honor back in 1975, with just two uncredited roles to her name at the time. As of this writing, they are the only mother-daughter duo in history to both serve as Miss Golden Globe.

As Entertainment Weekly noted, Johnson is in good company, as other famous kids have previously taken on the role, including Jack Nicholson's daughter Lorraine in 2007, and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's child Rumer Willis in 2009. It may not have been a massive spring-board for Johnson the way Fifty Shades would be, but it was certainly a take-notice moment for the then-up-and-comer. 

Dakota Johnson landed a role in a huge 2010 movie

As it happened, just a few short years after being Miss Golden Globe (via Vogue), Dakota Johnson nabbed a role in David Fincher's 2010 Facebook drama The Social Network. Although it was a small part as Amelia Ritter, a flirty paramour who got intimate with Justin Timberlake's Sean Parker character, Johnson made a major impression in the film that starred the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, who portrayed founder Mark Zuckerberg. She proudly told Interview magazine in 2012, "When I did The Social Network, David Fincher told me that I managed to make a thankless character pretty awesome."

Johnson considered this the nicest thing anybody had ever said about her work, though she's probably heard much more flattering stuff in the years since. She explained the man's words meant so much because she thought he was "really cool."

Notably, The Social Network also starred Andrew Garfield, Brenda Song, Rooney Mara, and Armie Hammer.

Dakota Johnson snagged a leading role on a TV show

In 2012, Dakota Johnson got the opportunity to show off her range thanks to the sitcom Ben and Katewhich was sadly short-lived. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the actress gushed about the role, saying, "It's a lot of fun, she's like a loose cannon and can do or say anything. She's a little bit darker and meaner, not necessarily intentionally, just because she's rather selfish, so that's fun." The show only lasted one season, but Johnson's comedic timing was made clear in the role. 

Decider, in a 2018 revisit, called it the best role of Johnson's career. The piece noted that Johnson is a very funny performer, but, because she's most well known for playing the brooding, lip-biting lead in Fifty Shades, she often doesn't get the credit she deserves. Her character in Ben and Kate, which was usually the scolding "voice of reason," was elevated to something much more interesting in Johnson's hands. Decider opined, "The writing staff took advantage of the actress' innate comedic timing and instead made her an active participant in the misadventure of the week."

Dakota Johnson worked hard on Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey's Anastasia Steele might have been the role of a lifetime for Dakota Johnson, but it wasn't without controversy. The film currently sits at 25 percent on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, capturing the overwhelmingly negative reaction from critics. Fans of the book flooded cinemas, however, to the tune of $569 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Johnson remains loyal to the franchise that made her a household name, telling Vogue in 2015 that "even if it's commercial and mainstream, the subject matter isn't." She noted, "In that way I can do something mass but stay true to my weird interests."

Of the character of Anastasia herself, the actress explained, "She's hyperintelligent and hypersexual and very tough and very loving, and her character has so many different aspects that don't normally make sense in one person. I tried to amplify them all." James Foley, director of sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, said approvingly of his leading lady, "She has a very sensitive bulls**t meter, so if she does something that is the least bit unreal she just stops herself. She is just bizarrely instinctual about it all."  

Dakota Johnson lost her anonymity

When she was right on the cusp of mega-stardom, Dakota Johnson sat down with Vogue for a frank chat about how much her life was about to change. It was 2015, and the actress was still enjoying the benefits of being someone unrecognizable. While she'd appeared in modeling campaigns previously, she had not necessarily been plagued by paparazzi everywhere she went. "My most favorite thing about London is that nobody recognizes me. It's really ... cool," she shared at the time.

With Fifty Shades about to drop in theaters worldwide just a month later, Johnson revealed her fears about no longer having the ability to blend in. "I think about my dwindling anonymity and that's really scary," she admitted, noting a big part of her would sooner live "on a ranch in Colorado" while taking care of animals and maybe even popping out a baby or two. Still, the actress acknowledged she could still do that anyway, especially if the encroaching attention ever became too much for her.

Dakota Johnson has "outgrown" these past decisions

Most actors, aside from maybe Tom Hardy, tend not to cover themselves in tattoos, lest it hinder their progress in front of the camera. But not Dakota Johnson, who, by her own admission, got very into covering herself with ink until it was too late to go back. In a 2016 interview with Net-a-Porter, she proudly revealed a quote from Aldous Huxley novel Island that was tattooed in white and which matches sister Stella Banderas' own tattoo: "Lightly, my darling."

Still, Johnson admitted, "Some of the others I'm not so proud of." The actress shared, "I went through a phase where I loved tattoos, and I loved the feeling of getting tattooed. But now I've outgrown them mostly, and because I always have to cover them for jobs, God, they're annoying!" Now that she's super famous and in demand, the actress understands that she "really should have listened to everyone," noting, "But therein lies my problem in life!" 

Dakota Johnson has taken pride in her work, no matter the roles

As much as she might have to defend Fifty Shades of Grey's Anastasia Steele, Dakota Johnson isn't reticent about sharing her enthusiasm for playing any and every role she can, no matter the size. Explaining to Net-a-Porter why she doesn't read reviews, Johnson opined, "If people are into my work, great. But I just want to enjoy my job. Artists are complicated and sensitive people, you know? At least, I am a complicated and sensitive person." 

As for whether she prefers indies or blockbusters, the actress told Vogue definitively, "The size of a role doesn't matter to me. I don't need to be the lead of a movie in order to want to do it. I have to love the character." As someone who didn't train formally (Johnson and Juilliard "mutually" split, as the actress likes to tell interviewers), she's fully assured of her choice in career. "There was no Plan B. It's mostly instinctual. I don't have a process," she shrugged.

Dakota Johnson has remained a friend of the animals

Not content with simply descending from Hollywood royalty or effortlessly straddling the line between indie darling and blockbuster breakout star, Dakota Johnson also finds time to be a passionate animal rights advocate. It's noted in a 2015 Vogue profile that her grandmother, Tippi Hedren, took to rescuing wild animals after being treated badly by Hollywood and Alfred Hitchcock, in particular. Melanie Griffith, meanwhile, "famously grew up with a lion" living in the family home, and Johnson remembers rescue elephants in her family's backyard. 

Hedren's ranch boasts "some small cats and some big cats," according to Johnson, namely "lions and tigers, a black leopard, and a three-legged cheetah." In an interview a year later, Johnson proudly told Vogue, "My grandmother is one of the most extraordinary women in the world. She's more quick-witted and wise than anyone I know." Demonstrably confident about following in her iconic grandmother's footsteps, the actress revealed, "She still walks around the reserve at night and checks the tigers."

Dakota Johnson began dating this famous musician

Dakota Johnson is often described by interviewers as open, honest, and wonderfully frank, but if there's one topic she won't be pressed on, it's her relationship with Coldplay singer Chris Martin. A 2019 news piece in People noted the happy couple spent Johnson's 30th birthday together, with a so-called insider revealing, "She and Chris were very affectionate. They walked around the party hand in hand. They were very cute." Her mother, Melanie Griffith, previously gushed to People, "I love my daughter's boyfriend. I think that they're an awesome couple."

According to a timeline of their relationship in Cosmopolitan, the two were first rumored to be dating back in October 2017. They reportedly called time on their romance in June 2019, before apparently getting back together soon after. There were rumors of matching tattoos and even a bogus pregnancy. Still, Johnson has refused to discuss the relationship, telling Tatler in an interview (via E! News), "I'm not going to talk about it. But I am very happy."

Dakota Johnson made headlines for a "feud" with Ellen DeGeneres

As it turned out, Dakota Johnson's 30th birthday party was the source of some bizarre controversy when TV host Ellen DeGeneres publicly called her out on air for failing to invite her, only for Johnson to immediately deadpan that DeGeneres actually was invited and opted not to show up. The story was a major source of hilarity online for the better part of a week, with everybody and their uncle chiming in on who was really pulling the strings behind the scenes. 

It made for an intensely uncomfortable interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, but Johnson more than held her own, calmly setting the record straight. Naturally, the short-lived "feud" was more mindless gossip than anything else, though an interesting revelation came about when internet sleuths discovered DeGeneres was with former president George W. Bush on the day of Johnson's party. As Time reported, it caused quite a stir online.

Dakota Johnson has become more comfortable with her "life being in constant flux"

Despite success on the big screen, Dakota Johnson still feels as though she's figuring things out. In a 2016 interview with The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde for Interview magazine, Johnson admitted, "I don't know what I'm doing. ... I have such an obsession with making movies that I probably will always do that. But sometimes my life can feel so suffocating, and then it can feel so massive, like I don't have a handle on it at all, and I don't know where it's going or what I'm going to do."

As for the press and the pressures of fame, she revealed, "There are some days when I can do my thing and be in the world and walk around, and it's fine. And then there are other days where it's totally not fine, and I want to crawl into a hole and die." However, as she's matured, Johnson has "learned to be comfortable with my life being in constant flux."