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, by Johnson's own admission, it seems that no matter how much praise she racks up, she'll always feel like a bit of a pretender. 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 has always wanted to forge her own path. The actress may not have grown up in front of our eyes on Disney shows and in cereal commercials, but she's 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. Her grandmother is the legendary Tippi Hedren of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," and her mother is actress Melanie Griffith. But as Johnson explained in a 2016 interview with Vogue, her childhood was more normal than one might think. Johnson grew up living with her parents in Woody Creek, Colorado, and she proudly recounted 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 LA, where her mother lived with none other than "The Mask of Zorro" star Antonio Banderas. Although it wasn't an entirely 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, as she noted, "In LA, there's a wider awareness of celebrity families."

She 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 because 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?'"

She 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***? Why? What did I do?'" she said. A story that Johnson went to rehab for a month as a teen was reportedly made up, according to the actress, who reasoned, "[A]s a child, you trust someone, and then they f*** 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 aspiring 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 daughter Rumer Willis in 2009. It may not have been a massive springboard for Johnson the way "Fifty Shades" would be, but it was certainly a take-notice moment for the then-up-and-comer. 

She landed a role in a huge 2010 movie

As it happened, just a few short years after being Miss Golden Globe, 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 Kate," which 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 the role made Johnson's comedic timing clear.

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," who was usually the scolding "voice of reason," was elevated to something much more interesting in Johnson's hands. Decider opined, "[T]he writing staff took advantage of the actress' innate comedic timing and instead made her an active participant in the misadventure of the week."

She 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% on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, reflecting an 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 remained 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 the sequels "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed," said approvingly of his leading lady, "She has a very sensitive bulls*** 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 megastardom, 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 relative anonymity. 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.

She has outgrown 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" didn't click, 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.

She has remained a friend of 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 was noted in her 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 another Vogue interview a year later, Johnson proudly said, "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 a 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." Johnson's 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 but got 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.

She has become more comfortable with her life being in constant flux

Despite success on the big screen, Dakota Johnson still felt as though she was just 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 matured, Johnson "learned to be comfortable with my life being in constant flux." 

Dakota Johnson created a running joke about an allergy

In early 2020, Dakota Johnson welcomed Architectural Digest into her home. While giving a tour, she pointed out a bowl of limes in her kitchen and said, "I love limes. I love them. They're great. I love them so much, and I like to present them like this in my house." The internet found the comment to be funny and offbeat, and it led Jimmy Fallon to question her love of limes about a year later while she was a guest on "The Tonight Show." "I actually didn't even know they were in there," Johnson revealed. "I was giving the tour and went into the kitchen, and it was set dressing. I'm allergic to limes. ... [I]t was hard to just ignore them. So, I just lied."

The joke has become one of Johnson's defining moments on the internet, and she's totally in on the joke. In a promo for her hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live" in 2024, the actor gave a tour of Studio 8H, and at the end of the video, she picked up a bowl of limes and repeated her now famous line, "I love limes." Hopefully, she didn't have an allergic reaction.

She has fully embraced her relationship with Chris Martin's kids

As noted, Dakota Johnson has been in a relationship with Chris Martin for years. The musician was famously married to Gwyneth Paltrow for over a decade, and the former couple share two children, Apple Martin and Moses Martin. Chris Martin and Dakota Johnson don't speak about their relationship much publicly, but Johnson seems to have blended seamlessly into the Martin family. When asked during an interview with Bustle what she thinks about being a stepmom, Johnson said, "I love those kids like my life depends on it. With all my heart."

Johnson has had Paltrow's approval for years. In a 2020 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Paltrow spoke about her relationship with Chris as a co-parent and mentioned how Johnson fits into their dynamic. "I just adore her. I always start to think of the ampersand sign — what else can you bring in instead of being resistant to or being made insecure by?" Paltrow said of her fellow actor.

She reportedly hid her engagement for years

In late 2020, Dakota Johnson and her longtime partner Chris Martin sparked engagement rumors when Johnson was photographed wearing what appeared to be an engagement ring. The rumors seemed to be just that — rumors — as neither Martin nor Johnson ever commented on the stories, and the speculation died. Three years later, at the beginning of 2024, reports came out that Martin and Johnson had indeed been engaged for years, and that the ring she was spotted wearing was an engagement ring. The couple chose to keep the news private, and a source reported that Johnson and Martin have no impending plans to get married.

While Johnson doesn't discuss her relationship much, she is happy to gush about Martin as a person. In her interview with Bustle, Johnson shared that she loves watching her rumored fiancé perform on stage. "I love watching him. I could watch him every day. I don't know how to explain it. I feel like, I don't know ... I'm watching my most favorite being do his most favorite thing," she said.

Dakota Johnson started producing films

Dakota Johnson has been acting for decades, but in recent years, she has moved into another space in the entertainment industry: producing. In 2019, Johnson co-founded TeaTime Pictures, and the company has been responsible for pictures such as "Daddio," "Cha Cha Real Smooth," and "Am I OK?" TeaTime Pictures also produced a Coldplay music video, which Johnson also co-directed.

Choosing which films to fund as a production company can be challenging. Funding a film is always a risk, especially as a burgeoning entity, but Johnson is okay with taking risks. As she said at the Variety Entertaining Marketing Summit in 2022, "There's no credo. There's no mandate. It's not like we make only one kind of movie with one kind of person. There are so many different worlds and people inside my mind and in my heart that I want to be able to amplify."

Dakota Johnson joined the MCU

For many actors, it's a dream to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If their role is a hit, it can secure them work for years to come and potentially earn them lots of money. Dakota Johnson's time in the MCU hasn't panned out that way, unfortunately, and signs point to her being a one and done superhero. In 2024, Johnson starred as Cassandra Webb in "Madame Web," and despite backing from the world famous production company, a star studded cast, and a buzzy press tour, the movie did not fare well among critics or audiences.

As Johnson shared in her interview with Bustle, the poor reviews weren't much of a shock. And the actor doesn't envision herself as reprising the role. "[I]t was definitely an experience for me to make that movie. I had never done anything like it before. I probably will never do anything like it again because I don't make sense in that world," Johnson said. The film's reviews did have one bit of redemption — multiple outlets have labeled "Madame Web" a future cult classic.

She became well known for her quirky persona during interviews

"Madame Web" might not have been a critical success, but it did renew the public's love for Dakota Johnson (though to be fair, that never really went away). Throughout her career, Johnson has earned a reputation for having a silly, sarcastic sense of humor during interviews that isn't always detected. While promoting "Madame Web," Johnson's interview persona was at its peak, proving that she's not just in on the jokes, she's the one writing them. And fans can't get enough of her interviews. "First she lied about the limes. Then she called filming Madame Web with a blue screen 'absolutely psychotic' and said, 'I don't know if this is going to be good at all.' And now this. We need more unhinged celebrities like Dakota Johnson," one Twitter user said about a clip that showed Johnson was unable to name the three Tom Holland "Spider-Man" films.

Johnson addressed the "Madame Web" press tour with her signature sense of humor in her 2024 "Saturday Night Live" monologue. "I'm just not good at talking to journalists," she said. "I think the big problem is that I say stuff, and then they write it down." Johnson added that she's never taken interviews seriously and cut to a clip of herself as a kid rolling her eyes during one of her father's interviews. Johnson is the gift that keeps on giving.

She also joined the select group of people who've hosted SNL more than once

Speaking of "Saturday Night Live," 2024 marked the year that Dakota Johnson became one of the few people to have hosted the show more than once. While it may seem like many stars have been the host more than once, that's not actually the case. There have been nearly 1,000 episodes of the show, and most celebrities only get the opportunity to host once, if at all. Only those with extreme career longevity are even eligible to return as hosts.

Johnson had a few memorable moments on "SNL" in 2024, including the sketches "Big Dumb Cups" and "Please Don't Destroy — Roast." The latter sketch was particularly fun for Johnson to perform. "I had a great time," Johnson said on "Late Night With Seth Meyers" of roasting the Please Don't Destroy members. The actor added that her favorite part was reciting what they called the "nepo truce," which was, "A foot in the door and so much more," referencing both Johnson and Please Don't Destroy members John Higgins and Martin Herlihy, who, like Johnson, are nepo babies.