I felt so much when I was fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, I felt everything. I didn’t understand [myself], I was so happy yet so angry and sad. That was the point when I realized that I needed to tell stories and make characters come alive and I needed to make people cry, and make people angry, and make people happy, and make them laugh.
On why she chose to be an actress
When I did The Social Network (2010), David Fincher told me that I managed to make a thankless character pretty awesome. I thought that was really cool because I think he’s really cool.
I’ve only been in long-term relationships. I’ve never really dated myself.
I’m so happy when I’m working.
I’d watch my parents work and think, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do that.’ It wasn’t even a thing. It’s the only thing I know how to do.
I love doing improv. I love comedy. I have always felt this way, even when I was really young.
They said ‘You got the offer’ and I couldn’t speak. I was just so relieved. I was crying and crying. Water was literally squirting out of my eyes because I had been so stressed out. And there’s this giant Doberman Pincher laying on the bed next to me. And he just slowly fell asleep. It was so special and [this dog] didn’t give a fuck about me and what I was going through.
On receiving the call she was cast as Anastasia Steele
I didn’t have any training in comedy or in improvisation. It was sort of scary at first, because it’s a big thing to be working with those guys, because they are like the funniest people around right now. But once I got a handle on the way that they work, it was just so much fun. They improvised on 21 Jump Street as well. I went straight from The Five-Year Engagement to 21 Jump Street, so I had a bit of a handle on how to work with these guys.
Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel told me about what they wanted the base of this character to be, and then they gave me a lot of free range to do what I wanted. Obviously they use improv a lot, so I was pretty much able to create this character and make her really weird, annoying, and abrasive.
On using improv techniques for The Five-Year Engagement (2012)
It’s not necessarily annoying. I’ve come to understand the allure of that to other people, how it seems so interesting and different. But for me it’s just my family, it’s the way I grew up and it’s my mom and my dad. It doesn’t really bother me because I get it, but sometimes it’s kind of a drag to talk about. People ask me about my grandmother (Tippi Hedren) a lot, too.
On being asked about her family
I just really understand it. I think it’s an incredible love story and that’s why it’s affected so many people. Erica (E.L. James) did a really good job of explaining how that just can happen sometimes and you have this chemical pull to someone. Adding in the sex makes it perfect. Sometimes you feel a little bit naughty and that’s okay.
On Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Reading the book, I found myself more interested in the ways they were breaking each other down emotionally than the sex scenes. I think there’s a part of a woman that wants to be the thing that breaks a man down.
On reading Fifty Shades of Grey
It’s a lot of getting into the character’s head, Ana’s headspace, kind of before she meets Christian. So it’s a lot of reading, which I love, but she’s an English major, so that’s kind of boring.
On preparing to be Anastasia Steele
I think that we’re trying to bring back the idea of family being really important, instead of just having a TV show about funny people doing funny things all the time.
On Ben & Kate (2012)
I think people, especially the press, like to pick on children of famous people and I think that’s fucking awful. 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, Why? What did I do?
On growing up with famous parents
She is the most glamorous woman I’ve ever seen. She’s so beautiful and smart and a real, true class act. She’s just extraordinary.
On her grandmother Tippi Hedren
She’s the smartest person in our family.
On her younger half-sister Stella Banderas
The scenes in that room were definitely the most vulnerable scenes in the movie, but it was a closed set. My mom told me that it’s my right to ask for that during intimate scenes, so it seemed like Jamie [Dornan], Sam [Taylor-Johnson], and I were in this little world together.
On the Red Room of Pain
I wanted to keep myself distanced from it [BDSM] at first because I wanted Ana’s reaction to certain things to be real, like new. To me, there’s something really honest in wanting to completely give up control for just a second.
On researching the role of Anastasia Steele
I feel like women are so drawn to Christian [Grey] because he is very elegant and ambitious and smart and strong. I don’t know if I would have the patience that Ana has for him, though.
It was important to me that Ana’s body look like that of an active college student. And I was going to be naked, so I wanted to look good. I did a lot of working out and had more waxing than any woman should have!
On preparing to become Anastasia Steele
Jamie would be the first one to throw a blanket over me.
On being naked with co-star Jamie Dornan
There were some painful moments. I got whiplash once from [Jamie Dornan] throwing me on the bed. So fucking painful.
On filming Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
It’s stressful enough to be tied to a bed naked in a scene. But then they call ‘cut’ and you’re still tied to the bed, naked.
On filming BDSM sex scenes
It was disappointing when Charlie [Charlie Hunnam] left [Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)], but everything happened the exact way it was supposed to, I think.
Sometimes I did walk off the set feeling a bit shell-shocked. The drive home from work helped me snap out of it. And a big glass of wine.
On filming Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
I think about my dwindling anonymity, and that’s really scary because a very large part of me would be perfectly happy living on a ranch in Colorado and having babies and chickens and horses – which I will do anyway.
[Colorado] was like a dream world. I loved it more than anything. My dad (Don Johnson) taught me how to build a fire, ride a horse, ride a motorcycle, and shoot a gun – before I was nine. That’s really all you need.
There is something very scary about thinking everyone in the world will know who I am.
On post-Fifty Shades stardom
Yes. Of course. Absolutely. The whole time. Even now there are moments when I think, what the fuck have I done? But most of the time I feel pretty solid about it.
On having doubts over accepting the role of Anastasia
I absolutely have shame and I do have guilt. I am a human. It’s true that I’m not ashamed of my body. I’m comfortable and I think more women should be more confident. I think nudity and sexual scenes are beautiful when they’re tastefully done.
When mom and dad were at the height of their careers and things were super-crazy and they couldn’t leave their houses, there wasn’t social media. It was all about autographs. Now everyone’s the press. I feel fame is perforated; it can be glorious but it can completely destroy a human too.
This woman is incredibly smart. It’s almost as if she’s all-knowing and therefore she hasn’t given herself up emotionally or physically before. She’s waited for this person who she can spar with mentally and who can completely ignite something in her.
On Anastasia Steele criticism
I grew up around really not normal people. My family is general Hollywood. They’re all artists; they’re creative people who are advocates for expressing themselves. But I also have to say I’m not impressed with Hollywood.
[Fifty Shades] was like watching someone who looked a lot like me doing really bizarre things. I was completely detached.
I feel like I grew up in the circus. I know planes, trains and automobiles. And really talented, weird people.
Seeing someone who has a gift of her caliber, and also to put her whole life’s work into fighting and saving animals and fighting for animals’ rights and trying to pass bills and laws – that is the true essence of being a good person and doing something worthwhile. You can make a bunch of movies, but at the end of the day, if you’re saving a bunch of lives, that’s obviously a bit more important.
On her grandmother Tippi Hedren
I’ve come to terms with the fact that the projects I want to work on don’t exist, so I’m going to have to create them for myself. I feel incredibly grateful that I’m in a position to do that.
In 2018, explaining why she formed her own production company called Silhouette Productions
Will I stop doing nude scenes when my boobs start sagging? I don’t know. Maybe I have more of a European mind-set about these things. I don’t want to see someone wearing a bra and underwear in a sex scene. Let’s be honest about it. People are naked when they f-k.
On still doing nude scenes later in her career
I’m grateful to my parents and my crazy life because the only reason I am the way I am is because of how I grew up.
I didn’t go to a full year of school until I was 11, and that was in San Francisco because my dad was filming Nash Bridges (1996).