The “Fifty Shades of Grey” rumors are flying fast and furiously on the Universal lot as the film — set to fog up theaters less than a year from now — prepares to finally tie down its all-important cast.
The latest actress to emerge as a serious contender for the coveted role of Anastasia Steele is Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith. Johnson started out as an IMG model before transitioning to acting and launching a movie career, including a memorable scene with Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network.”
At this point, nothing is firm — Johnson is just one of the up-and-coming starlets currently being considered to play Steele, according to individuals familiar with the project. At very least, interest in Johnson indicates the type of actress the filmmakers are considering for Ana: She’s 23 years old, and though she isn’t quite a movie star (yet), she has acting credibility and a rising feature career.
Representatives for Johnson and Universal had no comment.
Sam Taylor-Johnson (“Nowhere Boy”) is directing from a script by Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks”), who adapted the erotic literary sensation by E L James. Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti are producing “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which is set up at Universal Pictures and Focus Features.
By all accounts, the part of Anastasia Steele is a potential star-maker, which means there’s limited upside for an established star; and the chosen actress will have to be comfortable with onscreen nudity and kinky sex. Johnson may not be a household name, but as a former model, she’s already comfortable flaunting her body for the camera.
While “Fifty Shades” has not been offered to anyone officially, several rising actresses are believed to have taken themselves out of the running, including Shailene Woodley and Alicia Vikander. Analeigh Tipton (“Crazy, Stupid Love”) — like Johnson, a young model with a budding acting career — was also considered at one point.
Also read: Melanie Griffith Says Most Hollywood Screenplays Are ‘Sh–ty and Stupid and Superficial’
In the “Twilight”-inspired book, James describes Anastasia as an average 22-year-old with delicate features such as long, dark brown hair (Johnson is usually blonde, but has gone brunette before; evidence at left), pale skin, big blue eyes, full lips and an upturned nose (the one feature Johnson lacks). Slender and petite, she’s described as pretty — but not too pretty.
Johnson got Hollywood’s attention with her scene-stealing turn as a college coed who sleeps with Timberlake’s character in “The Social Network” — which was also produced by De Luca and Brunetti. The last time an actress with a bit part in “The Social Network” was rumored for a high-profile literary adaptation, Rooney Mara won the role of Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
After supporting roles in “21 Jump Street,” “The Five-Year Engagement” and “Beastly,” Johnson landed her own Fox TV show, “Ben and Kate.” Johnson, who recently appeared in the series finale of “The Office” and next stars alongside Aaron Paul in DreamWorks’ action movie “Need For Speed,” will soon begin filming Michael Almereyda’s “Cymbeline.”
As for Christian Grey, the movie website Twitch reported earlier on Tuesday that producers are looking to cast “Pacific Rim” star Charlie Hunnam as the kinky billionaire. Hunnam would fit the project’s Anglo bent, as Taylor-Johnson, James, Marcel and Universal co-chair Donna Langley all hail from overseas. That said, an individual familiar with the project tells TheWrap that a decision regarding Christian’s casting won’t be made until after the filmmakers know who will play Anastasia.
Back when Taylor-Johnson won the director’s chair in June, TheWrap reported that Felicity Jones was being considered to play Steele, though there doesn’t appear to have been any movement on that front.
But the clock is running out on “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and Universal needs to get the cameras rolling before Halloween to make their date. Expect an official casting announcement after Labor Day.
Johnson is repped by WME and Management 360.