Since breaking out as a movie star in the steamy big screen adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Dakota Johnson has managed to navigate Hollywood through a series of daring indies and projects with auteur directors, while avoiding roles similar to that R-rated sexcapade.
No role has been more different from Anastasia in “Fifty Shades” than the one in her latest film, “The Friend,” which made its premiere Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival. In “The Friend,” Johnson plays a woman who receives a terminal cancer diagnosis and is told she has only a few months to live.
When asked if she found that she was getting offered the same sort of sexy role following the success of the high-profile “Fifty Shades” franchise — as it often happens with many young actresses of a certain age — Johnson explained why that didn’t happen.
“Not really, no. There’s not a lot like those movies. There weren’t a lot of big naked franchises coming my way,” Johnson told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman. However, she didn’t rule out the possibility of doing more in that vein.
“If there’s a project or a film that has a similar plot line — or I don’t know if that would happen again — I’m not going to steer away from anything. I want to do everything, and I want to learn,” Johnson said. “I learn so much, no matter the project. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing every time I’m working. It’s just what I love, and I hope that I get to keep doing this job, because I’m really lucky.”
“The Friend” is a narrative feature from Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the filmmaker behind “Megan Leavey” and the documentary “Blackfish.” It’s based on an Esquire article of the same name about a man (Jason Segel), who puts his life on hold to move in with a married couple (Johnson and Casey Affleck) to support them through the wife’s illness. But as her condition worsens, the lines between friendship and family begin to blur.
Johnson said she wants to make projects about people that others can relate to and empathize with, and doesn’t have a plan when it comes to choosing one type of character or role over the other.
“My focus is drawn toward story and characters that possess a pretty profound level of humanity,” she said. “I really don’t know, I don’t have a plan. I want to work with great people. I want to work with kind people and make films and shows, and I want to make things that people find themselves in, whether it’s in the story or the character.”
Watch a video clip of Johnson at TIFF above.