Fifty Shades' Dakota Johnson is not so Freed
Five years on as the co-lead in the erotic romance trilogy, the actress is still uncomfortable talking about her fame
For those who care - and there are a lot of you, whether you are willing to admit it or not - the wait for Fifty Shades Freed, the third and final instalment of the erotic romance trilogy, is over.
For Dakota Johnson, back as the sexually submissive protagonist Anastasia Steele, her character's "emotional, intellectual and sexual" arc over the course of the three films, which are based on the best-selling E. L. James books, was "one of the biggest draws" of the project.
"It felt like a challenge to have this time, to be with this character and portray her in a way that is relatable, but honest," the 28-year-old US actress said.
"She starts out fairly naive and is not really concerned about her love life, her looks or furthering herself socially, and then she meets Christian and she grows into a really fierce young woman who discovers that her sexual preferences are more similar to his than she initially expected."
In Fifty Shades Freed, newly-weds Anastasia and BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism)-inclined billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) are settling into married life when the antagonist, her former boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) reappears, obsessed with punishing Christian for having the life he craves.
There is a thriller aspect with a kidnapping, sex in a high-speed car and scenes of shoot-outs, but the primary theme is that a happily-ever-after has to be worked at.
Opening here tomorrow, the movie is directed by James Foley, who helmed last year's Fifty Shades Darker. Both sequels were shot back to back.
Johnson is never really forthcoming in interviews. Maybe it is because a risque role thrust her onto the international stage and she is uncomfortable talking about it, but Johnson is equally reserved while doing press for other movies.
"I have discovered that protecting my privacy is probably the most important job I will ever have in my life," she said.
Not that dating Coldplay rocker Chris Martin will help with that, but she does not talk about her latest beau.
She does have to address the movie's sex scenes though, because that is the attraction of the Fifty Shades movies, which kick-started with 2015's Fifty Shades Of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.
"When I started making them, I was 23 turning 24, and I had never done a sex scene in a film. I had not been nude and it was scary, but it was a story I wanted to tell, a character I wanted to portray.
"I had to figure out how to balance exposing myself because you are emotionally vulnerable, and then also physically vulnerable," Johnson said.
She has nothing but warm feelings for her co-star, Irish actor Dornan, who is 35 and a happily married father of two.
"He is talented, smart and funny, and he is a great friend. He is fantastic. He is really a joy to be around all the time, especially when you have to spend like four years with someone.
"If I had anything juicy or gossipy to tell you, I would, but I do not. He is really boring - he does not do anything bad or fun or get into trouble, so I have got nothing for you," she said.
Fans will be interested to know there was a "kink adviser" on the films.
"I do my research when I work. Jamie spent more time with him because my character does not really have knowledge about this genre of sex prior to meeting him," Johnson said.
On a more serious note, with the Hollywood-backed Time's Up movement against sexual harassment gaining steam, how does she see someone like Anastasia in that context?
"I do not feel that this character or film is hindering the evolution of the way women are treated in the industry.
"If anything, I think perhaps it might hopefully empower women to stand up for themselves, to feel confident in their relationships, in their workplace, to be treated equally," Johnson said.
Although she said some people have thanked her for helping them feel sexually liberated, such gratitude is misplaced.
"That is definitely something for E. L. James. I was just a conduit, a vessel," she said.
At last month's Golden Globe Awards, Johnson wore black and sported a Time's Up pin in support of the movement.
"There is definitely a sense of solidarity that I have not experienced before. It was a very, very interesting moment to be in that room that night," she said.
"It was one of the moments of my life I will never forget. It has opened up a conversation for sure. Women are talking and it is not going to go away."
While she has never been through any bad experiences in her career, her actress-grandmother Tippi Hedren has claimed that veteran film-maker Alfred Hitchcock harassed her when she was under contract to him, she broke her contract to get away from him and sacrificed her career in the process.
"I have spoken about this with my grandmother a lot because she experienced Hitchcock, and that was a terrible thing she went through. It applies to every single problem that women are talking about now when this happened in the 50s," Johnson said.
"We have conversations about it at home, but it is not necessarily an easy thing to talk about. It is hard to think about my grandmother going through this, so if I can do something to make a change for younger generations, for future actresses... then I will definitely try to do that."