How Dakota Johnson Really Got Filming Those Intense 50 Shades Scenes

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost half a decade since the Fifty Shades trilogy ended in cinemas. Based on one of the best-selling books of all time, the film series has managed to gross over $1 billion in ticket sales, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Before the first film hit theaters, there was so much controversy about how the story would play out on the big screen as it is essentially erotic, containing scenes involving sadism, masochism, and other aspects of BDSM. Many actors reportedly moved on to star in the films, but in the end Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan were chosen to play the lead roles.

For her part, Johnson said that she looked past all the flaws the project received from the start and agreed to sign on as Anastasia Steele as she was interested in her character arc. “One of the biggest draws for me was Anastasia’s emotional, intellectual and sexual arc over the course of three films,” she told Glamor UK in 2018. “She’s growing into a wild young woman who discovers that her sexual preferences may be bigger much like Christian Gray when she originally expected.”

However, nothing could have prepared her for the actual filming experience. According to Johnson, she had done some unconventional things to prepare for filming sensual scenes.

Dakota Johnson throws back shots before filming hot scenes

Filming sex scenes is cumbersome – just ask any actor. According to Dakota Johnson, filming the scenes in Fifty Shades, especially the more “technical” ones involving toys, is particularly challenging. In fact, one of the only ways to prepare for filming was to have a shot or two.

“Most [our preparation] is just really figuring out beforehand how we’re going to do the scene — so we don’t have to wait much while we’re both vulnerable,” she told Marie Claire in 2018. “But when something’s very, very difficult, it’s sometimes necessary something strong to drink first.” And her choice for liquid courage? She told E! News that she prefers to drink whiskey.

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To put things in perspective, she had underwear taped to her body during filming, so it’s fair to say she was extremely uncomfortable the whole time. “They’re basically like it’s a nipple pasty, but underwear… It would also come off because the glue would wear off, so they would superglue it to my body so it wouldn’t fall off.” And I would wear two of them,” she recalls. “It’s fucking bizarre.”

Dakota Johnson calls ‘Fifty Shades’ filming ‘psychotic’

While Fifty Shades ultimately made Dakota Johnson a star, she doesn’t look back fondly on the experience. Speaking to Vanity Fair, she said she was initially excited about the opportunity, but it wasn’t at all what she envisioned.

“I’m a sexual person, and when something interests me, I want to know so much about it. That’s why I made these big nude films,” she said. But Fifty Shades writer EL James “apparently had a lot of creative control” and sometimes forced things even when they weren’t feasible. “We shot the film in which Erika [James] wanted to make, and then we shot the film that we wanted to make,” she continued. “It was like a mess the whole time.”

However, Johnson has no regrets about ever being in the films, saying, “If I had known at the time it was going to be like this, probably no one would have done it. It would have been, ‘Oh, that’s psychotic.’ But no, I don’t regret it.” Ultimately, she’s grateful that the franchise has gotten her to where she is today. “This project won’t be my swan song. It took my life down a path I didn’t plan, but I’m proud of it,” she told Glamor UK. “The films have allowed me to do so many different projects and travel so much. In the end, ‘Fifty Shades’ put me in a world that I really wanted to be in.”