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The Complete History of Dakota Johnson: Agent of Chaos

Photo: Ellen/YouTube

Dakota Johnson, queen of all nepo babies, is incapable of being boring. No matter what she’s stuck promoting, Johnson brings such a specific and chaotic energy to press appearances that the world reshapes around her. Like her character in Suspiria, she brings destruction in her wake. But like her character in the series finale of The Office, she’s also literally just a girl. Someone doing her job under insane media scrutiny during one of the more upheaval-y eras of the entertainment biz. We’ve gathered all Dakota Johnson’s media moments, controversies, and Ellen takedowns into one kooky timeline. Her web? Oh you know it connects them all.

Early Life

Dakota Johnson is the daughter of Melanie Griffith, who is herself the daughter of Tippi Hedren. Johnson has spoken about how growing up in the Hedren/Griffith household impacted her view of fame and the industry, particularly with regards to her grandma and Alfred Hitchcock. “She’s always been really honest and firm about standing up for yourself. That’s what she did,” Johnson said on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast. “Hitchcock ruined her career because she didn’t want to sleep with him, and he terrorized her. He was never held accountable.” In a Vanity Fair profile, Johnson said that when Griffith was a little girl, the director sent her a coffin with a doll of Hedren inside. “It’s alarming and dark and really, really sad for that little girl,” Johnson said. “Really scary.” And that’s not even getting into the Roar/growing up on a big-cat sanctuary of it all. TikToker Davis K. Bates sums it up perfectly.

2013: The Office Series Finale

This was a slow cooker of chaos. One of Johnson’s early roles was in the series finale of The Office, with the potential for a future spinoff. In later years, Johnson said the experience was torture. “They were sad,” Johnson told Seth Meyers in 2024, “and there were also weird dynamics that were going on for the last ten years. Some people didn’t speak to each other and I’m coming in like, ‘Hahaha, I’m so excited to be here!’ And nobody wanted to talk to me, nobody gave a ****.” This will become a pattern with Johnson, giving the tea years after the work she was in has come and gone. See also: the Fifty Shades franchise.

2015-2018: Fifty Shades of Weird Press

Dakota Johnson signed on to play Anastasia Steele, the Bella Swan expy in E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, in 2013. She was originally intended to work opposite Charlie Hunnam, but he left the proj due to creative differences. Jamie Dornan wound up taking the role of Christian Grey, and for all three movies it was rumored that the two didn’t get along. Their every movement was recut and analyzed for evidence of this alleged feud, with Johnson’s awkward silences carrying a lot of rhetorical weight. But we know now that this is just who Johnson is. No malice, just a … unique vibe. We also know now that the movies were a deeply chaotic experience, with cast and crew building the plane as it was taking off. Johnson later characterized making the Fifty Shades movies as a “psychotic” experience. “I haven’t been able to talk about this truthfully ever, because you want to promote a movie the right way,” she said, “and I’m proud of what we made ultimately and everything turns out the way it’s supposed to, but it was tricky.”

2016: How to be a Menace on a Junket

While on the press junket for How to be Single, Leslie Mann and Dakota Johnson mercilessly hit on WSVN Miami reporter Chris Van Vliet. Johnson asked him to unbutton his shirt, said he was on “swole patrol,” and critiqued his pick-up lines, giving the advice “Don’t ever say that again” when his rizz was less than optimal.

2016: Mystery of the Blue Bottle Coffee

Vulture’s Rebecca Alter covered this story in tremendous detail back when it broke in 2022. To TL;DR, Dakota Johnson may or may not have used a piece of rope to tie the door shut to a Blue Bottle Coffee, because the baristas may or may not have told her she couldn’t pull shots, which may or may not have been part of a Vogue digital-exclusive video.

2019: “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen”

Johnson helped topple a daytime TV empire when she informed Ellen DeGeneres that, actually, no, she did invite Ellen to her birthday. DeGeneres’s career basically ended shortly thereafter, after it came to light that her show was allegedly a hotbed of workplace toxicity. But Johnson’s light rebuke was the first volley.

2020: Limegate

Lemme take you back. It’s 2020, middle of lockdown, and access to The Celebs is deeply curtailed by the total shutdown of public life. Architectural Digest’s home tours start to take on an increased importance, as it’s one of the few avenues famouses have left to address the masses (and that the masses have for criticizing the celebs). Dakota Johnson’s tour goes viral in part because she gives a special shout-out to a bowl of limes in her kitchen. “I love limes. I love them. They’re great. I like them so much, and I like to present them like this in my house,” she said. Fast-forward to January 2021, and Dakota Johnson tells Jimmy Fallon that not only does she dislike limes, she’s allergic! If we can’t trust the great truth-teller/Ellen-slayer about her love of limes, who can we trust?

2023: Madame Wha’ Happen?

And now we come to what may be the culmination of Johnson’s media training: the press tour for Madame Web. The film is rapidly gaining cult status amongst the sillier geese of Film Twitter. If Morbius mothered, you’d get Madame Web. The fun started with a line in the trailer said by Johnson, “He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died,” which is never actually delivered in the movie. Then there was an earthquake during the junket, it seemed like Johnson thought she was in an MCU movie and not a Sony Spider-Man jawn, she went on The Tonight Show and said she cried every time she saw Fallon because he’s so funny, and on and on and on. It seems unlikely that we’ll ever get the Madame Web sequel that explains how Sydney Sweeney et al. got their superpowers, but if we do? I am sat, front row, 2003-appropriate sunglasses the **** on.

After Madame Web underperformed at the box office, Dakota Johnson reflected on the press tour. She told Bustle “It’s hard for me to fake it. It’s hard for me sometimes to go along with the silliness of doing a press tour.” Which is probably why, earlier in the interview, she called out the elephant in the room. Predicting the headlines that will inevitably follow, Johnson guessed “Like, ‘Dakota Johnson Breaks Her Silence On Madame Web’s F*cking Box Office Failure.’ […] It’s like, ‘No, I’m not breaking any silence. I’m just talking.’”

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