NEW YORK — Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson seem to go together like peanut butter and gasoline.
Put them in front of a TV camera, and they’re awkward. Uneasy. Stiff. Cautious. Guarded.
So do the two leads, who play dominant Christian Grey and submissive Anastasia Steele in the movie adaptation of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (in theaters Friday, with select Thursday screenings), detest each other? The answer, from a variety of parties, is no.
“She’s an easy person to get along with. She’s sweet,” says Dornan, who replaced Charlie Hunnam in the role just four weeks before shooting started. “We instantly had a thing. It’s so important, given what we had ahead of us. If we hadn’t liked each other, I wouldn’t have been cast. I got cast because they thought it worked. Dakota and I get on so well. We’re friends now.”
That’s a good thing, given that Dornan spanks, handcuffs and blindfolds Johnson and introduces her to the chamber of titillation (or horrors, depending on your take) known as the S&M “Red Room,” the place where Christian feels most comfortable in his own skin.
For Johnson, who played the wide-eyed college grad wooed by Christian, the scene where Ana is tied to the bed proved the hardest to shoot.
“Your senses are taken away when you’re blindfolded and tied up. It’s a really interesting brain exercise.” When the director calls “cut,” she says, “you’re still tied up and blindfolded and not in the most comfortable of positions. Having those experiences, I understand how they make sense to people in their private home. In a filming environment, it was difficult.”
Which is why, the actress says, connecting with and trusting her co-star was more important than ordinarily is the case. She had read with a slew of Hollywood’s top actors before Dornan met with her.
“It was weird because I’d gone through so many men at that point. He was very calm and funny. He was able to keep up with my joke-making and that meant a lot.”
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson squashes rumors of off-camera friction.
“Everyone likes to gossip. And so many stories are utterly untrue. They’re funny and sweet together,” she says. “I don’t know if everyone expected them to have a Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson thing. Jamie is married with a small baby. Dakota is in a relationship.
“It’s a movie. It was work. They get along fine.”