The Truth About Melanie Griffith's Relationship With Don Johnson

Celebrity romances are the lifeblood of Hollywood. Open up any tabloid or gossip website and you'll be inundated with the intimate relationship details of dozens of showbiz's biggest "it couples." That being said, not all celebrity romances are created equal. There are a few— like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton or David Bowie and Iman— that are a cut above the rest, due to their intensity, longevity, or just plain old drama. Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson's decades-long, on-again-off-again love is one such romance.

The "Miami Vice" and "Working Girl" actors first met in 1972 and were married twice before finally calling it quits in the mid-'90s. Their union produced one child, "50 Shades of Gray" actor Dakota Johnson, half a dozen rehab stints, and enough gossip to keep the tabloids afloat for nearly three decades. Here, we're taking a closer look at Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson's relationship, from its scandalous beginnings to the real reason they ultimately ended things. Read on to uncover the truth about one of the biggest celebrity relationships of all time.

An unexpected beginning

In 1972, "Miami Vice" star Don Johnson, "The Birds" actor Tippi Hedren, and her still-unknown daughter, Melanie Griffith, were hard at work on "The Harrad Experiment." The movie raised eyebrows not only for its racy content but also for the unorthodox, real-life relationship between a 22-year-old Johnson and a 14-year-old Griffith it produced. In 2017, Griffith recalled to The Hollywood Reporter how she'd fallen almost instantly in love with Johnson after bumping into him in a stairwell, thinking he was "the most beautiful person [she'd] ever seen."

Hedren, of course, had her misgivings about the relationship, in large part because there was such a substantial age difference between her underage daughter and the grown Johnson, but realized there'd be no standing in the way of the determined young couple. For his part, Johnson told People, "I was skeptical because of her age, but she was more woman than most of the girls I'd been going out with." That didn't mean it was all easygoing, though, given that most outsiders were scandalized by the pair's age gap. The external attention made certain things, like Johnson picking Griffith up from school, feel deeply uncomfortable for the young couple.

In the end, the actors didn't let others' opinions affect them, and Griffith moved in with Johnson at just 15, shortly after getting kicked out of her private Catholic school.

A doomed first marriage

Things between the live-in couple took an even more serious turn on Melanie Griffith's 18th birthday when Don Johnson proposed. Griffith's mom, Tippi Hedren, was opposed to the marriage — perhaps because she saw the writing on the wall — but the pair ignored her misgivings and, in 1976, tied the knot at a small chapel in Las Vegas. The marriage only lasted six months.

In an interview with People years later, the couple admitted that they had known, on some level, that their first marriage was never going to work. Johnson described how the night before the wedding he had been with ex-Miss World Marjorie Wallace, and had only left her after Griffith phoned him during the wee hours of the morning to profess her undying love and to ask if they could tie the knot. For her part, Griffith told the outlet she had no delusions about the state of their relationship pre-wedding, but only hoped that making things legal would act as a catalyst to change of some sort. "It just wasn't working for us, but we couldn't split up," she said. "We thought it might work better if we were married. It didn't. I got married in order to end the relationship."

It didn't take long after their divorce was finalized for either party to jump into other serious relationships. In 1981, Johnson began seeing Andy Warhol actress Patti D'Arbanville, and Griffith married actor Steven Bauer. Both parties would welcome their first children with their respective new partners within the next few years.

The rehab years

Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson's first marriage didn't end just because they were both emotionally checked out— there were extenuating circumstances that also played a role in its demise, namely their substance addictions. Johnson began indulging in drugs and alcohol in the late '70s, claiming to People that he never abused these substances while he was working but would "try to set the land speed record" as soon as his day was finished. A typical day for him when he was with Griffith, and in the years after, "included a case of beer, a few martinis, several bottles of the best wine, and some good Napoleon brandy after dinner," as he told a Washington newspaper (via People).

It wasn't until after the birth of his first son with then-girlfriend Patti D'Arbanville, that Johnson decided it was time to end his hard-partying ways. So he went to an AA meeting and dropped the drugs and alcohol cold turkey.

Griffith's addictions, which began during her relationship with Johnson, really ramped up when she was making "Working Girl" in 1988. Things got so bad — she reportedly drank herself to sleep most nights — that the actor was fined for all the on-set delays she caused. So she reached out to her ex-husband, who encouraged her to check into the Hazelden clinic in Minnesota. Years later, Griffith would describe that moment as a breakthrough moment, both in her own sobriety journey and also in the relationship.

A reconciliation

It seems helping each other find and maintain sobriety was exactly what Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson needed to reignite their spark. A year after helping Griffith get to rehab, Johnson proposed for a second time with a four-carat diamond ring. A few months later, in June 1989, the couple were remarried at their ranch just outside of Aspen, Colorado. AP wrote that the wedding was a small one, attended by only about 30 guests, but that the pair, who both wore white, appeared joyous and completely in love.

In an interview with People just a few months before the wedding, Griffith explained that she had a much better feeling about their relationship this time around. "Everything is better now because of [everything that happened during their split]. We were always friends, and we always stayed in touch. There was always this connection. I can't explain it. It's almost like soulmates, and it always was. I didn't want it to be like that sometimes, and sometimes I wanted not to love him. But maybe it was karma, and you have to go through all that to get to where we are now. Now it's different. It's like it was in the very beginning, but there is so much more... I believe some relationships are fated, and ours was probably one of them. I'll always love him. He was my first love."

The golden years

The years after Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith's second wedding were arguably their best — they were sober, healthy, happy, engaged in family life, and successful in their careers. Even before they tied the knot they had fled Hollywood, splitting time between Griffith's pad in Miami and Johnson's ranch outside Aspen (which would eventually become their full-time home). According to the tabloids, they dove headfirst into their new, wholesome lifestyle, enrolling their children in a local private school, attending charity events, and becoming active members of a community group. They could also regularly be spotted doing things like golfing and jogging— a far cry from their former favorite extracurricular activities, drinking and partying.

To top it all off, the couple announced shortly before their wedding that they were pregnant with their first child, a daughter they'd eventually name Dakota. They both felt that the baby was a blessing, a reward for having dealt with the demons of their youth. Speaking to People about their impending addition Johnson said, "It's wonderful ... When you're straight all kinds of good things happen." Griffith's mother, Tippi Hedren, also shared with the outlet that her daughter was overjoyed at the prospect of having a child with Johnson saying, "She's up in the clouds, she's so happy. [The baby] is something Melanie has wanted for a very long time, since she first met Don. He's the love of her life."

Raising Dakota

On October 4, 1989, Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson welcomed their first and only child, a daughter named Dakota Johnson. Now a famous actor in her own right, Dakota has been fairly open about how bizarre her childhood was with two A-list actors for parents, constantly moving around as they shot films, and never having the chance to do normal things like attend school.

"Maybe it was destabilizing, but I never looked at it that way," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was raised by lots of people, my mom and my dad and then stepparents and nannies and tutors and friends and teachers and then friends' parents and boyfriends' parents ... I'm grateful to my parents and my crazy life because the only reason I am the way I am is because of how I grew up. And that came with seeing some gnarly things as a kid, having to deal with adult content at a young age and also having a public life at times. But then also on the lighter side of that, things that were really beautiful and privileged and educational and the travel and the art and the artists. It was both: It was dark, dark, dark, dark, and it was light, light, bright lights."

She has also gone on record about the fact that neither Griffith nor Johnson wanted her to pursue acting (perhaps because of their own negative experiences in the limelight), and how they both pushed for her to have as much of a regular childhood as possible.

The second split

Unfortunately, those golden, healthy, years weren't destined to last. In 1994, per People, Don Johnson checked into rehab again, this time seeking treatment for alcohol and prescription drug abuse. The stint came on the heels of a difficult season for the couple — Melanie Griffith had admitted to falling off the wagon herself, Johnson had been publicly accused of fathering a child with another woman, there'd been an embarrassing, drunken radio interview, and divorce rumors had been swirling for months. The tabloids almost immediately began asserting that this rehab stint would be the thing that would end the couple's relationship once and for all.

In the end, they were right. Griffith filed for divorce in 1994, and, after a brief pause in the proceedings, the split was finalized in 1996. In an interview with Vanity Fair (via People) Griffith said of her ex, "[He's] no angel. He is not easy. It's hard for me to imagine life without him. But we are changing in different ways."

That second divorce has seemingly marked the end of Griffith and Johnson's romantic relationship. She went on to marry actor Antonio Banderas in 1996, and he wed Montessori school teacher Kelly Phleger in 1999. Despite the fact that they're no longer in love, Johnson and Griffith have maintained a close relationship, and can regularly be spotted making appearances together in support of their famous daughter.

An unending love

Just because Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith have ended their romantic relationship, it doesn't mean they harbor any animosity towards one another. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The exes have managed to maintain a close bond and incredible friendship over the years, and have nothing but glowing things to say about each other in the press. For example, in a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the two joked about how their bond is still just as strong as it was when they first met, some 45 years prior.

In another interview with InStyle (via People), Griffith reiterated the sentiment, sharing that she still loves Johnson and likely always will, as they had essentially "imprinted on each other" when they were very young. But it was Johnson who expressed the couple's uniquely close connection best when he told the Daily Mail, "Some people are just meant to be together, and I think that was true for Melanie and me, so we got married twice. I don't believe that if you love someone, that love dies — it changes and becomes something else." 

While some things about Johnson and Griffith's relationship shouldn't be emulated (like the underage beginnings or substance abuse) this commitment to love, respect, and loyalty, regardless of their relationship status, is something we can all certainly aspire to.