How Dakota Johnson Really Got Through Filming Those Intense 50 Shades Scenes

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly half a decade since the "Fifty Shades" trilogy reached its conclusion in cinemas. Based on one of the best-selling books of all time, the series of films has managed to garner over $1 billion in ticket sales, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Prior to the first film hitting the theaters, there was so much controversy regarding how the story would play out on the big screen, given how it's essentially erotica, featuring scenes that involve sadism, masochism, and other aspects of BDSM. Many actors reportedly passed on to star in the movies, but in the end, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan were chosen to play the leads. 

For her part, Johnson said that she looked past all the flack the project received from the start and agreed to sign on as Anastasia Steele as she was interested in her character arc. "Initially, one of the biggest draws to me was Anastasia's emotional, intellectual and sexual arc over the course of three films," she told Glamour U.K. in 2018. "She grows into a fierce young woman who discovers that perhaps her sexual preferences are more similar to Christian Grey's than what she initially expected."

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

Dakota Johnson tosses back shots before filming steamy scenes

Filming sex scenes is awkward — just ask any actor. Filming the scenes in "Fifty Shades," particularly the more "technical" ones involving toys, is especially challenging, according to Dakota Johnson. In fact, one of the only ways she thought of preparing for filming is to take a shot or two of liquor.

"Most of [our preparation] is just really figuring out exactly how we are going to accomplish the scene beforehand — so that there's not a lot of waiting around while we're both vulnerable," she told Marie Claire in 2018. "But, if something is very, very difficult, it's sometimes necessary to have a shot of something strong beforehand." And her choice of liquid courage? She told E! News that she prefers downing whiskey.

To put things into perspective, she had underwear glued to her body while filming, so you can say that she felt extremely uncomfortable the whole time. "They're, like, basically if it were a nipple pastie, but underwear ... It would also come off because the adhesive would wear out, so then they would superglue it to my body so that it wouldn't fall off. And I would wear two of them," she recalled. "It's f***ing bizarre."

Dakota Johnson describes filming Fifty Shades as 'psychotic'

While "Fifty Shades" is what ultimately propelled Dakota Johnson to stardom, she doesn't exactly look back at the experience fondly. Speaking with Vanity Fair, she said that she had been initially excited about the opportunity, but it was not at all what she imagined.

"I'm a sexual person, and when I'm interested in something, I want to know so much about it. That's why I did those big naked movies," she said. But "Fifty Shades" author E.L. James apparently "had a lot of creative control," and would sometimes force things to happen even if they weren't feasible. "We'd do the takes of the movie that Erika [James] wanted to make, and then we would do the takes of the movie that we wanted to make," she continued. "It was like mayhem all the time."

Johnson doesn't regret ever starring in the films, though, saying, "If I had known at the time that's what it was going to be like, I don't think anyone would've done it. It would've been like, 'Oh, this is psychotic.' But no, I don't regret it." Ultimately, she's thankful that the franchise had gotten her to where she is today. "This project is not going to be my swan song. It has put my life on a path that I didn't plan to go down, but I do feel proud of it," she told Glamour U.K. And the films have allowed me to do so many different projects and travel so much. In the end, 'Fifty Shades' has plopped me in a world that I really wanted to be in."