In Black Mass, Dakota Johnson has a high profile role as the steely-but-sweet girlfriend to notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger but for much of her life she was simply known as a child of Hollywood, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson.
Despite an acting career that stretches back to 1999, the 25-year-old became a sensation just last year when she landed the lead role in one of the most anticipated films of the decade.
She beat out half of young Hollywood to play Anastasia Steele in the fastest selling R-rated title ever, Fifty Shades of Grey. She bared all, physically and emotionally; and became famous enough to have designers create clothes for her and an avalanche of interesting scripts to tumble her way. She’ll soon be seen in a Fifty Shades sequel and a remake of the legendary Italian horror film Suspiria.
This week she stars opposite her 21 Jump Street co-star Johnny Depp — they appeared in the 2012 film — as Lindsey Cyr, mother of Bulger’s son and the only person in South Boston who would stand up to the infamous killer.
Cyr is still alive but Johnson didn’t think it was a good idea to meet with her.
“It would have been if my goal had been to be extremely accurate but my goal was to bring out a different side of Jimmy. We talked about meeting her but we decided that it would have added a bunch of components. You wouldn’t see them. You wouldn’t see the stories she was telling because it wasn’t part of our story.”
Instead she studied footage of the former diner waitress and lawyer’s assistant.
“I did as much research as was available to me,” she says, “but the majority of the footage I found on her was pretty recent and it was her looking back on her time with Jimmy Bulger.
“Obviously the time that we see them together (in the film) is when she is quite young. A lot of that came from working it out with (director) Scott Cooper and Johnny.”
In her most intense scene she stares down and out-manoeuvres the controlling gangster after personal tragedy strikes the couple.
“There was a very heavy atmosphere on set but because Johnny was really not himself, he was a completely different person and because I’m not a mother and have never experienced anything as profoundly devastating as losing a child, I think we both completely slipped away from ourselves. That allowed us to create the scene the way it was.”
On acting: Edgerton portrays former FBI agent as a ‘bad dude’
Joel Edgerton didn’t meet the inspiration for his character in Black Mass, former FBI agent John Connolly.
“He’s alive and with us, albeit in federal prison and a little hard to reach,” said the Australian actor. The real-life Connolly was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice charges stemming from his relationship with gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.
“His version of events doesn’t line up with our version…. I felt like it was a little unfair to go and visit him in federal prison and say, ‘You stay in here while I’m over here making you look like a bad dude.’ It felt like it wasn’t a very genuine thing to do.”