Daring Dakota

Dakota Johnson may play an bewildered 20-something in this month's How to Be Single​, but our March cover star knows exactly what she's doing.

Dakota Johnson doesn't act like a movie star, despite the fact that she's the daughter of movie stars (Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson), the former stepdaughter of a movie star (Antonio Banderas), even the granddaughter of a movie star (Tippi Hedren). She was protectively told what a tabloid was at the age that other girls were getting their first American Girl dolls. Besides, she's been acting since she was 10, and her star status was cemented last year when she delivered a near flawless performance as the winsome naïf ("I'm here to see...Mr. Grey") turned wary bondage participant Anastasia Steele in the blockbuster movie from the blockbuster book that needs little more hint than "the red room" for you to know what we're talking about. 

This month, she lights up How to Be Singlea chicks-gone-wild feminist frolic that calls to mind the too-likable-to-be-jealous-of screen sweetheart that Meg Ryan was to a previous generation. In May's A Bigger Splash, she ditches the relatability to become a devious nymphet in Lolita glasses who may or may not be the daughter of a larger-than-life record producer (played by Ralph Fiennes, with Tilda Swinton as his rock star ex-lover). "She's more of a pro than any of us," says Swinton. "She knows those territories inside and out. She is extremely experienced and knows exactly what she's doing."

Given all that, one expects a polite but blasé young woman to waft into Cafe Luxembourg on Manhattan's Upper West Side for lunch. But when Johnson, 26, bounds in—not a trace of makeup on her pale, flawless skin, her light-brown hair falling in wisps to the shoulders of her black turtleneck—she is more like a bouncy, wry graduate student than a third-generation celebrity. Johnson does this fame business strictly on her own terms. With her, being an anti-star seems both a personality trait and a mission.

Here, a few highlights from her interview, in our March issue on newsstands February 16:

On having a normal life: "The idea of being at home and picking up kids from school and cooking dinner and then the husband comes home–there's something that seems really nice to me 'cause I never had that growing up.  And it seems so enticing. But in my mind, I'm like, Well, I'll just play that in a movie and go about my own life, bizarre as it is."

On the paparazzi"I don't feel tough enough to be accosted by people. When I'm feeling particularly fragile, I just won't leave my house."

On her extra workouts for the Fifty Shades sequels: "I think the human body is so sexy, and if I'm going to be naked, I want to look great."

On dating: "I don't have a boyfriend–why? You got one for me? Right now I find myself having the capacity to love my family and friends, and that's it."

On actresses she admires:  "Gena Rowlands is my all-time love. Nicole Kidman, Michelle Pfeiffer. I grew up watching their work; they are extraordinary. [Amy Schumer] I admire her so much. She's fearless."

Read the full interview and see more pics in the March issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands February 16. And for a little behind-the-scenes action to hold you over, see Johnson at her cover shoot here:

Featured music: YesYou – "Frivolous Life" (ft. Marcus Azon); courtesy of Audiopaxx