Dakota Johnson’s Parents Had 1 Rule in Place About Her Acting

Dakota Johnson’s parents are famous actors. In fact, her grandmother and step-father are famous actors too. When it came time for the Fifty Shades of Grey star to pick a career path, she gravitated to the arts because of her family. But they didn’t always advocate for her to get into the family business. When she finally decided that’s what she wanted to do, her parents had one condition.

Melanie Griffith, Dakota Johnson, and Don Johnson smile at the after party for the 'How To Be Single' premiere in NYC on February 3, 2016
Melanie Griffith, Dakota Johnson, and Don Johnson | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Dakota Johnson’s parents are Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson

The 31-year-old star is the only child actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson had during their marriage. The Working Girl and Miami Vice alums were first married in 1976, and then split six months later.

They got married again in June 1989 when Griffith was pregnant, and Johnson was born Oct. 4, 1989. Don and Griffith each had sons from previous relationships, Alexander Bauer and Jesse Johnson. Both of the stars went on to remarry after their second divorce in 1994. Griffith was married to Antonio Banderas for 20 years, and the Knives Out actor has been married to Kelley Phleger since 1999.

Banderas and Griffith share daughter Stella Banderas Griffith, and Don and Phleger share Grace Johnson, Jasper Breckenridge Johnson, and Deacon Johnson. Suffice it to say the holidays are busy for them all.

On top of Johnson’s mega-famous family, her grandmother is screen legend Tippi Hedrin—star of Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous film The Birds.

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Dakota Johnson’s family rule about acting

Despite most everyone in the family working in Hollywood, Johnson wasn’t encouraged to go in that direction. As Hedren told Vogue in 2017:

“I didn’t push Melanie into films, and she didn’t push Dakota. I think neither of us is the type to push. Dakota and I never discussed the negative aspects of the business. I’m not good at advice anyway. But I have told her that I think it’s important to do different things in life, to have a sense of balance.”

In the same interview, Johnson said her parents’ hectic lives as movie stars required her to move around the globe constantly, making school difficult for her.

“I was so consistently unmoored and discombobulated. I didn’t have an anchor anywhere,” she said. But this didn’t make her shy away from wanting to be an actor. In fact, she found solace in watching movies, which planted the love of film in her.

She and Stella ended up acting in Crazy in Alabama in 1999, which Banderas directed and Griffith starred in, but didn’t appear in anything again until The Social Network in 2010. This was because her parents wouldn’t let her purse an acting career until she finished high school, according to IMDb.

Dakota Johnson, Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, and Stella Banderas sit at a table and pose for a photo at the 22nd Annual ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards on October 19, 2015
Dakota Johnson, Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, and Stella Banderas | Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for ELLE

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Dakota Johnson’s parents cut her off the family payroll after she graduated high school

It’s a good thing she booked The Social Network when she did, because she had been cut off the family’s “payroll” after deciding not to go to college. As Don told Seth Meyers in a March 2021 interview:

“The funny thing about her is—we have a rule in the family that, you know, if you stay in school, you get to stay on the payroll. So, you go to college, you get to stay on the payroll. Towards the end of high school, I went to her and I said, ‘So, do you want to go visit some colleges?’ Or something like that. And she was like, ‘Oh, no. I’m not going to college.’”

“Three weeks later she had nailed down that part in David Fincher’s The Social Network,” he added. “And the rest is, shall we say, cinema history.”

After graduating from school and before booking The Social Network, the Suspiria actor made money through modeling gigs. She was signed with IMG models. And although she brushed off college to her dad, there was one school Johnson wanted to attend: Juilliard.

She told Vogue that she performed monologues from Shakespeare and Steve Martin for her audition for the famed drama school, but didn’t get in.

“Juilliard and I mutually agreed that it wouldn’t work out,” she joked.

As it turns out, Johnson didn’t need Juilliard.