Dakota Johnson: Only A Woman Directing ‘Daddio’ Could Make Sean Penn’s Character ‘Permissible Rather Than Cancelable’

Fresh off her turn in Marvel‘s maligned “Madame Web,” Dakota Johnson is returning to indies with Christy Hall’s feature directorial debut “Daddio.” Sean Penn co-stars as a lone-wolf taxi driver and old-guard New Yorker who picks up Johnson’s character, Girlie, from JFK. On the journey back to Brooklyn, they share a heart-to-heart about life, love, sex, relationships, and more.

For Johnson, working with Hall was no different from working with more established filmmakers. “Well, it’s different every time. It depends on the person,” Johnson told IndieWire. “Sometimes you would never guess that it was somebody’s first feature, and sometimes it can be really challenging.” Production took place in just 16 days and primarily on a soundstage. Not only does Johnson star, but she also serves as a producer, alongside her TeaTime Pictures co-founder Ro Donnelly.

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“This is, it’s just such a gem of a project. It was unlike anything I had ever read. It’s obviously not a normal movie,” Johnson said. “Of course, there are films that it is inspired by. There’s that amazing movie ‘Locke’ that takes place inside of a car, and ‘My Dinner with Andre,’ movies that are reminiscent of a very contained experience of performance. Production-wise, it was challenging, and so that was inspiring and enticing, and it just did stuff to my heart that I was like, ‘I have to make this movie.'”

Through TeaTime, Johnson has produced the likes of 2023’s “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” and Cooper Raiff’s 2022 Sundance rom-com “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” to name a few. “I’ve been on a lot of different sets in my life. When I started to work myself, I learned that over time, I realized that I have a lot to offer creatively,” Johnson said of producing. “When I started TeaTime Pictures with Ro, it was more about finding projects that I love deeply that maybe I wouldn’t have found if they were just being sent to me or if I was out looking for them as an actress. There’s something about being in the film and also producing it that I feel like more of my artistry is activated and I have the ability to be invested throughout the entire process rather than just for the filming portion.”

In a June 13 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Sean Penn said if the film “were directed by a man or written by a man, well, that might be the last job they ever had.”

“I agree with that,” Johnson said to IndieWire. “There is a tenderness behind both characters, but behind Sean’s character, specifically, I think a woman having written that character and directed that character somehow makes it, in this world today, permissible rather than cancelable because, you know, toxic masculinity, etc.”

Penn’s character throughout speaks bluntly and often crassly about sex and his past relationships, but Girlie can handle it as the two often spar over the course of the taxi ride.

Just as she kicks off her press tour for “Daddio,” Johnson reflects on wrapping Celine Song’s “Materialists,” the “Past Lives” director’s upcoming romantic comedy starring Johnson, Pedro Pascal, and Chris Evans, in New York City earlier this month. “Celine is a masterful filmmaker, and I’m very grateful.”

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Pedro Pascal and Dakota Johnson are seen on the set of "Materialists" set in Tribeca, Manhattan on May 08, 2024 in New York City.  (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Pedro Pascal and Dakota Johnson are seen on the set of ‘Materialists’ in Tribeca, Manhattan on May 08, 2024 in New York CityGC Images

We also had a chance to talk about Luca Guadagino’s big year. Johnson collaborated with the Italian filmmaker on “A Bigger Splash” and his 2018 reimagining of “Suspiria.”

“I haven’t seen [‘Challengers’] yet,” Johnson said. “I just wrapped [‘Materialists’] a few days ago and then started this press tour. So I have not had the chance, but I’m really excited.” As for what’s next for the director-actor duo, a third collaboration may be closer than we think. “Actually, [Luca and I] texted a couple days ago, and we are always like, ‘Should we do this? Would this be fun? Do I play this crazy person?’ But yes, at some point for sure. I’m sure we will make something. I love him dearly.”

As for what’s next for Johnson in the immediate future, we asked about the potential of returning to television. Besides two stints on “Saturday Night Live,” Johnson was last seen on small screens in the series finale of “The Office” in 2013.

“I’m open to anything. I don’t know,” Johnson told IndieWire. “I’m like, sure, if it’s fabulous and also if it is something I really want to do. But there just hasn’t been anything yet that I want to spend that amount of time doing.”

“Daddio” hits theaters on Friday, June 28 from Sony Pictures Classics. Check out the trailer here.

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