Dakota Johnson Opened Up About Stepdad Antonio Banderas – And How He Totally Transformed Her Life

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It’s hardly surprising that Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson decided to become an actress. After all, her mother, father and grandmother have all managed to forge successful Hollywood careers – as has her famous stepfather of 20 years, Antonio Banderas. But the actress’ life could actually have been very different. And in 2019 Johnson confessed to the entire world exactly how the Spanish film star’s behavior forced her to become the woman she is today.

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So while Banderas may no longer be married to Johnson’s mother, Melanie Griffiths, the actress had no qualms about taking to the stage at the Hollywood Film Awards to give a speech about the Desperado star. On that occasion, you see, Johnson was presenting her ex-stepfather with the Hollywood Actor Award for his role in Pedro Almódovar’s Pain and Glory.

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Johnson’s speech clearly struck a chord with Banderas, too, as the award-winner returned the favor during his time on stage. In fact, Banderas later shared some very revealing words of his own. So here’s a look at the A-listers’ relationship and the road that led them to opening up so publicly at a glittering Hollywood ceremony.

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Dakota Johnson actually entered the public eye from the moment she was born in Texas in 1989. You see, her mother is Melanie Griffith, who is arguably best known for her Academy Award-nominated performance in Working Girl. Her father, meanwhile, is Don Johnson – who shot to fame playing James ‘Sonny’ Crockett in ’80s cop show Miami Vice.

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Johnson’s showbiz connections don’t end there, either. She’s also the granddaughter of Tippi Hedren – the screen icon who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Marnie. Peter Griffith, her grandfather, additionally acted as a child, while her aunt Tracy Griffith and half-brother Jesse Johnson have both similarly pursued careers in the business as well.

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But while Johnson first appeared on screen alongside Griffith – and half-sister Stella – in 1999’s Crazy in Alabama, her mom later tried to discourage her from following in her footsteps. And when Johnson was finally allowed to pursue her acting dreams after her high school graduation, she suffered yet another setback: she failed in her application to attend New York’s prestigious Juilliard School.

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Fortunately, though, the modelling world provided Johnson with an entry into the spotlight. In 2006, you see, the star landed a deal with IMG Models and went on to appear in numerous high-profile campaigns. Johnson still had ambitions to grace the big screen, however, and after signing with the William Morris Agency, she bagged her first notable role. Specifically, Johnson took the part of Amelia Ritter in David Fincher’s timely drama The Social Network.

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Then, following appearances in Beastly and For Ellen, Johnson got the chance to showcase her comic timing in The Five-Year Engagement, with Jason Segel, and 21 Jump Street, alongside Johnny Depp. The actress’ brief television debut didn’t, however, end particularly well: the sitcom Ben and Kate – in which she played Kate – lasted for just one season. Yet Johnson subsequently took center stage for the first time in 2014 romantic comedy Date and Switch.

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Roles in Need for Speed and The Office’s finale soon followed. And then Johnson landed the part that took her career to a whole other level: Anastasia Steele in the adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. Johnson went on to star with Jamie Dornan in two further instalments of the erotic phenomenon as well.

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Johnson’s newly elevated profile also coincided with her earning parts in crime drama Black Mass, European thriller A Bigger Splash and Shakespeare adaptation Cymbeline. In 2016 the actress additionally enjoyed box-office success with romantic comedy How to Be Single. She then garnered critical acclaim two years later as the lead in the remake of Italian cult horror Suspiria.

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Johnson has continued her prolific streak with roles in the noirish Bad Times at the El Royale, Sundance hit Wounds and indie movie The Peanut Butter Falcon. She then reunited with Jason Segel in The Friend before showing up in comedy Covers and the dramas Forever, Interrupted and Unfit. Johnson also executive produced the latter two movies under her own company, Silhouette Productions. So it’s fair to say that Johnson has kept busy.

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While Johnson was making a name for herself, however, her former stepfather was also enjoying quite the career renaissance. In 2011, you see, Antonio Banderas collaborated with Pedro Almódovar for the first time in 21 years, on the psychological horror movie The Skin I Live In. And in the same year, Banderas starred in an animated spin-off from the Shrek movies as the voice of the eponymous feline hero in Puss in Boots.

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Banderas continued to be a Hollywood fixture throughout the 2010s, too. But the star enjoyed arguably his biggest success with European arthouse cinema, when he teamed up with Almódovar again for 2019’s Dolor y Gloria (Pain and Glory). The Spaniard shared the screen with regular co-star Penélope Cruz in the reflective drama, and he subsequently picked up Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

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This, of course, comes after an acting career spanning at least three decades. Banderas had first caught Hollywood’s attention in the early 1990s, in fact, thanks to key roles in Philadelphia, Interview with the Vampire and Desperado. The actor also co-starred with Sylvester Stallone in Assassins and got the chance to display his singing abilities in Evita. It was at around that time, then, that his personal life became nearly as public as his professional one.

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You see, in 1995 Banderas fell in love with Melanie Griffith while the pair were filming screwball comedy Two Much. Then, a year later, they married at a ceremony in London and welcomed their only child together: Stella del Carmen Banderas. And thankfully, it seems that Johnson, who was just seven at the time of the wedding, soon forged a strong bond with the new man in her mother’s life.

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This could so easily have been different. After all, Johnson has always continued to see her father, Don, who officially divorced Griffith for the second time in 1996. Her parents had first got together in 1972, in fact, and moved into a Laurel Canyon rental property a year later. And the couple had first walked down the aisle in early 1976 – although within just seven months they had filed divorce papers.

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Then, in 1989 – the same year that Dakota was born – the pair had reunited and said “I do” once again. Unfortunately, though, this hadn’t been a case of second-time lucky. Yet the couple did at least make their marriage last for a respectable seven years.

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As a result, though, the young Johnson had to divide her time evenly between both parents. She told Cosmopolitan in 2015, “It was the only way that I could be with them. And since they were divorced, I would spend two weeks with one and two weeks with the other, traveling with a tutor.”

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Thankfully, both of her parents’ homes had their selling points. In the same interview, in fact, Johnson revealed that she developed a number of special skills while staying at her father’s Colorado house. Not only did she learn how to ride a motorbike and a horse before reaching the age of ten, but she also discovered how to shoot a gun and build a fire.

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Comparatively, things weren’t quite as adventurous at Griffith’s Los Angeles home – but Johnson loved it all the same. She said, “There was a vault with a giant door, filled with movies in alphabetical order – shelves and shelves of them – and then a little section of home movies that are very, very special.”

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Johnson also revealed that she had found it relatively easy growing up as the offspring of two celebrities. She told Cosmopolitan, “As a kid I understood my parents were famous, but it annoyed me when people had no regard for us just trying to have a family meal in a restaurant. But back then, they’d want autographs or to shake your hand. It seemed more personable. Now I’ll glance over, and someone is taking a zoomed-in picture of me from across the room. It’s become weird.”

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Fortunately, too, Johnson never really went off the rails – unlike many other showbiz kids. “I was with my family a lot, and I had a very serious boyfriend. I was into a lot of music,” she said. “I got in trouble for smoking pot… I was more interested in spray painting things and hanging out with my friends than I was in school.”

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And it seems that Johnson’s stepfather, Banderas, was also a significantly positive influence on her life and outlook while she was growing up. The actress said as much when she took to the stage at the 2019 Hollywood Film Awards to present the Spaniard with a gong.

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Johnson didn’t have to turn up for this ceremony, either. In June 2014, after all, Banderas and Griffith had announced their separation after 18 years of marriage. Irreconcilable differences had been cited in the petition filed to the Superior Court in Los Angeles, and the once-happy couple’s divorce had been finalized at the end of 2015. However, despite the split, Banderas continues to have a good relationship with both his ex-wife and his former stepdaughter.

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Consequently, before Banderas walked on to the stage to collect his Best Actor prize for his performance in Pain and Glory, he got the chance to hear exactly what Johnson thought about him. Fortunately, too, the actress had nothing but kind words to say – and she began by discussing the moment that the star first came into her life.

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“There are infinite possibilities for how relationships and family dynamics play out when parents re-marry,” Johnson said. “Sometimes when your parents re-marry, you might experience varying degrees of a living nightmare. You may spend your childhood and then some of your adult life – depending on how much therapy you’ve had – really railing against the cosmic joke that seems to be playing out in real time.”

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Before the audience started to think that Johnson was about to discuss a ruined childhood, however, she made it crystal clear that this was far from the case. “I come from a family of many a marriage, and I got very lucky,” she added. “I got a bonus dad who I realized that, over time, is actually one of the most influential people in my whole life.”

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“When I was six years old, my mother married a man who brought an unbelievably bright light, a whole new world of creativity and culture and one remarkably magical little sister in to our family,” said Johnson, referring to Banderas’ daughter, Stella. And as Johnson spoke, the actress became visibly emotional.

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“My stepfather – f**k! Antonio Banderas burst into our lives,” Johnson recalled. “He was so vibrant and so fun and so funny, and his English was abstract, and we found it absolutely amazing. He loved my mother and my siblings and I so big and so fiercely and so loud that it would change all of our lives together.”

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Johnson went on to describe the great impact that Banderas had on her upbringing as well. “Antonio taught me about true passion and discipline,” she said. “He would spend hours – and days even – in his office trying to get to the nucleus of something he had become interested in, or a role he was preparing.”

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Plus, having yet another talented thespian in the family proved beneficial to Johnson’s own career. But it wasn’t simply Banderas’ acting talents that she appreciated. Much to the audience’s enjoyment, the star revealed that she was just as bowled over by the amount of Shrek merchandise that the voice of Puss in Boots brought home.

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As an established actress herself, Johnson revealed that she’s now more aware than ever of Banderas’ talents on screen, too. “Now, as a grown woman working in the same industry, I understand that Antonio is one of our finest artists in film, stage and television,” she said, before noting the fact that he’s achieved so much in different languages.

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“As an actor, director, writer, singer… his range is absolutely astounding. I can look back on his entire career, and time after time his performances and endeavors as an artist have made an imprint,” Johnson continued. “The greatest thing is that he just keeps getting better. It is an honor to give you the Hollywood Film Award for Best Actor.”

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Then, after accepting the accolade for his latest collaboration with Almódovar, a visibly touched Banderas responded to Johnson’s heartfelt tribute. The star gave thanks to his former stepdaughter for continuing to include him in her family set-up, and he even dedicated his Best Actor gong to both Johnson and her half-sibling, Stella.

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Banderas told the audience, “I want to dedicate this to two people that I love. One is right here, Dakota, for something very simple. Because you always call me papi, and still now you call me papi, and I love that! You have no idea how much I love that!”

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Continuing in the same vein, an emotional Banderas said, “We had 20 years of family life that was beautiful, but the best is still to come.” The Spaniard then made sure to single out his biological daughter, Stella, too. He added, “No matter how many movies, or stage productions, you have been my best production.”

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This wasn’t the first time that Banderas had paid tribute to Johnson, either. Shortly before the awards ceremony, in fact, the actor spoke to Vulture magazine about how much he cherishes his time with her and her mother. “Everything happened in those years really fast,” he recalled. “My life was fast and fascinating if I actually see it in retrospective. I remember those years as very effervescent and really beautiful.”

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And although he had divorced Griffith five years previously, Banderas revealed that he still thinks of her as family. He added, “[Griffith] is probably one of my best friends, if not the best friend that I have. My family is there – Dakota, little Estella and Alexander.” Alexander is Griffith’s son from her second marriage to Steven Bauer.

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Banderas revealed, too, that Johnson has another nickname for him, telling Vulture, “Melanie called me Negrito. And I used to call her Rubia. Rubia is ‘blonde’ in Spanish, and Negrito is ‘little black boy.’ I’ve never told this to anybody. You’re the first person, actually. And Dakota called me ‘Paponio,’ which is a mixture between papa, which is ‘daddy’ in Spanish, and Antonio. I am her Antonio papa, so Paponio.”

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Finally, with Johnson now blossoming as an actress, Banderas spoke about how proud he was of her for carving out her own path in Hollywood. He told Vulture, “I followed every single step of it. I’m so proud of her. I saw her the other day in Toronto, and she looks – as I said in the social networks when I put a picture of her and myself, I put there – ‘My radiant Dakota.’”

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