Why people are loving Dakota Johnson’s honesty

Whatever the producers of Madame Web think of them, Johnson’s sardonic comments have gone down well on social media – and she’s not the only star who has been applauded for letting some humanity glimmer through his or her corporate facade. Hollywood A-listers are trained to be almost insanely positive when they’re on the publicity trail, so anyone who lets the mask slip is seen as being refreshingly honest and subversive, whether it’s Ryan Gosling looking puzzled when I’m Just Ken from the Barbie soundtrack won a Critics Choice Award, or Cillian Murphy becoming a meme for looking miserable when he was promoting Oppenheimer (even though he confessed to not knowing what a meme was). Talk shows, especially, are a chore, he admitted to The Guardian: “I do them because you’re contractually obliged to. I just endure them.” Of course, it’s possible that these actors are carefully curating their edgy public images rather than being wholly candid, but their attitude does make a bracing change from the standard Disney- and Marvel-approved chirpiness.

The past master of this particular art is Hugh Grant, who has been magnificently cynical and self-deprecating throughout his career. When he was doing the rounds for Wonka recently, he complained about the multi-camera performance-capture technology required to turn him into an Oompa-Loompa. “I couldn’t have hated the whole thing more.” What’s more, he added, “I slightly hate [making films] but I have lots of children and need money.”

Flop tactics

It’s amazing what you can get away with if you have a quick wit and an endearingly grumpy persona. Take Michael Shannon. He played the villainous General Zod in 2013’s Man Of Steel, but when he was asked whether Superman would triumph over Batman in the sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he deadpanned, “I’m so utterly unconcerned with the outcome of that fight. So profoundly, utterly unconcerned. I can’t even come up with a fake answer.” This exquisite response was perfectly in keeping with Shannon’s image as an intimidating indie thespian – and it didn’t stop him playing General Zod again in The Flash.

One factor was that Man of Steel had its detractors, anyway, so Shannon wasn’t being too controversial by maligning the franchise. Similarly, Johnson’s wry press appearances look set to be much more appreciated than Madame Web itself, given the bad reviews and low box office tracking that the film has experienced ahead of its release. Indeed, if you’re in a film that has flopped, throwing it under the bus can be a shrewd way to salvage your own reputation. When the execrable Catwoman (2004), to which Madame Web has been compared, “won” four Golden Raspberries, or Razzies, including one for worst actress, Halle Berry was savvy enough to attend the ceremony and accept the trophy in person. She made a speech ridiculing the “god-awful movie”, but she also brought along the Oscar she had won in 2002 for Monster’s Ball. The message was that she was as relaxed about one award as she was about the other.

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