LOS ANGELES—“No. We made a deal early on,” Don Johnson said about his vow not to see his daughter Dakota Johnson’s “Fifty Shades” films. “I said, ‘I wish you well, but this is one movie I won’t be seeing.’ It was the right choice.”
Don looked dapper in a blue suit with a pink pocket square and a white shirt. “I have to mention that everything I have on is Dior. I’m surprised it’s not tattooed on my forehead,” he cracked. The actor’s hair may have turned silver, but the twinkle in his eyes and that boyish grin instantly gave him a youthful mien.
Still on Dakota, his actress-daughter with ex-wife Melanie Griffith, he said, “She asks me for advice about everything. It could be the littlest thing, like, ‘I found this kitty in the alley when I was shooting. It’s half dead. Should I bring it home?’ I have to say we talk a lot about things.”
Don said that Dakota also consulted him before making the sexually provocative film series. “We discussed it (‘Fifty Shades …’) to some degree, but Dakota is a very powerful person. I’m so proud of her. She’s a dynamo, and she has good instincts about her career. We’re a family in this business. You have to be respectful of somebody else’s lane.
“Occasionally, they can intersect and intertwine, but we’re very supportive of each other. We show up at each other’s premieres and important events.”
On what he remembers about Dakota being Miss Golden Globe 2006, the 67-year-old replied, “She was so cute (laughs). She was a little tiny thing. When I was in the audience that night and was watching her walk onstage, I knew she was nervous. But, what a joyful thing for me, just to get to watch her do that.”
Then, flashing his most winning smile, the dad made a pitch for Dakota’s half-sister, Atherton Grace, 17, his daughter with current wife, Kelley Phleger, to be a future Miss Golden Globe.
“I’m telling you, my next daughter is going to blow your mind, blow your socks off (laughs). She’s 5’ 11,” a knock-out, a straight-A student, and a remarkable young lady.”
Asked for the reason behind his youthful glow, Don grinned again and answered, “I have a fantastic wife who is 18 years younger than me, so I got to keep up (laughs). I stay fit. I also have young kids. I’m so lucky to have two wonderful daughters.”
As for how he has evolved as a father, the man whose other kids include Jesse Wayne, 34 (his son with actress Patti D’Arbanville), Jasper Breckinridge, 15, and Deacon, 11 (both with Kelley), said with a laugh, “When we were raising my older children, Jesse, Alexander (Melanie’s son) and Dakota, Melanie and I had two big careers going on at the time. We had a lot of nannies and help. But, we were a very close family. We elected to take our kids with us wherever we went.”
“Kids mostly watch your behavior. They only listen to about 10 percent of what you say. I’m lucky because they’re secure and they have good self-esteem.”
He enjoys the large blended family gatherings, especially during the holidays. “When we get the whole family together, it is a hoot.
“We have big dinners. We share holidays together. We get out the instruments—guitars, pianos, ukuleles and drums. We play music.”
He gushed about Kelley, whom we met after our interview. “She’s my best friend. We do everything together. We have the funniest arguments that you would ever want to witness in your life, because they don’t go anywhere (laughs).”
Being in the fickle world of Hollywood, Don had his share of career and financial ups and downs. “It isn’t all sunglasses and autographs,” he stressed. “I’ve had an incredible career. I’m going into my fifth decade. I have had downs. When those times come along, it’s good to have good reading material (laughs) and a good partner. And Kelley, my wife, happens to be the best.”
Don costars with Vince Vaughn in director S. Craig Zahler’s grindhouse movie, “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” which earned a standing ovation that lasted several minutes in the recent Venice Film Festival.
Don plays a cigar-chomping, sadistic prison warden in the film predicted to become a cult classic.
The actor graciously brought up Vince, who bulked up as an ex-boxer turned drug runner. “I’m thrilled for him because he’s a great guy.” he said. “We had a lovely time working together.”
The “Miami Vice” and “Nash Bridges” star explained that in his career, he’s seen many prisons. “I have done a lot of research on prisons,” said Don, whose warden is brutal and sociopathic. “As you might imagine, I’ve played a lot of cops and law enforcement guys. I’ve had the opportunity to tour several prisons. I toured San Quentin. This was many years ago.”
He made “Dragged Across Concrete,” set for release next year, with Craig and Vince again and stars as Kenny West in Rupert Grint’s TV series, “Sick Note.”
He quipped when asked about his music career: “Music is something that I love to do. I love writing songs. I recorded with Barbra Streisand. That was one of the highlights of my brief musical career.
“I had a couple of platinum albums out a bit. I wrote songs with the Allman Brothers Band and Stephen Stills. But, I didn’t have the time available to tour. At a certain point, I finally had to accept that my acting career was going to be the main focus of my attention.”
When he’s not on the set, Don relishes his time away from Hollywood. “We live in Santa Barbara (California),” he said. “My life is full of sports, hiking and good food. We have some lovely friends up there—Ellen DeGeneres, Rob Lowe and his family.
“In my home, I don’t have anything on the walls or anything that would suggest that I am in show business. I didn’t want my kids growing up in a shrine to their father in show business.”
Don sounded pumped for his next film, “Book Club,” described as a comedy about “four lifelong friends whose loves are changed forever after reading,” get this, “50 Shades of Grey.”
“That was a blast,” he reported. “It’s about relationships with these, shall we say, more mature women—Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. Yeah, it’s a comedy with a lot of heart.”
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