Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann play sisters in director Christian Ditter’s hilarious new comedy, “How To Be Single,” about today’s single lifestyle. Newly single Alice (Johnson) is looking for love in New York City where she struggles to meet men. Her older, seemingly wiser sibling, Meg (Mann), is her rock, but Meg is so focused on her career that she’s completely discounted the idea of having a man in her life. The talented duo is part of an amazing cast of comedic talents that includes Rebel Wilson, Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm, Alison Brie, Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy and Jason Mantzoukas.
At a recent roundtable interview, Johnson and Mann talked about how they bonded before filming began, why the movie would have been different if the story had been set in Los Angeles instead of New York, Mann’s fun and flirtatious moments with co-star Lacy, her pivotal scene acting opposite a real baby, what Johnson loves and hates the most about being single, the film’s message of sex positivity, their thoughts on working in the entertainment industry at a young age, Johnson’s reaction to Marlon Waylon’s “Fifty Shades of Black,” and her upcoming “Fifty Shades Darker.”
Check it all out in the interview below:
QUESTION: Can you talk about playing sisters? Looking at you, I wouldn’t think the two of you were sisters?
LESLIE MANN: Why not? What are you saying? What do you mean?
DAKOTA JOHNSON: What do you mean? We look exactly alike.
MANN: And we only look three years apart.
Q: Did you do anything to bond before you started shooting?
MANN: We did. We had fun. I met Dakota at a dinner before we started shooting, and I instantly felt comfortable with her. She is just a little angel, and I love being around her. We had fun together.
JOHNSON: I am an actual angel sent from heaven. I just want to make movies with you all the time, but also just hang out.
MANN: We almost hung out.
JOHNSON: We almost did, but there was a blizzard.
MANN: There was a blizzard and we couldn’t get to each other.
JOHNSON: We were only blocks apart, but we were doing the exact same thing in our own home.
MANN: Tea and CNN.
Q: I really like the big sister/little sister scene. It reminds me of my relationship with my big sister and made me tear up a little bit.
MANN: Thank you.
Q: You did that bed scene very well together.
JOHNSON: That was my favorite.
MANN: Yeah, I thought it was great.
Q: Dakota, you do a lot of scenes with Rebel in this. Can you talk about working with her?
JOHNSON: She’s pretty brilliant. Yes, she can take her mind to some places that are really extraordinary.
Q: The movie takes place in New York. Do you live in L.A.?
JOHNSON: I live in New York right now. I’m kind of between both.
Q: How do you think the story would have been different if it had taken place in L.A.?
MANN: What do you think, Dakota?
JOHNSON: If the movie took place in L.A., I guess there would be less of a sense of the urgency and excitement of a city that’s sort of bustling all the time and that is another character in the movie.
Q: How do you think single people are different in L.A. versus New York?
JOHNSON: I think they stay out later in New York.
MANN: They’re allowed to. I think in New York everything closes at 4:00am and here in L.A. everything closes at 2:00am.
Q: This movie is so fun and flirtatious. Did it dredge up some memories that you can share with us?
MANN: About being fun and flirtatious? I’ve been married for 20 years. I can’t even remember anymore.
JOHNSON: You’re fun and flirtatious all the time.
MANN: With my husband?
JOHNSON: No, with other people.
MANN: I got to work with Jake Lacy who’s 29. He was fun and cute and young. He was topless a few times with me which I enjoyed. That was fun. He looks very different from my husband. My husband has a lot of hair, and Jake Lacy is really in shape and doesn’t have any hair on his body.
JOHNSON: I wonder if he waxes his body.
MANN: I think he must because it’s like your body. It’s hair free. No guy’s hair free.
Q: In the scene with the baby that turns your world around, was that a real baby, because we were saying it was too cute to be a real baby? Or was that CGI?
MANN: That’s a real baby, but that day I think there were 17 crying babies. That one, that was just the ten-second period that the baby stopped crying and we got that shot.
JOHNSON: That baby is so cute. That part really kills me.
MANN: Yeah, it’s a cute part.
Q: Dakota, what is the thing that you love about being single and what is the thing that you hate about being single?
JOHNSON: I am a single person. I don’t know.
MANN: What do you love about it?
JOHNSON: I love that I’m alone all the time. I love sleeping next to no one. I really don’t like solitude. So, that’s nice, but then being single also sucks sometimes because you’re single.
Q: One thing I really liked about the movie was the message of sex positivity and that there was no shame in people being single and having sex with someone they had just met. “50 Shades of Grey” was also a very sex positive movie. Was there any conscious decision there with your choice of films?
JOHNSON: Like do I only like to do movies about sex? Am I a raging pervert? If it doesn’t have sex scenes in it, I won’t do it. With this film, I was attracted to the positive outlook on women especially exploring relationships with different people and being confident and comfortable and strong. That was the kind of thing that was appealing to me, because that’s what’s real, and that’s honest, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. That’s what single women do.
MANN: I had so much shame when I was single about it. I would make out with a lot of people, but I would never have sex, because then I would feel bad the next day. I made out with everyone, and there was some dry humping.
Q: But that was a different time. Don’t you think societal attitudes have changed?
MANN: Yeah. They have, they have. Yes. That’s not the way it is anywhere now, so it’s nice to see this. That was 20 years ago.
Q: Things have changed, but this is a film that obviously is in the forefront of showing how it really is.
Q: Leslie, you’re raising two beautiful young ladies, one of whom is about to leave the nest. How has playing this role about a single, independent woman changed the way you parent your girls?
MANN: Well, I’m excited for them to see the movie because I love the message. I love the ending, and I love that different people interpret it differently. As far as my girls, and this is going to sound weird, but I tell my daughter, Maude, who is 18 now and she’s an adult… She’s shy about wearing bathing suits… Maybe I shouldn’t talk about this.
JOHNSON: Isn’t she going to kill you for saying that?
MANN: Yeah. But I always tell her, “Just show off your boobs. You have great boobs and it doesn’t get any better. I know what happens. Just enjoy them now. Enjoy this time.”
JOHNSON: You told me that, too.
MANN: I know, and I mean it. Well, you are.
JOHNSON: Yup. I took it straight to heart. I was like I’m going to take that information and go do a movie where I can be entirely naked the whole time.
Q: Maybe you’ll get a special thank you credit at the end.
MANN: Yeah, you know, I like the message, and I like the way that things are changing. And I think there’s nothing wrong with it.
Q: What’s been interesting to you about seeing your daughter want to get into your industry? Was it something that you were excited about or that you felt you had to monitor?
MANN: I did. Yes, I had to keep her from… (to Dakota) I wonder if it was the same for you when you were growing up? She wanted to work from the time she was eight because she’s so good. I just said, “Stay in high school and enjoy this time, because you’ll never get that back.” It’s important for her to have a normal life, and now that she’s 18 she can do whatever she wants to do. She’s going to Northwestern. That’s the plan right now. But then, she went to Sundance over the weekend, and she had such a great time that I think she’s having second thoughts maybe about going to school. But I think she’ll probably wind up going to Northwestern.
Q: Dakota, was that your experience growing up as well? Did your mother or father say, “Don’t start now. Wait until you’re older?”
JOHNSON: Yeah. I wanted to work. The first job I did, I was nine, and I played my mother’s daughter in a movie called “Crazy in Alabama.” I had a dialect coach, and I had this Southern accent, and I was really good at it. Then, I became obsessed with working and they wouldn’t let me until I graduated high school. It’s just that there are opportunities that come along, and I’m sure Maude has experienced things like this too, where people are interested in you for a role. And then, I couldn’t do it and I see it come out. I’m grateful that they made me stay in school.
MANN: You are?
JOHNSON: For sure.
Q: They’ve said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Your co-star Daman Wayans’ uncle, Marlon Wayans, is doing this movie, “50 Shades of Black,” which is a spoof of “50 Shades of Grey.” Did you talk to him at all?
JOHNSON: I actually met him the other day when we were both on “Jimmy Fallon.” Marlon was really funny, and I think it’s going to be funny.
Q: You’ll go see it then?
JOHNSON: I don’t know if I’ll go see it in the theater because I’m working, but I will probably watch it. It looks funny.
Q: Did signing onto “Fifty Shades of Grey” change everything for you?
JOHNSON: Well, yes. I mean, things have changed a lot in my life since that movie.
Q: What do you look for now when you say “Yes” to a movie?
JOHNSON: It depends. It depends on the story and the filmmaker. And it depends on the character, and the heart and soul of the person that I see on the page, and if it resonates with something that I think I can summon in myself.
Q: When will Part 2 come out for the next one, “Fifty Shades Darker”?
JOHNSON: Next Valentine’s Day.
MANN: Every Valentine’s Day three years in a row.
JOHNSON: I know. I should start getting paid for Valentine’s Day. Who do I talk to about that?
Q: Are you working on it now?
JOHNSON: We start shooting in a few weeks. We’re in prep.
Q: Who’s going to be the director this time?
MANN: Me. I’m directing it.
JOHNSON: Leslie Mann.
Q: Speaking of that, do you have aspirations to direct?
MANN: Not right now. No. I don’t know if I’d be very good at that.
JOHNSON: I think you would be.
MANN: You do?
MANN: So maybe I will.
“How To Be Single” opens in theaters February 12th.