One very famous person on her own can cause quite a stir. But put two very famous people together and they somehow manage to disappear.
Dakota Johnson and Chris Martin have been a couple for close to six years, and although their relationship began under highly visible circumstances—right before Johnson was about to embark on a press tour for Fifty Shades Freed—they started out and have remained a particularly low-key pair.
Rather, the outward trappings of their conscious coupling can't help but call to mind the singer's marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow, in that paparazzi have tracked him and Johnson all over the world but they've never posed for photos on a red carpet and there's roughly one professional snap of them seated at an event to show for all these years.
Which is just how Martin has always preferred to operate, having shared his opinion more than a decade ago that red carpets are for selling and promoting—and when it comes to romance, he and his partner are doing neither.
Johnson, who's celebrating her 34th birthday Oct. 4, is right there with him.
"Now anyone can take my picture, and I can take anyone's picture, at any moment," the Persuasion star lamented to Net-a-Porter's Porter magazine in 2016 about the declining specialness of red carpet photo ops. "Now anyone can take my picture, and I can take anyone's picture, at any moment. I feel like something has been lost. It's like a little bit of magic is slipping away and I don't know why."
The granddaughter of screen legend Tippi Hedren and daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson knows more than some about the way things used to be. So despite making her own name in one of the most talked about film franchises of this century, Johnson readily traded in It-girl spectacle for some of that old Hollywood mystery a long time ago.
"S--t happens," Johnson said in the February 2017 issue of Vogue, reflecting on her split from musician Matthew Hitt some months beforehand after two years of dating. "I think I'm a little bit heartbroken all the time, even when I'm in a happy relationship. I don't do casual very well, and my feelings, even the good ones, get so intense that they hurt."
Poking fun at the inevitable speculation about her private life, she added, "Can we make things really juicy? Can we say that I'm taking this time to explore my bisexuality? Or that I have given myself to the Lord following the release of my sexually explicit trifecta of films?"
And now that daily life includes consideration for Martin and Paltrow's kids, Apple, 19, and Moses, 17, plus Johnson's sprawling family, which includes two half-siblings on her mom's side and four on her dad's, plus a close relationship with ex-step-dad Antonio Banderas, she's even more conscious of the importance of keeping a lid on the inner workings of that whole dynamic.
"Maybe I think about relationships like that differently because I grew up in my family," she said of friendly exes and other modern arrangements, speaking to Vanity Fair last year. As far as getting along, "we were all cool."
"Obviously," Johnson added, "there were times where it was not cool, but I experienced that, so I don't want that in my life. I don't want any kids to experience anything like that. It's better to be kind, and it's also really nice that everybody actually really loves each other and has each other's backs."
Not surprisingly, this approach has the Paltrow seal of approval.
"It's a lifelong commitment to constantly reinvent your relationship with your ex, which you do presumably because you have children together," the Goop founder told Harper's Bazaar toward the end of 2019, explaining why she and husband Brad Falchuk hanging out with Martin and Johnson was just the natural order of things. "I don't see a reason to do it if you don't have children together. Some people do. But I think we put all the hard work in at the beginning. I would say very rarely is it difficult now."
As for Johnson specifically, "I love her," Paltrow said. "I can see how it would seem weird because it's sort of unconventional. But I think, in this case, just having passed through it iteratively, I just adore her. I always start to think of the ampersand sign—what else can you bring in, instead of being resistant to or being made insecure by? There's so much juice in leaning in to something like that."
The very first sighting on record of Johnson and Martin together was in October 2017, the pair having sushi in Los Angeles. The next month, the actress went almost to the ends of the earth for him, catching a Coldplay concert in Argentina. And then, in January 2018, they were snapped dining together at Soho House in Malibu, which they followed a few days later with a cozy-looking stroll on the beach.
A couple nights after that they went fashionably public, attending Stella McCartney's Women's Autumn 2018 and Men's Autumn/Winter 2018 Collections at SIR Studios in L.A. They didn't do a red carpet or purposely get their photo taken, but they did hold hands around fellow industry folks, and then they attended Ellen DeGeneres' 60th birthday bash together (hence the reciprocity for Johnson's 30th...).
"I adore him!" Griffith said that May of her daughter's new flame, according to People, before adding that Johnson was "very private about her life and I respect that." (Don Johnson also acknowledged at the time having met Martin.)
When Tatler dared ask that September, Johnson politely replied, "I'm not going to talk about it, but I am very happy."
Johnson also still enjoys Coldplay on repeat, attending two shows this past weekend at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Though he's the opposite of, say, Keith Urban when it comes to red carpet date nights, Martin has shown up for set visits and premieres, albeit as an off-stage supporting player—but Johnson is perfectly fine jetting off to do her own thing.
In May she was in Seoul for a Gucci event, attended Milan Fashion Week in July and just last month she hit both the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival for premieres of her latest film, Daddio, which she also produced. (Interim agreements pertaining to independent films meant she and co-star Sean Penn were able to show up at the festivals despite the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.)
Her chosen profession is another reason why Johnson doesn't like to give too much away about her real life, and while she was in her Fifty Shades era she did sometimes have to remind people that she wasn't, in fact, Anastasia Steele.
"I'm an actor—I pretend," she told The Telegraph in 2016. "But I guess it's something that happens with a lot of actors: people think that in real life they are like the characters they play."
Johnson's life had "changed dramatically" since landing that role, she acknowledged. "But there are times I feel lonely and then I just watch movies and read books and I'm happy I have the time to do those things. I cherish my solitude."
At the time she was promoting the comedy How to Be Single, and she took the opportunity to embrace all the positives of being uncoupled.
"There's less of a stigma about being single nowadays and I think society is relinquishing some of the pressures of needing to find a spouse," Johnson said. "But the real message of the movie is that women should love themselves and take care of their hearts and their brains and also not feel bad about having a good time or experiencing different people and dating people."
And even for her, it was "kind of hard meeting new people," she noted, adding, "I haven't really been on a lot of dates. I've only been in long-term relationships."
Right around that same time, coincidentally, Martin opened up to London's Sunday Times about the aftermath of his 2014 separation and subsequent divorce—which was the object of much fascination for appearing so civil—and admitted it had been a depressing turn of events.
"I still wake up down a lot of days," he said. "But now I feel like I've been given the tools to turn it around."
As they say, timing is everything—with a major assist from being on the same page of a firmly closed book.
But for a few glimpses between chapters, read on: