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Dakota Johnson admits she hasn’t watched Madame Web in lacklustre film campaign

Dakota Johnson as Cassandra, a New York paramedic, in new film Madame Web
Dakota Johnson as Cassandra, a New York paramedic, in new film Madame Web - BFA / Alamy

Madame Web has flopped at the box office after a press campaign that has been derided as one of the worst in recent memory.

The female superhero film stars Dakota Johnson, whose awkward responses to questions during the press tour have gone viral.

Johnson has admitted to not watching the finished film. “I don’t know when I’ll see it. Someday,” she told one interviewer. She asked another; “Did you see the movie? I haven’t. You know more about it than me.”

Delivering a monologue on the US TV show Saturday Night Live, she joked that Madame Web – with its mix of Marvel Universe storylines and attractive female characters – was “kind of like if AI generated your boyfriend’s perfect movie”.

She added that the press tour had generated bad publicity because “I’m just not good at talking to journalists – I think the big problem is I say stuff and they write it down”.

The film opened on Valentine’s Day to disastrous reviews and grossed only $17.6 million (£14m) at the US box office in its opening weekend – the worst opening figures for a film in the Sony’s Spider-Man Universe.

Madame Web cost $80 million to make and tens of millions more to promote and distribute.

Johnson, who starred in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and is the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffiths, was unable to voice any enthusiasm for the project while on the promotional trail.

Explaining that this was her first experience of a superhero film, Johnson, 34, said: “I’ve never really done a movie where you are on a blue screen, and there’s fake explosions going off, and someone’s going, ‘Explosion!’ and you act like there’s an explosion.

“That to me was absolutely psychotic. I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to be good at all.’ I hope that I did an okay job.”

The film became the subject of mockery when the first trailer was released. One of Johnson’s lines – “He was in the Amazon with my mum when she was researching spiders right before she died” – was so derided that it was left out of the finished film.

The film was directed by SJ Clarkson, a British film-maker who started out on Doctors, EastEnders and Footballers’ Wives.

She said: “My hope was to make a great film, to make a great psychological thriller within the Marvel Universe that obviously has female characters at the centre, but they’re also great characters. And I think great characters transcend gender and genre.”

Madame Web’s failure is the latest superhero adaptation to fail at the box office, following recent offerings The Flash and Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom.

David A. Gross, of Franchise Entertainment Research, told Variety: “Once upon a time, you could pluck a character out of a popular superhero movie and make a hit film about them. That was more than five years ago.”

This is not the first time that Johnson, who is dating the Coldplay singer Chris Martin, has had a difficult time promoting her films.

She found it difficult to work with EL James, author of the 50 Shades trilogy. “She had a lot of creative control, all day, every day, and she just demanded that certain things happen,” Johnson told Vanity Fair.

“I haven’t been able to talk about this truthfully ever, because you want to promote a movie the right way, and I’m proud of what we made ultimately and everything turns out the way it’s supposed to, but it was tricky.”

She added: “If I had known at the time that’s what it was going to be like, I don’t think anyone would’ve done it. It would’ve been like, ‘Oh, this is psychotic.’ But no, I don’t regret it.”

Appearing on Ellen DeGeneres’s show in 2019 to promote another of her films, she was confronted by the presenter, who complained that she had not been invited to Johnson’s 30th birthday party.

“I did invite you and you didn’t come,” Johnson told her, in a clip which achieved internet notoriety for its sheer awkwardness.