Dakota Johnson becomes a producer with ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’ – 06/17/2022 – Illustrated

It was just before the pandemic that Dakota Johnson decided to be more than an actress in Hollywood. In late 2019, the “50 Shades of Grey” star launched her own production company TeaTime Pictures so she could take “dream projects” out of her role. Now, just over two years later, she reveals the first fruit of that endeavor, “Cha Cha Real Smooth”.

Winner of the Sundance Audience Award, the film also stars Johnson as a young mother who forms a special connection with a bar mitzvah entertainer. As a younger man, he gets along surprisingly well with his pre-teen daughter, who has autism and, as a result, is passed over at school.

“Through TeaTime, I was able to develop this script together with Cooper from the beginning. I like the idea of ​​helping young artists, and now I’m at a special moment in my career where I can do that”, says the actress via video, citing director, screenwriter, producer and protagonist Cooper Raiff.

“Working as a producer, I still manage to develop the projects I’ve always dreamed of working on, go after the directors and writers that interest me. That was the case here. When I saw ‘Shithouse’, Cooper’s last film, I loved his mind. and then the idea he had for ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth’.”

An idea that she says she defended tooth and nail, unlike many other producers who have already funded projects in which Johnson has acted, which “did not protect the vision of the artists they worked with”.

At 25, Cooper Raiff is a young promise of American independent cinema. Before “Cha Cha Real Smooth” was awarded at Sundance, he had already pocketed a trophy at South by Southwest, SXSW, for the “Shithouse” that so delighted Johnson. His pair of feature films share an intimate atmosphere, they are both centered on young people who still seem to be lost in early adulthood.

The stories somewhat echo his personal life. The male lead in the feature, which debuts this week on Apple TV+, was originally going to be played by someone else, but the character had so many mannerisms and a personality so close to Cooper’s that Dakota Johnson and the other producers of “Cha Cha Real Smooth” chose him. convinced him to also take on one of the casting credits.

“I didn’t write the character for myself, because I didn’t want to accumulate multiple roles on set, but it was easy to imagine myself in the role, so I accepted the suggestion,” says Raiff. He, by the way, says that the “seed” for the script came from his mother, who commented a few years ago that her life would be defined by the phases of Andrea, the filmmaker’s sister who has a disability. “I didn’t really know what to do with that information, so I put it on film.”

In “Cha Cha Real Smooth” we see how Domino, the mother played by Johnson, has her life based on the care and attention that her daughter, Lola, needs. Because she has autism and difficulty socializing, she can’t be in anyone’s company, is embarrassed to go to the dance floor at school parties and is often a victim of bullying. Domino is there for her all the time, even if it means sacrificing her social life.

And then Andrew enters the scene, with his sensitive and thoughtful way, and soon delights mother and daughter. At 22, he needs a job as well as a cure for a broken heart, and accidentally fills that void when he realizes that the Jewish mothers in the suburbs where he lives can’t find a good entertainer for their children’s bar mitzvahs.

For the role of Lola, Raiff went through a series of auditions until she met Vanessa Burghardt, who also has autism and makes her acting debut. “I do a lot of auditions and people in the industry don’t accept that I can play any character, they always want me to fit in with some specific notion they have about autism,” she says.

Raiff has fled from this commonplace that seems unwilling to understand Burghardt’s speech. A priori, he went after an association that works with young people who have autism, but he soon realized that he wanted a script that was fluid, that left representation through representation.

“I didn’t want someone reading the script and taking notes about this or that. I knew I needed someone to guide me through the whole process, and that person had to be the actress who would play Lola, not a guy who has a consulting company. I always try to have a close relationship with my actors, I like it when they lead the way. And then I saw Vanessa’s audition, reading the script with her own mother, and I started crying because I saw the relationship of my own mother with my sister there.”

After selling his film to Apple and winning awards in his still young career, Raiff is already working on his next feature, but he doesn’t intend to abandon the intimate atmosphere and authorial production anytime soon. The project, he reveals, will be set in the world of hockey, much more violent than that of bar mitzvah parties, however.

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