Hollywood may be the land of dreams, and taking a role in a huge franchise might be the most surefire way to ascend to the A-list, but for every Kristen Stewart out there, there's also a Taylor Lautner. Somebody whose time on the A-list was short and sweet, and whose descent was swift and merciless.
If you're lucky, Dancing With the Stars comes calling. Otherwise, you'd better sell that pretty little Mercedes on the drive; from now on, you'll be driving a Honda.
"What does any of this have to do with the stars of Fifty Shades of Grey?", I hear you ask in a slightly defensive manner. Well, Dakota Johnson has been quoted in the press this month talking about life before and after Grey. This is what she had to say when talking to UK Vogue:
I'm proud of Fifty Shades of Grey. I don't need to distance myself from that. The more work I do, the more the general public sees the different things I can do. Do I think it opened doors? Yeah. More people know my name.
Still, ask Johnson the same question six months from now when the Fifty Shades Darker shoot has wrapped and you might get a different response...
[This industry is] absurd and cut-throat. Whenever I have downtime, I'm unsure that I will ever work again. I don't know what it is, but it's a definite thing that happens to me.
Any actor, however successful, will be able to relate to those insecurities. For some they never go away - even Oscar winning actors frequently encounter a dry spell after receiving the most prestigious award in the industry.
Basically, there are no guarantees in this game, but it sounds like Johnson has her head screwed on, which should serve her well once Darker and Freed become mere landmarks in her rearview mirror.
It's a challenge Jamie Dornan will also have to face, and even riding high on the half-billion dollar success of Fifty Shades of Grey, the man in Christian Grey's tux has experienced his fair share of professional challenges in 2015. His minor role in the Bradley Cooper chef drama Burnt, playing opposite Sienna Miller, was ultimately cut from the final edit of the film.
Check out the deleted scene, courtesy of the Burnt DVD and Blu-Ray release:
If you ask me, both Dornan and Johnson are talented enough (and definitely attractive enough) that they could do the Hollywood thing for years to come, if that's what they want. Let's take a look at two case studies whose careers either soared or took a nosedive after they left their franchise behind:
After Bridget Jones
Thanks to Jerry Maguire and Me, Myself & Irene, Renée Zellweger was a pretty big deal before Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) came along, and that role opened more doors for her, including her Oscar-winning performance in Cold Mountain (2003).
After Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Zellweger's career quickly went south, and her last movie was released in 2010. This coming September she'll be scribbling in Bridget's diary once again for [Bridget Jones's Baby](tag:293051), with Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey.
Lesson learned? If Hollywood turns its back on you, that franchise you left behind probably can't resist the prospect of another sequel. Also, Oscars mean jack.
After Mission: Impossible
It almost feels ridiculous to pigeonhole Tom Cruise as the star of a franchise. The Mission: Impossible films were good to our favorite pint-sized action hero, but roles in films as varied as the Kubrick cult classic Eyes Wide Shut and the thriller Jack Reacher (now getting its own sequel) prove that it's possible for an actor to take his career by the horns and continue scoring hit after hit.
Lesson learned? Play your cards right, take a variety of roles, and age gracefully, and you might find that life after a franchise is actually mission: perfectly possible.
Between Dornan and Johnson, who do you reckon has a better shot at taking the Tom Cruise path, and whose career will play out more like La Zellweger?
Check out Dakota's Vogue profile in full right here. Fifty Shades Darker hits theaters February 10, 2017.