Jamie Dornan insists he’s not at all like the dark character he portrays in his roles.
Jamie Dornan won the hottest film role of the year playing Christian Grey, the mysterious and seductive lead in the
movie version of the bestseller Fifty Shades Of Grey. He became one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors after playing serial murderer Paul Spector in The Fall, as he attempted to outmanoeuvre Gillian Anderson’s coldly calculating police detective.
The BBC Two television drama, which completed its second gripping series recently, propelled the virtually unknown Dornan, 32, into the big league. As he is already tipped as the next James Bond after Daniel Craig, the spectacular transformation is almost complete.
Yet he admits that all he did as a 20-year-old was play rugby, get drunk and sleep. When he became known, it was for modelling Calvin Klein underpants and jeans and being the boyfriend of Keira Knightley. “Even worse, when it was all over, I was described as Keira’s EX-boyfriend,” he tells me. “It was as if I didn’t have a life or a family. So far as some people were concerned I appeared on the arm of Keira one day and that is when I started to live.”
His light, ironic sense of humour will come in useful for the clamour around Fifty Shades Of Grey. The original book from British novelist E L James was self-published but by the time a recognised publisher had bought the rights and she had written two more follow-ups, it had become an international bestseller.
The story was notable for a series of erotic scenes between college graduate Anastasia Steele and business magnate Christian Grey which involved bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism. It swiftly earned a reputation as “mummy porn” and film rights were bought by the studio giant Universal.
However, it has been far from an untroubled transfer from book to screen. While the role of Anastasia went to 25-year-old Dakota Johnson, best known as the daughter of Melanie Griffith and one-time Miami Vice star Don Johnson, the casting of Christian Grey became tricky.
British actor Charlie Hunnam, 34, was originally hired. He was forced to drop out when filming clashed with another movie. Dornan beat all-comers to step in after his compelling performance in The Fall. “I am never going to please all the readers of the books,” he said, on getting the part. “If half are happy with me then that would be an achievement.
“As for the controversy, there is no forced sex in the film. It is all consensual. And from my point of view there is nothing sexy about performing scenes in front of half a dozen hairy men moving cables and lighting equipment.”
So Dornan has made his biggest impact in dark roles. There have, he says, been a few dark moments in his own life. The worst was when his mother Lorna died at the age of 50 from cancer. “I was a very naive 16-year-old,” he says. “It forced me to grow up very fast.”
“The sad thing about being so young is that you do not know yourself that well. Even sadder is that I did not know her well, either. She was a nurse, had three kids in five years – I was the youngest – but had always wanted to become an artist. She was stunning and glamorous and looked like an old-school movie star.
“Her parents were strict and thought there was no future in art.”
His father Jim, an obstetrician who turned down a place Rada for a top medical profession, felt differently and was encouraging from the start. Dornan insists that he is far from the control freak he portrays in the role that has made him famous. He is married to actress and singer Amelia Warner, 32. They have 14-month-old baby daughter Dulcie.
“My wife looked at me a little strangely after we watched one episode of The Fall together,” he says. “I did not realise I was capable of coming across so darkly. But it is just an act.”
(Excerpt from Marie Claire Malaysia April ’15 issue) (Story by Garth Pearce for The Interview People)