Thursday 8 December 2016

Jamie Dornan: 'I'm insecure about everything'

Jamie Dornan says why the story of a broken Irish man resonated with him

Donal Lynch

Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30

Guests attend the Irish Premiere of The Siege of Jadotville at The Savoy, Dublin
Guests attend the Irish Premiere of The Siege of Jadotville at The Savoy, Dublin
Small-screen hit: Jamie Dornan with Gillian Anderson, his co-star in The Fall which returns to RTE tonight. Photo: Getty
Jamie Dornan attends the "Anthropoid" UK film premiere at the BFI Southbank on August 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Jamie Dornan and Amelia Warner attend the "Anthropoid" UK film premiere at the BFI Southbank on August 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Jamie Dornan attends the UK Premiere of "Fifty Shades Of Grey"
Star: Jamie Dornan in his new film The Siege of Jadotville
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in ‘50 Shades of Grey’ film

It's the morning after the night before for Jamie Dornan - he was attending the "mental, emotional" premiere of his new film The Siege Of Jadotville last night - and understandably he seems a little bunged up and groggy.

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He's offered a tomato juice but opts for a Bloody Mary. It instantly makes me warm to him (I could use an eye-opener myself) but I cool down again later when I get a call asking me not to reveal his drink of choice.

"But that makes him cooler and more human," I protest. "Nobody can be blamed for getting him what he asked for." There are some more concerned noises. Human doesn't seem to be the look they're going for.

Which is understandable in its own way because Jamie is a brand now - a newly minted superstar and a fairly constant paparazzi quarry. If they ever manage a dud shot of him I'd be quite surprised. On close inspection he looks like he is carved from marble. He has what I'll call 'resting smoulder face' and seems to travel with his own in-built team of lighting experts. It's almost a shock that someone that handsome can still move and speak.

As the Bloody Mary PR fretting also showed, his image is a strange mix of squeaky clean and just a whiff of sulphur. He's a married father-of-two and lives what he describes as a quiet life in the English countryside. But the roles he is most famous for - the hot serial killer in The Fall and the whip-wielding Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey (which I am repeatedly warned off discussing) - make you feel like there must be some debaucherous depths beneath the heart-throb visage.

He says that he is "drawn to broken characters" because he sees something of himself in them, and none so far have been more broken than Pat Quinlan, the Irish soldier whose story forms the heart of The Siege Of Jadotville. Quinlan was the commandant of a group of untested Irish soldiers who were sent by the UN into the wilds of the Congo region of Katanga where ferocious fighting broke out. For a variety of reasons - including rumour and politics - the Irish soldiers never received their dues and this film is seen as a way of righting that.

Star: Jamie Dornan in his new film The Siege of Jadotville
Star: Jamie Dornan in his new film The Siege of Jadotville

Dornan gives an impressive performance - further putting to rest the suspicion that he is just another model-turned-actor. He worked hard to transform his monotone Northern brogue into Quinlin's Kerry lilt.

"I worked with a dialect coach. I was also privy to some actual recordings of Quinlan talking; they weren't very clear but they were helpful. He had a hardcore Kerry accent, very high and very fast. You're always trying to avoid having to have subtitles. We tried to compromise a bit by not having anything too hardcore."

He says that coming from a part of the world "where conflict was unfortunately a part of daily life" gave him a better understanding of the issues in the film. Dornan grew up in Holywood, Co Down. His father is a consultant gynaecologist and his mother, who died of cancer when he was 16, was a nurse.

There was a streak of performance in the family - two of his grandparents were lay Methodist preachers and he is a distant cousin of Greer Garson, a major star of the MGM golden era in Hollywood.

After school Dornan dropped out of college and went to London where he trained as an actor but it was as a model that he achieved swift renown - fronting campaigns for Dior, and Calvin Klein (with Kate Moss, where they both wore nothing but their jeans). He was famously labelled "the golden torso" by the New York Times.

You imagine then, that he would have a bottomless well of security about his looks, but he gamely protests that this is not the case.

Jamie Dornan and Amelia Warner attend the
Jamie Dornan and Amelia Warner attend the "Anthropoid" UK film premiere at the BFI Southbank on August 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

"Of course I'm insecure, I feel insecure about everything. Nothing changes when you become famous. I can remember making videos with a camcorder or voice recordings and you always cringe a bit when you see or hear yourself. I don't believe there are any actors who feel totally secure and if they do, well, that's worrying."

The camera never seemed to mind how he felt about himself, but he was ambivalent about his acting career to start with - he's spoken of walking out of an audition after making a hames of a Geordie accent - but he acquitted himself well in a few smaller roles.

It was the double whammy of The Fall and Fifty Shades that made him a certifiable A-lister, however. He won a Bafta nomination for his role as an eerily calm serial killer in the former which has earned the BBC its highest ratings for a drama in the last decade.

Fifty Shades has, of course, taken on a life of its own, and he's already signed up to the next two films in the franchise. But it's notable that the role of Christian Grey was turned down by several stars, including reportedly, Ryan Gosling, who was said to be nervous about the subject matter. Did Dornan ever have a fear that he might have trouble moving on from such career-defining roles?

"I'm a very optimistic and positive person by nature. Some roles can be a bit all-encompassing, but I don't see a lot of negatives when a film makes $300m at the box office.

"My involvement in films like Jadotville is as a direct result of other films I've done which have done well. If I ever find myself taking on jobs for the wrong reasons I'll just stop. I'm not one of these actors who thinks they always have to be acting."

He tells me he's "flattered" to be mentioned as one of the possible actors to play James Bond, and something about the glint in his eye tells me he might really be in the running.

Jamie Dornan attends the UK Premiere of
Jamie Dornan attends the UK Premiere of "Fifty Shades Of Grey"

He says fame is not isolating. "If you look at people like the Kardashians, they enable it, they seek it. I am living out in the English countryside in the middle of nowhere. The only things that are following me are goats, mostly. I think the notion of paparazzi following you is much worse for women than it is for men. They don't care about the guys as much. Women in the public eye definitely get more attention."

He says he never did well with women before meeting Amelia Warner (unless, presumably, you count Keira Knightley) and he's been smitten with her since they first met in a country house in Somerset. They have two girls together, and Dornan lights up briefly when I mention them.

"Having kids has really changed my life. Fatherhood has been the best role I've ever had. They're both under the age of three now and they've coincided with my career really taking off in a way that I didn't really expect. That brings its own pressures, too.

"I do have a sense that I want to make hay while the sun shines but at the same time I have two small kids, you don't get these years back, and I want to make sure I'm at home with them as much as possible."

He takes a defiant sip of his Bloody Mary. "I'll take a little bit of time off now."

Sunday Independent

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