Eye Gandy: The world's most in-demand male model
The world's most in-demand male model David Gandy tells Stephen Milton he hates the spotlight, likes getting older and professes we don't know the real him...
Fifty Shades producers were hardly thinking outside the box when they approached David Gandy for protagonist Christian Grey, a dashing, billionaire who can only enjoy sex if it's accompanied by corporal punishment.
Like the dangerous, dapper magnate plucked from the saucy psyche of EL James, David broods and smoulders. His wolf-like, brilliant blues are menacingly seductive, and he has cheekbones you might cut yourself on.
Few others wear a structured, three-piece suit better. Sitting beside me, I bear witness to every panel and stitch groaning and stretching .
Alas, David refused the Grey offer. On revelation of the snub, he was quoted saying, "I was asked to go it, but said, 'no'. I thought it was very badly written."
It eventually went to Jamie Dornan, an agreeably incredibly handsome alternative.
Today, perched in a quiet corner of a Mayfair pub at lunchtime, while London's city boys and girls natter and clink in the background, Gandy's now taking a different stance on the rejection.
"Firstly, I appreciated the book…"
Now there's a turnaround. "I read bits of it and whatever critics say," he clutches, "it's incredibly popular with immense power.
"Jamie's a great actor and he'll do the part real justice. It'll be seen by millions and he'll land a number of films from that.
"Difference is, he's been pursuing this. He did the BBC series, [The Fall].
"It's something that Jamie wants and I'm a lot shyer than him. He's a musician, he's gone out with very famous women. Movie stars. He's much more comfortable in that, whereas I'm much more secretive.
"Fifty Shades is going to send him into the stratosphere and I still like to be able to go about my day."
And comes the zinger, "I really don't like being the centre of attention."
Rolling your eyes tends to be the natural response when an underwear model claims ownership of a shy disposition. He crookedly smirks at my reaction, creasing his face.
"I am, I'm really shy. I don't like being centre of attention."
So a catwalk model who made his name emerging from the blue waters of Capri in a pair of tighty whitey Speedos - and nothing else - doesn't like the spotlight? A man who's now plastered across the country on billboards, posters and the back pages of magazines, flaunting lashings of tanned skin for his new underwear range for Marks and Spencer?
"That's work. That doesn't bother me. But when I turn up to a red carpet, I still get butterflies. I'm just me. I really hide how nervous I get.
"At the GQ Awards recently, I was incredibly nervous. I didn't want to get out of the car and stand there, everyone looking… Nine times out of 10, I want to say to the driver, 'Just keep going, I want to go home'. But some people thrive on it."
Eight years since Dolce and Gabbana's Light Blue campaign catapulted Gandy into the spotlight, he's now the world's second highest paid male supermodel.
And unlike Kate, Gisele, Naomi and Cara, he's arguably the only household name among the fashionable fellows.
Posing and strutting on catwalks and campaigns for Hugo Boss, Carolina Herrera, Banana Republic, H&M and Lucky Brand Jeans, he's also starred as the face and brand ambassador for Jaguar and Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
And with his 007 appeal transcending mere 'clothes-horsery', the Essex hunk launches his David Gandy for Autograph range for Marks and Spencer. He's now a one-man brand.
After a successful run as the face and body of M&S Collection menswear, the 34-year-old was presented with the chance to design his own underwear and nightwear range.
Varying from briefs to boxers, dressing gowns to long-sleeve tees, it's a classy collection with a quality touch. And this ain't just the regurgitated marketing spiel - I can vouch as a proud owner of a couple pairs, courtesy of the man himself.
Irish customers can also exclusively purchase several cashmere additions, including sleepwear trousers and cardigans.
Surprisingly, it's Gandy's first design collaboration. Surely Dolce and Gabbana would have gotten first dibs?
"I believe in affordability. People assume my wardrobe is just Dolce and I don't spend that much on clothes. I'll be wearing a t-shirt and someone will think it's Balenciaga and it'll be American Apparel."
So is anything in your wardrobe Primark [Penneys' UK equivalent], I ask?
"Ehhh... no," he smirks, "I probably work to that cut-off point. That's very disposable. I don't really believe in disposability."
A fleshy, flashy advertising campaign, with Dave smouldering in a variety of undressed poses, has rather large proportion of the masses hot under the collar. The standard Gandy effect.
Previously dating dimpled Les Miserables actress Samantha Barks and rumoured to be back on with blonde Saturdays singer, Mollie King, I wonder when he discovered himself hotter than most?
The question irks the model. That shyness must be kicking in again. "I was never the successful one with the girls. There were always guys who were more successful at school. I thought they were better looking than me. Even at uni, I eventually found out I was known as 'Model Dave' on campus but I was completely oblivious to it."
Creeping towards his 35th birthday, has any physical insecurity increased for Model Dave? Or developed from scratch, in his case? "I'm not doing too badly. I see quite large bags under my eyes sometimes. But that's work, that's travelling.
"I hear sometimes, 'You look a lot older than you do in pictures', and I'm like, 'OK'. I've always wanted to look older."
Bit of a dangerous desire for his profession? "Admittedly, you're not going to be in as good shape as you were eight years ago.
"When we shot for the M&S campaign, I was training for a good six weeks and was very proud of the result but you know, it's harder now.
"But everyone is so hung up on clinging on to their 20s. That's never really been me."
A loud chuckle distracts us both. INSIDER turns to see two suited thirty-something females giggle nervously towards Gandy's direction. They clink their glasses and resume conversation. One eye remains on the model.
A frequent occurrence, I ask. "Yeah," he happily chimes. "And I get asked for pictures all the time. Sometimes they'll be physically shaking. That's kinda strange.
"I'll say, 'c'mon, let's have a laugh. Here have a look at that, what do you think. Oh, I look shit in that, we have to do another one'. And they relax after a while."
He folds his arms tightly and stares into the distance. The tittering twosome maintain their surveillance.
"I think it was Cary Grant who said, 'I wish I was that Cary Grant. The Hollywood Cary Grant. Because that's the image you give out to other people'. But it's not necessarily you.
"You know my image. And that's not necessarily me."
Marks & Spencer David Gandy for Autograph range is out now. Cashmere additions available at marksandspencers.ie