JAMIE DORNAN

KINKY SEX AND POP­CORN HAVE MADE HIM A HOUSE­HOLD NAME, BUT THERE’ S A LOT MORE TO THIS IR­ISH AC­TOR THAN HIS MOST FA­MOUS FILM ROLE.

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The 34-year-old’s film­ing the lead in a small in­die movie, Un­to­gether, and has been up since day­break to catch first light. Not that we’re here to talk about that. As most are aware, Dornan’s now fa­mous for play­ing Chris­tian Grey – the bil­lion­aire businessman with a taste for sado­masochism and the pro­tag­o­nist in the block­buster Fifty Shades movie fran­chise. The first in­stal­ment hit screens in 2015 and there are two more en route – the next be­ing Fifty Shades Darker. It’s the rea­son for to­day’s chat – and con­ver­sa­tion quickly turns to sex. “Peo­ple think they set up a cam­era and the actors just go for it, but ev­ery­thing’s so bro­ken up and each shot takes time. There wouldn’t be an ac­tor in the world who doesn’t think sex scenes are awk­ward,” of­fers Dornan. “But they have got all kinds of tricks to keep your modesty. You sort of put ev­ery­thing in a wee bag, tie it up and get on with it. It’s bizarre.” We’re get­ting ahead of our­selves. Long be­fore Dornan had to worry about awk­ward on-screen sex or tuck­ing his junk into a bag, he was just a kid from North­ern Ire­land. The youngest of three, he grew up in Belfast with his par­ents and two sis­ters. He lost his mother to can­cer when he was 16, an event that he says left him frac­tured and drawn to­wards wounded characters. Four years later, he caught the at­ten­tion of a model scout and soon climbed to the top of the fashion world – photo shoots along­side Kate Moss and Eva Men­des, ad cam­paigns for Dior Homme and Calvin Klein. Then came a New York Times pro­file in which he was dubbed ‘The Golden Torso’ – not a ti­tle he cher­ishes. “I al­ways hated mod­el­ling, but that doesn’t mean I def­i­nitely knew I wanted to be an ac­tor. It’s one thing to en­joy it and an­other to think you can make a ca­reer out of it – only five per cent of actors are em­ployed at any one time. Why would any­one want to be an ac­tor?” he says, laugh­ing. “My whole twen­ties I fucked around, trav­el­ling the world and hav­ing a lot of fun. It’s only when I met my wife seven years ago that I wanted to get my shit to­gether.” It was in early 2013 that Dornan mar­ried ac­tress and mu­si­cian Amelia Warner – for the record, she’s not seen Fifty Shades of Grey – and the cou­ple had their first daugh­ter, Dul­cie, later that year. Their sec­ond child, Phoebe, was born last Fe­bru­ary. Dornan’s first film role was as Count Axel Fersen – Kirsten Dunst’s love in­ter­est in Sofia Cop­pola’s 2006 fea­ture, Marie An­toinette. From there came a se­ries of smaller projects, be­fore land­ing his ac­claimed lead in the Ir­ish TV crime drama The Fall. As the se­ries’ good-look­ing, if dis­turbed se­rial killer, Paul Spec­tor, it meant an op­por­tu­nity to play op­po­site Gil­lian An­der­son and show­case his ac­tual act­ing cre­den­tials. “As much as peo­ple think Fifty Shades changed my life, I’d be noth­ing with­out The Fall – Fifty Shades would never have come any­where near me with­out it.” He la­bels the dark TV se­ries – a Bri­tish and Ir­ish co-pro­duc­tion that re­cently screened its third sea­son – the most fun he’s had as an ac­tor. “It might be the best role I ever play. If they had wanted to do 40 sea­sons, I wouldn’t have hes­i­tated.” We’ll have to see about that. Still, it was Fifty Shades that led Dornan to a sex dun­geon on a Tues­day af­ter­noon a cou­ple of years back – nurs­ing a warm beer as a trio of pun­ters went at it with whips and pad­dles. “It was like noth­ing I’d ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. I’d never seen any form of S&M and be­fore this, I had no in­ter­est in that world.” He took notes of the ex­pe­ri­ence – not that he found them in any way rel­e­vant when it came to shoot­ing. Still, he can see the ap­peal the so-called fetish holds for so many. “It doesn’t float my boat,” he says. “I’ve al­ways been open-minded and lib­eral – I’d never judge any­one’s sex­ual pref­er­ence. What­ever gets peo­ple off is en­tirely up to them and there’s a mil­lion dif­fer­ent ways to please your­self, sex­u­ally.” Un­like the novel’s de­scrip­tion of Grey’s voice as “warm and husky like dark melted choco­late fudge caramel... or some­thing”, Dornan’s tones are coated by a charm­ing sing-song Ir­ish ac­cent – one that feels at odds with the pro­fan­ity that pep­pers his sen­tences. “He’s not the sort of bloke I’d get along with,” states Dornan of Grey. “All my mates are easy go­ing and quick to laugh – I wouldn’t imag­ine my­self sat in a pub with him. I don’t think he would be my type, when it comes to choos­ing mates.” While they’re un­likely to share a pint, there’s no deny­ing Grey’s ma­jor place in Dornan’s life. Fifty Shades of Grey cost $53.8m to pro­duce, but claimed more than $766m world­wide, break­ing box of­fice records along the way. “I don’t let my­self think about it – it drives you mad be­cause there’s so much scru­tiny and fuck­ing crazi­ness sur­round­ing this se­ries of films. But I al­ways had a strong be­lief that it would be a suc­cess and make a lot of money – you don’t have to be a sci­en­tist to work out that 100 mil­lion read­ers of the book will trans­late into bums on seats in the cin­ema. But I didn’t ex­pect it to be this big, to be honest.” Dornan’s care­fully tem­pered this side of his ca­reer with smaller roles, such as last year’s in­die fea­ture An­thro­poid and the small-bud­get thriller The 9th Life of Louis Drax. And it’s work he’ll con­tinue to seek out. “There’s an el­e­ment, when you be­come an ac­tor, of think­ing it’d be cool to be in a big movie and go to the fuck­ing pre­miere and all that shit, but I could never be sat­is­fied just do­ing big-bud­get stu­dio movies. It would just fuck­ing drive me in­sane.” Now in his mid-thir­ties, his rise has been more of a slow burn than any im­me­di­ate ex­plo­sion – some­thing he’s grate­ful for. “My ca­reer took an up­ward turn when I was 29 or 30, and I was de­lighted that it didn’t hap­pen when I was 20. I just don’t know how I would have han­dled my­self. I was never lost in my twen­ties, but I was al­ways muck­ing around and had a lot of fun – but if it had all come too soon…” he trails off. “You’re just far more in con­trol of your­self in your thir­ties –

and it’s help­ful to have faced a bit of re­jec­tion, it gives you a bet­ter idea of your­self.” While only a lucky few have man­aged to avoid the Fifty Shades phe­nom­e­non, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing where it all started. The work of Bri­tish au­thor EL James, it be­gan as fan fic­tion written about teen vam­pire se­ries Twi­light. Orig­i­nally ti­tled Mas­ter of the Uni­verse, be­fore be­ing re­named, it was first pub­lished as an e-book and then, as a print-on-de­mand pa­per­back. Al­most in­stantly, it erupted. Launch­ing the so-called ‘ mommy porn’ genre, the nov­els be­came a kind of Harry Pot­ter for sex­u­ally frus­trated house­wives – sell­ing 125 mil­lion copies glob­ally and turn­ing James into a lit­er­ary star. Then, in 2012, she was re­port­edly paid $6.7m for the se­ri­alised film rights. Not every­one was a fan. The books were roundly crit­i­cised for clunky prose and awk­ward turns of phrase – “I feel the colour in my cheeks ris­ing again. I must be the colour of The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo.” Re­ac­tions to the de­but film were equally mixed, with re­view­ers pick­ing holes in both per­for­mance and script. The New York Times sim­ply called Fifty Shades a “ter­ri­ble movie”, while the UK’S Guardian lamented the “tin­eared prose” that sur­vived the tran­si­tion from book to screen­play. Not that such cri­tiques both­ered Dornan. “I al­ways knew peo­ple would have a lot of opin­ions about it, and as much as it has 100 mil­lion fans, there’s a lot of peo­ple who aren’t into it and are very vo­cal about that. You go in know­ing it’s a di­vi­sive project and you just ac­cept that – it doesn’t stand alone in that realm. But I don’t blame peo­ple. I’ve got plenty of opin­ions about things I don’t know a lot about, or that I don’t give a chance – it’s just the na­ture of the beast. I’m not go­ing to lose any sleep over it.” Fifty Shades Darker picks up where the first film left off, with Dakota John­son repris­ing her role as Anas­ta­sia Steele. She’s at­tempt­ing to move on from her re­la­tion­ship with Grey, as he tries to rekin­dle their ro­mance – this time al­low­ing things to move for­ward on Steele’s terms. Last Septem­ber, the trailer for Darker broke the record for most Youtube views in 24 hours – de­thron­ing Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens with 114 mil­lion in a day. It’s fair to say an­tic­i­pa­tion is high. “There are other ar­eas ex­plored about Grey and his re­la­tion­ship,” says Dornan. “I knew that would be the case with the se­quels – we get to see dif­fer­ent sides of him.” For fans, the MA15+ rat­ing (R in the US) prom­ises no short­age of bed­room an­tics. “It doesn’t feel like there’s as much sex as it looks from the out­side,” says Dornan, un­con­vinc­ingly. “There’s cer­tainly plenty of it and more than any job I’ve ever done, but Dakota and I are close – we get on well and make each other laugh. I think that’s re­ally help­ful.” And re­ports sug­gest­ing Dornan isn’t stick­ing around for the third in­stal­ment are wrong – not least be­cause Fifty Shades Freed has al­ready been filmed. “That’s an ex­pen­sive mis­take,” the ac­tor joked about the ru­mour he’d been re­placed with Ian Somer­halder ( The Vam­pire Diaries) dur­ing a Novem­ber ap­pear­ance on Jimmy Kim­mel Live! “But good luck to him – he’ll be great!” It’s not the first time cast­ing ru­mours have sur­rounded the se­ries. Gos­sip Girl’s Chace Craw­ford re­port­edly ex­pressed in­ter­est in orig­i­nally play­ing Grey, be­fore Char­lie Hun­nam ( Sons of Anar­chy) landed the role, only to drop out. Mean­while every­one from Ali­cia Vikan­der to Imo­gen Poots was rumoured to play Anas­ta­sia Steele, un­til then new­comer John­son landed the role. There was also talk of fric­tion be­tween EL James and Bri­tish di­rec­tor Sam Tay­lor-john­son. And for what­ever rea­son, Tay­lor-john­son’s no longer on board – James Fo­ley has taken over di­rect­ing du­ties for the next two in­stal­ments. “The cir­cum­stances of me do­ing the first movie were so in­sane – I only got cast five weeks be­fore we started shoot­ing. My wife was heav­ily preg­nant and we had a baby three days be­fore we started film­ing. It was fuck­ing mad­ness, re­ally,” says Dornan. “But it’s also nice know­ing the first movie made nearly [USD] $600m – that gives you some com­fort go­ing for­ward.” Though Dornan shrugs off sug­ges­tions of su­per­star­dom, the films have turned him into one of the world’s most bank­able actors. And while Fifty Shades gave him the free­dom to pur­sue smaller projects, he doesn’t buy into the hype. “The thing is, the fun­da­men­tals of life don’t change. I’ve had the same group of mates since I was a child and my wife and my kids and all that stuff doesn’t change. And none of those peo­ple will let me change, un­less they’re not very good peo­ple,” he says. “But you see plenty of that in this in­dus­try – the peo­ple around you fuck­ing lose the plot and you be­come a prick. I think I have great peo­ple around me.” He owns a house in ru­ral Eng­land and avoids Lon­don if he can. It’s not so much the fans, he’s just not one to court the spot­light. “Some peo­ple can pea­cock a lit­tle bit – I’m not one of those peo­ple.” Dornan also avoids so­cial me­dia and isn’t likely to ever be snapped tum­bling out of a night­club. “Bizarrely, some peo­ple don’t fuck­ing un­der­stand that,” he says. “It’s part of this non­sense celebrity cul­ture and peo­ple reading a load of shite magazines. They build up this idea that actors are a weird, glossy ver­sion of them­selves who live in some celebrity land. But we’re re­ally just nor­mal fuck­ing peo­ple who play dress up for a liv­ing.” See, here’s the thing about Jamie Dornan – he’s not Chris­tian Grey. He’s not a kinky bil­lion­aire or a com­mit­ment-shy con­trol freak. He may have found him­self in one of the big­gest film fran­chises to date, but he’s also a busy fa­ther of two who tries to steal enough time to play a round of golf and grab a cou­ple of pints with his mates. Just a reg­u­lar guy, trapped in a movie star’s body. Fifty Shades Darker is in cin­e­mas Fe­bru­ary 9

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