Jamie Dornan and the penance of ’50 shades’: how getting away from Hollywood has led him to cherish the Oscar | Culture | ICON


Jamie Dornan (Holywood, Northern Ireland, 39 years old) is an ordinary guy. Far from collecting high-end vehicles or wasting his fortune on eccentricities, his most precious possessions are a horse, five chickens, three goats, a dog and a cat. And being able to afford a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, the actor and former model resides on a peaceful farm in the English countryside with his three daughters and his wife, actress-turned-songwriter Amelia Warner. That he was born in Holywood – with only one ele -, a municipality near Belfast, is still ironic. After a few years overcoming the hangover of 50 shades of gray in more artistic projects, he will return as the protagonist of Belfast, Kenneth Brannagh’s new film just released in the United States (it will arrive in Spain in January) that sounds strong to sweep nominations at the Oscars. With more talent and better material, he will be able to make up (perhaps) of a chain of events that marked his life and began long before he became Christian Gray.

Jamie was a happy boy. Raised in a Methodist family, he went to church regularly until he was six years old. His grandparents, both mother and father, were preachers of that religion. But young Jamie was much more interested in sports, especially rugby, than in cultivating his faith. He also showed an early interest in acting. At Belfast Methodist College, where he studied, he was an active member of the theater company. Even not being aware of it, everyone knew that it had star wood. Including his father, the obstetrician and gynecologist Jim Dornan, who this past March died a victim of Covid-19 at the age of 73.

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Although her childhood passed normally, everything changed in 1998. Shortly after she turned 16, her mother, Lorna, died of sudden death of pancreatic cancer. “It is something that affects you in a thousand different ways every day. I doubt that I will ever accept it, unless I go to see a therapist to explain how. Maybe it made me more determined… I still get really angry when I think about it. At my age, I am very frustrated that my mother is not here, because I have daughters that she has not been able to meet. It makes me very sad, ”he confessed to ICON when we put it on our cover in 2016.

Jamie Dornan and Kate Moss, who starred in a popular Calvin Klein campaign, attend a dinner hosted by the brand in New York in 2006.
Jamie Dornan and Kate Moss, who starred in a popular Calvin Klein campaign, attend a dinner hosted by the brand in New York in 2006.Patrick McMullan (Patrick McMullan via Getty Image)

As if that wasn’t difficult enough to process, in 1999 he lost four of his best friends from high school in a car accident. In 2019, on the podcast Out To Lunch from journalist Jay Rayner, he spoke about those two consecutive tragedies that caused him to fall into a depression: “I had a very hard couple of years. And I think I’m still dealing with both, every day. During that summer I drank everything and went out a lot. I dropped out of college because I wasn’t interested in the marketing career I was studying. I knew that I was not on the right track and that I had to do something else ”. Fortunately, her two older sisters, Liesa (who works for Disney in London) and Jessica (a fashion designer based in Falmouth), took up the matter.

A modest handsome

“I didn’t do particularly well with the girls at school. I always looked very youthful. My sisters’ friends told me: ‘You are so handsome.’ Hated that. If you’re a skinny, baby-faced teenager, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re handsome. ” These words that Dornan spoke in The Guardian in 2004 they make it clear that, no matter how much they repeated it, he was never aware of its beauty.

And that she never considered being a model. But faced with the unfortunate state of mind in which she was after the death of her mother and her classmates, Liesa and Jessica thought that a change of scenery could be good for them. Both convinced him to appear at the age of 20 at the reality of TV Model Behaviour, whose award was a one-year contract with the Select agency and appear on the cover of the magazine GQ. Of course, as always happens in great stories where success is made to wait, it did not win.

However, it was not long before he appeared on his own at the agency’s London offices and was booked. “At 21 I was running big campaigns and making a lot of money. But since I never really saw modeling as a career, I guess I didn’t let it affect me too much, ”she said. He added that every time he had a date or met a girl in a pub, he would say that “she was a landscaper or that she worked for Google. Anything less admitting that they photographed me for a living ”. One of those conquests was actress Keira Knightley. They were in a relationship for two years.

Such as The New York Times reflected in a 2006 article titled The golden torso, Dornan dazzled brands like Dior (he was the face of the popular perfume Dior Homme), Calvin Klein, Armani or Abercrombie & Fitch because he looked like a “real” person, the typical young man who could go unnoticed in the crowd. “It’s like the male Kate Moss,” Jim Moore, then creative director of GQ. “Its proportions are a bit out of place. He has a light complexion. It is small for the average male model. But her torso is long, making her appear taller, and she brings a laid-back quality to modeling. You know what it’s there for. Unlike many people, no try be a male model. Because that is not it”.

And that was the key to its success. “I wonder why all this has happened to me. I don’t consider myself particularly handsome. The reason everything has worked so well is because I don’t take things too seriously. This is big business for now, a great way to make money and have a laugh. Who knows what will be next? I attribute a large part of what has happened to me to luck and to being in the right place and at the right time, ”Dornan said in the American newspaper.

The model who didn't want to be: Jamie Dornan surrounded by Calvin Klein brand award hopefuls in an Oxford Street store in London in September 2009.
The model who didn’t want to be: Jamie Dornan surrounded by Calvin Klein brand award hopefuls in an Oxford Street store in London in September 2009.Dave M. Benett (Getty Images)

He never walked on a catwalk. He only limited himself to posing with a melancholic face for some of the most famous photographers in the industry. “Sure there are people who dream about that, but I don’t. It went well for me and I respect it, but I always did it with a certain reluctance. I would not be a model again in any way, ”he stated in another interview he gave to ICON in 2019. That stage, seen in perspective, was a mere toll to dedicate himself to what he had always dreamed of, his great ambition: to be an actor.

Killer looking for an interpreter

The journalist and writer Nigel Farndale, in the aforementioned article by The Guardian of 2014, portrays Dornan as a folksy man, feminist and hyperactive by nature. Thanks to those paragraphs we know that he usually drinks beer, opens a bottle of wine after putting his daughters to bed and that he does not crush himself in the gym because he does not gain a gram when he gorges himself on junk food.

Although he did not brag about it, by then he had already made his debut in the entertainment industry. Her first opportunity came in the form of a cameo in 2006, at the hands of Sofia Coppola, in the controversial Marie Antoinette. However, if there is a character he holds great esteem, it is that of the psychopath Paul Spector in the British series The hunt, for which he received a BAFTA nomination. “He has given me everything. I know that every opportunity I have from now on is thanks to that series, “he acknowledged in The Guardian in 2015.

Anyway, his beginnings were not easy because, more than anyone else, he had to show that he was not only a pretty face. This is what he told ICON: “In some things it benefits you, but in general it is a great stigma. I’ve always found it infuriating that just because you’ve been a model for a few years, you can’t be a valid actor anymore. Especially in the UK. In the United States, I would say they don’t give a shit. ” This is precisely what happened with the role that would mark his filmography.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson at the premiere of '50 Shades Freed '(third and final installment of the saga) in Paris in 2018.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson at the premiere of ’50 Shades Freed ‘(third and final installment of the saga) in Paris in 2018.PATRICK KOVARIK (AFP via Getty Images)

When the first rumors of a possible film adaptation of 50 shades of gray, the whole world began to concoct. The novel – written by a newcomer and, according to most critics, very clumsy – had been a planetary phenomenon. The toxic relationship of the dark businessman Christian Gray and the shy university student Anastasia Steele revitalized a genre, erotic literature, dormant for decades for the general public. Since its publication in 2011, the first installment alone has sold more than 165 million copies worldwide, eight of them in Spain and Latin America.

On September 2, 2013, the news was made public that Charlie Hunnam had been chosen to give life to Christian Gray. But on October 12 of that same year, Hunnam resigned from starring in the film. Days later, Dornan agreed to be his replacement. The first trailer of 50 shades of gray In 2014 it amassed more than 36 million views in its first week on YouTube. Fifty shades darker it reached 144 million in 24 hours in 2016. Dornan was fully aware of the monster he was facing. Among other things, from the minute one knew that the press was going to attack him mercilessly.

“I knew where I was getting myself and spent a lot of time considering whether to accept that role. Most people hated books. A book that was horribly criticized will never become a critically acclaimed movie. It is the same material. Yes, I came in knowing that. However, it was a great opportunity, “he declared this month in GQ. “It has done no harm to my career being part of a movie franchise that has grossed over a billion dollars. Any active actor would say the same. I am not ashamed to say that it has transformed my life and that of my family financially. I am very, very grateful for it. And I always will be ”.

It may now take away the iron from the matter, but in 2015 some of the articles that were published were itchy when the first part landed in theaters. “I went through a bad time when I saw a couple of really bad reviews, but then I just found them funny and got carried away by them. I read once that he had the charisma of oatmeal. It stuck with me, but then I thought: ‘Well, there are people who like oats, “he said in Variety. Posts to rescue incendiary reviews, it also hurt that The Christian Science Monitor claimed to have “the charisma of a hologram.” In 2016, in the absence of them reaching theaters 50 shades darker and 50 shades freed, gave the reason, half, to those critical detractors in the pages of ICON: “I think I was not well in Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m pretty sure it’s my worst performance to date. I don’t mind admitting it ”.

Be that as it may, even though in GQ indicated that “I am still paying the penance for that election”, it does not stop receiving scripts. Like Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (the stars of the series Twilight), or Daniel Radcliffe (who will be repeatedly haunted by Harry Potter), Dornan has built a solid career outside of Hollywood blockbusters. And its interpretation in Belfast “It is destined for glory at the Oscars,” he said. Insider. Perhaps, very soon, the boy who hated being a model will return to his farm with a golden statuette.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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