He’s the Northern Irish actor-turned-model who’s just landed one of Hollywood’s most coveted roles, playing Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades film adaptation.
Jamie Dornan (31), who hails from County Down, has been lined up to replace Charles Hunnam in the upcoming movie version of the steamy literary sensation. He himself has suffered tragedy as teenager, losing his mother to cancer and four friends in an horrific car smash.
While many film buffs may not be too familiar with his name, the role of the kinky billionaire is set to turn Dornan into an overnight star.
But in the UK, the father-to-be has already been garnering much press attention this year, thanks to his role in the BBC’s hit psychological thriller “The Fall.” Cynics who may scoff at the prospect of yet another pretty boy attempting to carve out a career in acting need only watch his chilling portrayal of a serial killer in “The Fall” to see that he has been perfectly cast for “Fifty Shades.”
It’s largely due to his part as Paul Spector, a bereavement counsellor who stalks the streets of Belfast for his prey, that Dornan has been snapped up to play Grey. His performance as a doting father by day, creepy killer by night, won him widespread critical acclaim and proved a much-needed confidence boost.
In an interview with Dornan earlier this year, the humble actor revealed he had gone for a lesser part in “The Fall,” which also starred Gillian Anderson as the detective leading the hunt for the killer.
Dornan, who had previously starred as Sheriff Graham Humbert in the ABC fairy-tale drama “Once Upon A Time,” auditioned for the role of a police officer and was shocked when he was called back to try for the part of Spector instead.
“To be honest, I was terrified, bewildered but absolutely flattered to be offered the biggest male role," he said.
“I knew I’d have to work my backside off to convince them they weren’t crazy in making that judgement.”
Those who worked with Dornan on the set of “The Fall” describe him as ‘hard-working’, ‘dedicated to his craft’ and above all, a ‘true gent.’ He threw himself into the role of Spector, reading numerous books on serial killers in a bid to try and get inside their minds.
Perhaps his past career as a top model inspired him to put in the extra work to prove he could act. The former face of Calvin Klein, who also modelled in Armani and Aquascutum campaigns, claimed he had previously felt at a disadvantage in the UK because of his background.
He told Red magazine: “In LA, they don’t think that because you leant against walls and looked depressed while someone took your photograph, it means you can’t act.
“In the UK, there’s a massive stigma attached to it. You couldn’t possibly have had your photograph take for a living and act.”
Dornan was born in Holywood, Co Down and has two older sisters, Liesa, who works in London for Disney, and Jessica, a fashion designer based in Falmouth, England. His father is a well-known and highly respected obstetrician and gynaecologist, Professor Jim Dornan, and his step-mother, Samina, is a gynaecologist too.
Tragically, Jamie lost his mother Lorna to pancreatic cancer in 1998, when he was just 16 and studying for crucial exams at Methodist College in Belfast. The following year, Jamie was dealt another devastating blow when four fellow pupils, including two of his best friends, were killed in a horrific car crash in County Donegal.
Speaking just last month, his father, Prof Jim Dornan, who has himself beaten cancer, said his son was a constant source of pride to him, particularly the way in which he had coped with his incredible grief at such an impressionable age.
"You know, everything about Jamie has made me proud," he said. "The way he responded to his mother's death, the way he responded when four of his friends were killed in a car crash, the way he responded to the challenge of getting into the world he is in, the way he responded to my new partner and wife.
"He is an incredibly level headed, solid guy. He's very well rounded. I'm not just saying this, but he is one of the nicest people I know."
After leaving the Methodist College, Dornan, who was also a keen rugby player, attended Teeside University but dropped out to move to London, where he began to model. On the set of a photo-shoot he met actress Keira Knightley and the pair began dating. Dornan brought Knightley home to Holywood several times but the relationship ended after two years. At the time Dornan revealed he felt ‘second rate’ to Knightley and that the pressures of fame contributed to the split.
He also performed in a folk band, Sons of Jim, with a former school-friend, but his heart still lay with acting. He continued to work as a hugely successful model, appearing in campaigns with Eva Mendes and Kate Moss, while trying to break into his preferred career.
In 2006 he landed a role in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and also starred in “Shadows in the Sun” three years later opposite Hollywood legend Jean Simmons.
Two years ago, Dornan secured his first major television role as Sheriff Graham in “Once Upon A Time”. When his character was killed off there was an outcry on internet forums and he was re-written into the season finale as The Huntsman to appease his growing army of fans.
His casting as the male lead alongside Dakota Johnson in “Fifty Shades of Grey” rounds off a pretty spectacular year for the Northern Irish man. As well as signing up to a second series of “The Fall,” the hunky actor also married English actress and singer Amelia Warner in April 2013.
Warner was previously ‘married’ to another Irish actor, Colin Farrell, though she later claimed the beach wedding was not legally binding. Dornan and Warner are currently expecting their first child.
Despite the worldwide attention expected to surround Dornan now, the young actor - a patron of TinyLife, a Northern Irish premature birth charity - looks set to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.
Here’s a report on the choice of Jamie Doran for “Fifty Shades of Grey”:
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