The cinematic career of Jamie Dornan has been as unpredictable as it is accomplished.
Choosing roles as varied as his interests, this March he's starring in both Oscar-nominated films and hard-hitting new TV miniseries, like "The Tourist," with equal aplomb.
Forgetting everything about himself, who he was, who he loves ands even his own name, Dornan's new character in "The Tourist" - an Irishman with amnesia - is on a race against the clock.
The new six-part HBO Max miniseries starts out with an eerie Stephen King-like set up.
Dornan, 39, is in a car being pursued by a huge fast moving 18 wheeler mac truck in the Australian outback. The truck driver is unseen, but their speed and the attempts to ram Dornan's car tell us their mission, to bump him off unceremoniously.
Before we can find out who he is or why he's so far from home the driver strikes, leaving him for dead in an upturned car, where after a serious bump to the head he later wakes up in an outback hospital with no recollection of how he got there or who he is.
The Holywood, Northern Ireland to Hollywood, USA trajectory of this charismatic Irish actor has seen him play a spectrum of roles that have one thing in common, their near total difference from each other.
From his turns in the "Fifty Shades" franchise to "Robin Hood" to a winning turn as a good dad in a bad time in "Belfast," he's amply demonstrated his leading man range and also considerable comedy chops (see "Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar") in diverse roles that keep things really interesting.
Modeling really took off, however. Dornan was seen in campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss and Armani, but in 2005 he became the face of Dior Homme male fragrance (a modeling bullseye).
His career as an international fashion model took him to the top houses in the industry. In fact, in 2006 he was titled The Golden Torso by The New York Times and the male Kate Moss by GQ, monikers that – knowing his background - he probably laughs about.
Despite all these lucrative modeling contracts and bombastic billings Dornan – one of the top 25 male models in the history of the industry - consistently remained a notions-free Northern Irish man who maintained his equilibrium and sense of humor despite all the celebrity model nonsense surrounding him.
Meanwhile, Dornan's trademark direct to camera smolder, known playfully in the fashion world as the Dornan Furrow, echoed the kind of model industry silliness Ben Stiller once skewered in his "Zoolander" movies by calling his own to-camera trout pout the Blue Steel.
Dornan's eventual transition to TV and cinema was always the natural progression of a handsome and talented young Irish lad who had once tread the boards as well as the rugby fields of Methodist College Belfast, known locally as Methody.
But it was the stunning Northern Irish serial killer drama "The Fall" (in which he starred opposite Gillian Anderson) that really put him on the map as a serious lead. His performance was hailed as a tour de force and it saw him win his first Irish Film and Television Award (IFTA) for Best Actor in a TV series.
Once again his golden torso played a supporting role in the overheated romance, and ever the method actor, Dornan visited a working sex dungeon to research the steamy role.
The role was a wise financial decision, if not exactly a critical one, because the series went on to raise 1.32 billion at the box office. The epic payday didn't make up for the relentless critical drubbings he later admitted, and he felt quite depressed by all the lampooning in the press.
It was during the pandemic, with near miraculous timing, that Dornan revealed unexpected new sides to his onscreen leading actor skill sets. In the quirky but at times oddly delightful "Wild Mountain Thyme," he played a wounded hero with a secret in the most winning performance in the film.
Critics mostly blasted the Oscar and Pulitzer winning John Patrick Shanley film for the film's indulgent paddywhackery or worse, but Dornan fared much better in their estimation for his remarkably sensitive and winning turn as the reluctant Irish lover. In fairness to him, he was brilliant in an otherwise forgettable soap sud of a film.
Now Dornan's performance in "The Tourist" will remind us of his action hero credentials just as the world's attention focuses on his Oscar nominated film. It's magical good timing because this thrilling, weirdly funny new miniseries has so much going for it from the opening scene.
Filmed in the punishingly hot Australian outback, which is one part desert one part Mars, the crew had a hell of a time bringing this epic landscape under control throughout the shoot. What was hard for them produces a uniquely atmospheric new show for us however.
"The Tourist" is the most instantly compelling new drama I've watched this year and Dornan is low key funny and fresh in his Irish fish out of water role, as both the guide and the subject of this flinty and frequently jaw dropping show (there is talk already of a sequel).
Playing to his strengths as a leading man and making frequent use of his northern dry wit, it's a dream role in a fun and frightening roller coaster ride of a show that reminds us that in 2022 Dornan's only getting started.