Jamie Dornan isn't just a celebrity, he's a bona fide superstar, but don't imagine he's ever going to let the adulation go to his head. This week he stars alongside Cillian Murphy in the tense World War II thriller Anthropoid. Cahir O'Doherty asks him about new film, his global fame, and whether he still finds time to have the craic between all the premieres, shoots and red carpets.
As Jamie Dornan walks into the AMC Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York in a grey sharp suit with a white shirt open at the collar last week, it's a bit like watching the slow moving eye of a hurricane arrive.
That's because Dornan's found himself at the center of something immense, a white hot level of fame of the kind that doesn't happen very often, and it's hard to tell if he's the cause or the symptom.
Unable to get anywhere near him or the celebrity filled red carpet, young women -- let's call them Dornan's worshipers, because fans seems too small a word for the desperate passion in their eyes -- press up against the glass walls outside hoping for a glimpse of their Northern Irish idol.
Row after row of film actors that no one has heard of – yet – arrive and stand in front of the paparazzi's flash bulbs. Helpfully, we've all been given a tip sheet of their headshots to let us know who's who, and the photographers are already calling out their names.
But although no one says it out loud, today really belongs to the man of the moment, Mr. Fifty Shades of Grey himself.
The other young arriving actors are mostly minnows, trailing in the reflected glory of the great white whale. There's no way for them to compete with the global zeitgeist which Dornan, 34, is riding like a practiced surfer.
Earlier on this morning Doran touched down at JFK (wearing a designer white t-shirt, slim fit black designer jeans and some stylish Nikes) and within a few short hours he's had his very discreet makeup done for the TV cameras, taped an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and is here at the Lincoln Center AMC for his latest film's premiere.
The film is called Anthropoid, a tense World War II drama about the real life events that led to the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (the third highest ranking Nazi in Hitler's cabinet and the man who the Fuhrer called “old iron heart”).
It's a carefully planned step away from the romantic, or at any rate hunky, lead role that made him world famous in Fifty Shades of Grey.
Co-starring the dependably brilliant Cillian Murphy, Anthropoid tells the true life story of how two Czechoslovak resistance fighters are airlifted into their occupied country to kill the man given overall charge of the Final Solution and the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe.
Shaking Dornan's hand, as he's stared at open mouthed by women and men who look stunned to find themselves in his gorgeous presence, I ask him if he sometimes feels like he been dropped behind enemy lines in his own life and for the first time onscreen or in real life, I hear Jamie Dornan laugh.
“Where are you from?” he asks me, noticing the accent.
I tell him that I'm from Donegal and we instantly fall into the what-about-ye shorthand that any two Irish people from the north fall into wherever they happen to meet in the world.
“A little bit,” he admits, as the cameras follow him. “But above everything else I feel so privileged to be working as an actor. I've probably been an actor a lot longer than people think and not really working.
“There's some awful statistic about actors that only about five percent are ever employed at one time. That's disgusting. Why would you want to work in that industry? So I just feel very lucky.”
He's not going to take the bait and reveal anything of his inner life. As if to underline that point his PR agent leans in and taps his shoulder as though to say stay on message.
Nowadays these press opportunities are as tightly scripted as a Chinese trade delegation visit, so it's getting harder and harder to tempt an actor off message, which must be as boring for them as it is for the rest of us.
“I'm lucky to be doing something and – at the moment – doing things where I have an element of choice over what I do,” he continues. “I don't take that for granted, I know that's a very cool thing.”
This is Dornan's way of saying that I'm a superstar and I know it, but it could all end tomorrow and I'm very aware of the fact. “You just try and enjoy it and keep yourself excited about it and you know hopefully the work keeps happening.” And he gives another hearty laugh, the second one I've seen him give when he's on company time.
I tell him his co-star Charlotte Le Bon told me that he and Murphy, the two Irish cut-ups, kept the cast and crew laughing between takes. Is that true I ask, hoping to find out that he's good craic.
“Well yeah, probably me more than Cillian I'd imagine.”
Looking around the red carpet for Murphy, who is talking to Vogue, Dornan leans in and whispers, “I will never work with him again.” The he arches an eyebrow and leaves it for me to decide if he's joking or not (for the record, I think he's joking).
“Cillian is not very funny,” he deadpans. The playful Belfast scorn is coming out at last and I'm delighted to have finally broken through his wall of chilly professionalism. “So I don't know why she said that.” This time he may not be joking.
Anthropoid is a heavy war story with a sickeningly high body count, so I imagine the opportunities to let loose on set were treasured.
“The film is very serious work and very serious subject matter and we're all trying to make the most of that, but you still want to have a bit of fun as well,” he says.
Dornan came on board after watching director Sean Ellis' previous film Metro Manila, which he thought was one of the best films he'd ever seen.
“I'd been saying to my wife I'd love to work with this guy and serendipitously three weeks later this script arrived. My agent emailed it to me. As soon as I knew it was by Sean it could have been about anything and I would have wanted to do it,” he said.
Dornan's regular speaking voice is middle class Belfast, northern, clear and cultivated. It's a very centering echo of where he's from, if not exactly typical of where he finds himself now.
Just steps away from us the paparazzi flashbulbs continue to pop and the celebrities standing in their glare (hello Bono's daughter Eve Hewson) look slightly intoxicated by all the attention, as if they've just had a glass of very fine champagne.
Ordinary people call this glamorous, but actors at Dornan's level call this work and he's here to convince us to see his new film.
“It's one of the lesser known events within the Second World War. I didn't know anything about it myself,” he confesses.
“But I think both Cillian and I had a good grip on who these guys (our characters) were and why they found themselves in the position they did.
“I found it very relatable in terms of the vulnerability and panic that would set in for a normal person in such an abnormal situation. “They're true heroes because they're just young men and they respond the way any of us would. There's nothing superhero about them and that's why I think the story is so relatable.”
Anthropoid opens August 12.