The Fall star Jamie Dornan hates the gym, loves married life and doesn't have a celebrity squad. Lucy Pavia meets Hollywood's most chilled-out leading man
Jamie Dornan doesn’t get gyms. ‘I was looking into one of those ones that you can see into from everywhere,’ he says. ‘And there was just this long line of people on treadmills. I thought, “What a weird species we are. Just like mice in a wheel, it’s absolutely no different.”’
I wonder for a moment if the people on the treadmills noticed Jamie Dornan standing in the shopping centre looking in at them through the glass. It could be quite a good bit of motivation, I think; a human incentive to turn up the speed setting. Dornan himself hates the idea of being stuck on a treadmill. ‘I’d much rather be out and about, Rocky IV style, lifting some trees and shit.’
We’re a divided nation in so many ways, but the physical beauty of Jamie Dornan appears to be something we can all agree on. Sensible women do strange drunken swoons at the mention of his name. When he first played serial killer Paul Spector in BBC Two’s The Fall, there was endless online debate over whether it was OK to fancy a psychopathic murderer. And yet, to discuss Dornan in these terms is to diminish other qualities that become apparent when you interview him: largely, his excellent sense of humour, even after three years in the great, grinding Fifty Shades machine.
He was cast as Christian Grey at the last minute in 2013, just weeks before shooting began (when the actor Charlie Hunnam pulled out) and when his wife, actress and film composer Amelia Warner, was heavily pregnant. But the Fifty Shades set in Canada did not sound like a happy ship, with tension between the book’s author EL James and the film’s director Sam Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson admitted the two had ‘proper on-set barneys’ and tellingly did not decide to direct films two and three.
Dornan has just returned to the UK from shooting these last two instalments back-to-back. ‘I’d say it was a less pressurised environment,’ he says carefully about the filming this time around. Knowing co-star Dakota Johnson better also made it slightly easier to slip back into things, so to speak: ‘We’ve gone through this mad journey together. Dakota knows what I’m going through and only I know what she’s going through. We get on very well, we make each other laugh and we’re comfortable with each other, which is very important because Jesus, if I didn’t get on with her… I’ve heard horror stories of that happening. Actors who have to do intimate things with another actor and they just don’t get on… It’s not good.’
The final days of shooting ended up coinciding with a very sad turn of events. The cast and crew happened to be filming in Nice at the time of the Bastille Day attack, but vast production costs meant they were obliged to carry on filming the next day. ‘That was a particularly awful end to the shoot – and very sobering. Having to film the very next day there… it just felt so frivolous and silly that we were standing on all this money, doing something as stupid as making a movie when what had happened occurred,’ he says.
After a two-year hiatus, Dornan returns to play Spector in The Fall, a role he says he owes his career to. ‘I’m playing such a horrific character, but I would play him for the rest of my life if I could. It’s a real comfort to come back and do that show, and you know, I’m very grateful for it because it’s changed my professional life.’
Series one and two hinged on Spector and DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson)’s complicated game of cat and mouse. But the hunt appears to be over – Spector has been caught, shot and is fighting for his life – so what now? ‘Spector’s favourite thing is playing and toying with Gibson and making her life complicated,’ Dornan says. ‘And I think if he’s in any kind of position to keep doing that, he will.’
Getting into the head space of a psychopath every day must take its toll, but Dornan says there’s nothing like having two kids under the age of three to snap you out of it when filming is over. ‘The kids are a great way of breaking you out of whatever. You have no choice but to enter their world when you get home,’ he says. The scrutiny over his private life must have cranked up several gears sinceFifty Shades, but is he at least relieved to be off the market rather than facing endless speculation about his relationship status? ‘Absolutely delighted,’ he says. ‘But, saying that, people like to go after your family and shit as well. It’s one of the main reasons I left social media. They say horrific things about your loved ones, and so it opens up fast… but yes, the idea of being single makes me instantly sweat.’
Dornan is having one of those boom seasons actors sometimes have where a load of projects they’ve been working on at different times land all at once. Alongside The Fall, there’s his two recently released movies – World War II drama Anthropoid with Cillian Murphy and psychological mystery The 9th Life Of Louis Drax.
Arriving this October is his starring role in new Netflix feature film The Siege Of Jadotville, the relatively unknown story about a company of Irish soldiers sent on a UN peacekeeping mission to the Congo in 1961. The company was attacked by a huge battalion of troops loyal to the Congolese Prime Minister but held its ground in a display of extraordinary bravery, despite being vastly outnumbered. ‘They didn’t get recognition until 2005,’ says Dornan. ‘They erected a commemorative monument to “A Company” but it was a little bit too late, with many of them already dead by then. That meant it felt all the more important to try to bring it to people’s attention.’
He’s now enjoying a bit of a break and some family time (his second daughter with Warner was born in March) before the Fifty Shades publicity wheel starts turning again next year. ‘I want to be a very hands-on father and I have been so far with both of my children,’ he says. ‘At times, I’ve been very frustrated that I’ve had to work so soon after my wife going through that [childbirth], because you want to be there as much as you can.’
He’s good pals with Eddie Redmayne, but otherwise he doesn’t seem particularly interested in having his own A-list power squad, preferring the old group of friends from Belfast he’s known since he was a kid. ‘My friends are hugely important to me and hugely influential in my life. I’ve basically had the same group of mates since I was a young boy and that will never change. That’s something that makes me feel really good every day,’ he says. ‘They just don’t have any interest in what I do.’
The Fall series three starts tonight on BBC Two and The Siege Of Jadotville is coming to Netflix in October