He was candid, relaxed and good-humored, often breaking into his boyish chuckle.
The British actor was dressed in a Neil Barrett jacket, Everlane trousers and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes. “Size nine,” he quipped. He sported a full beard, which prompted the question: Does his wife, singer-actress Amelia Warner, like him with facial hair?
“We should call her and ask,” Jamie dished, his eyes lighting up. “When I first got the script for ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ which follows four or five days after ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ ends, I had a stubble. I was like, great (laughs), because I hate shaving more than anything in the world. It’s the biggest bore. I think my wife would prefer me with a beard. I start a movie soon, and they want the beard, so that’s why it’s heavy.”
Asked about his reaction to reports that he has been fired from the two next “Fifty Shades,” even though these two movies had already been completed, Jamie joked again, “I’ll go check.”
He added, “Dakota (Johnson) and I were contractually obligated to make three movies, and we shot [parts] two and three back-to-back, so filming is finished.”
In between sips of coffee and bottled water, Jamie talked about “The Fall,” the TV series where he plays Paul Spector, a serial killer; Dakota Johnson and their next two “Fifty Shades” films, where he reprises his Christian Grey character; “The Siege of Jadotville,” where he portrays Irish Commandant Pat Quinlan in early 1960s Congo; his life with Amelia and their two daughters in a country house in Somerset, South West England.
“I’m impressed at myself; how I am sitting here,” Jamie said as he sat in an office in West Hollywood. “I get very antsy. I’m usually bouncing off the walls.”
How do you shake off your role as a serial killer in “The Fall”? How has playing a guy who’s into S&M impacted your sex life?
I’m not into that (S&M); my wife isn’t into it. Obviously, there’s a huge market for it. [But] it doesn’t interest me at all. So, I don’t think it has had any influence on our sex life. I can’t believe I’m talking about our sex life (laughs)!
In answer to the first part of your question, I feel that certainly with Paul Spector, because it’s been four and a half years, and it’s over now. As weird as that is to say, I have loved every second of inhabiting such a horrible person. It’s bittersweet that it’s finished, because I feel that I know him so well.
There are aspects of him that I’m fond of—and it’s hard to shake off. I’ve been lucky with “The Fall,” because we shot it in Belfast, where I’m from. But I don’t live there anymore.
It was good that I was able to come home, be in my own head space and manage to get myself geared up for whatever horrific things I had to do the following day. It was genuinely an uncomfortable place to put myself in, something that is so far from who I am. But, it was enjoyable.
I feel bereft that it’s over because, as my wife said the other day, “Complex roles like that sometimes happen only once in a career. They don’t come along very often.” I’m lucky I had the opportunity to play a character like that.
You’re making a mark with two roles: an S&M guy and a serial killer. When you take your kids on play dates, what kind of responses do you get from parents?
Will my kids see any of my work (laughs)? No. To be honest, we live in the countryside—in rural England—so any play dates have been with people who know me and my work. So, I haven’t had too many of those scenarios yet.
Our eldest has started nursery or kindergarten. I bring and pick her up, and I’ve had a couple of funny looks. But you never know what it is that they recognize you for. In London, that experience would be more heightened. But we chose to live a quiet life. We open our doors, and there’s just sheep and lamb.
How has the success of “Fifty Shades” changed your life?
A lot more people know who I am. It opens doors in the industry. I have to be honest—if you’re in a movie that makes over $600 million at the box office worldwide, you can get films like “The Siege of Jadotville” and “Anthropoid” made. I wouldn’t have been able to do projects that I was desperate to do had I not been in a movie that made that much money.
What about in terms of the attention you get from fans?
Post-“Fifty Shades,” the fundamentals of my life didn’t change. But again, we live in the middle of nowhere. I panic at 9:30 at night if I’m not asleep, because I’ll be up with the kids at 5:30 in the morning. We have such a quiet life.
There are isolated situations, however, like if I’m in LA, I have to go out to dinner where there are so many paparazzi—and they’re so bloody rabid. So, those nights where I’m exposed to it, I feel like a different person. But that’s probably just 10 nights of my life in a year. The rest of the time, it’s sheep.
Is there anything that still shocks you?
I don’t care about the whole nudist aspect of it. I wasn’t brought up a prude (laughs). I’m not saying that my parents were walking around naked in the house—far from it. But I come from that liberal background. It’s just a job.
How do you look at these men that you portray, from “The Fall” to “The Siege of Jadotville,” who are from extreme ends of morality?
Every character should be treated as a fresh start. I haven’t played a woman yet (laughs). I’m not quite (Eddie) Redmayne—not just yet. But I will get there.
How did filming “Fifty Shades Darker” in France go?
We don’t focus on Paris massively. They (Christian and Anastasia Steele) also go to the South of France. We were in bloody Nice when the attacks happened—really horrific.
But it was strange because I stayed in the same hotel room that I was in when I did “Marie Antoinette,” my first-ever job 12 years ago. They brought me to my room, and I was like, same room! It was freaky. So, as far as my career is going, it isn’t really going anywhere (laughs).
We then shot in the opera house beside the hotel, which was where I had my first-ever acting scene, as well, in “Marie Antoinette.”
Can you talk about how having a new director, James Foley, impacted the next two films, especially how it affected you and Dakota?
Both Dakota and I are very close to Sam Taylor-Johnson. I’m seeing her tonight. So, the fact that there’s a new energy at the helm, that could backfire for Dakota and me. We’ve already done one, so we had more to say with regard to the next two. We were in a slightly higher place of authority.
But we still needed someone to steer the ship—and Jimmy Foley made it seamless. It was tricky for Jimmy, as well, coming to a ship that has already set sail, and the first one was very successful. But he wanted to put his own stamp on it—and it worked out very well.
You must get some interesting reaction when people who watch “The Fall” see you. Can you also talk about how this character must be more challenging for you, more so than Christian Grey?
Yeah, I have to be mindful of avoiding situations with me lurking in the shadows. That’s kind of fitting for people to see me like that (laughs). It’s weird with Paul Spector in “The Fall.” I’ve never been given an opportunity to play a character that’s so complex, deep, dark, twisted and psychotic.
I guess from a modeling past, I was being pushed more toward boyfriend-y roles, which is fine. But if you fall down a certain path like that, you end up not ever being able to express a different aspect of yourself as an actor.
I love television, because you have time to develop a character. It’s funny—with any character, you’re trying to find something you can recognize a part of yourself in.
But it’s quite difficult when you’re playing someone as heinous as Spector. “The Fall” totally transformed my career as to where it was heading.
You’re a family man. Maybe that’s the one thing you have in common with Paul Spector.
Yeah, you’re right. With the madness of “The Fall” and “Fifty Shades” happening in the last four years, I started a family, as well (laughs). So the craziness of a career going in a certain direction coincided with having two kids under 3. It’s mad and beautiful.
When I did the first season of “The Fall,” I wasn’t even a father yet. So that part of it, you feel that you can relate to paternal love. But until you experience it, you don’t really know.
You come from a family with a distinguished line of doctors.
Yeah, why am I an actor? I never could have been a doctor. I’m not bright enough, basically. Science was a subject I was completely the worst at. The only A’s I got were in drama, to be honest (laughs).
I was fortunate that my family never tried to push me or my sister [to pursue Medicine]. I had no interest in it. And it’s funny—when my dad left school, he was offered a place at Rada (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). He’s an obstetrician, but he could’ve been an actor.
What are you most comfortable with, being a sex symbol or carrying guns? Being a lover or a fighter?
God (laughs). Every little boy grows up in some way playing with guns. I’m so antigun myself, but they’re a necessity for telling that story (in “The Siege of Jadotville”). You can’t have sticks in your hands when you’re fighting off 3,000 mercenaries.
There was an element of doing something like that which I found very freeing, fun and exhilarating. I felt there was less pressure to pull off being manly, because a gun does the work for you.
But there’s nothing to hide behind when you’re trying to be an object of lust, like in “Fifty…” You’re exposed a bit more.
What did your two sisters teach you about women?
(Laughs) It’s beneficial to have two older sisters. Boys who have sisters have a better respect for women. Because I was the youngest, they would dress me up in wigs and lipstick. But I feel that is good in a healthy way—that I have a good understanding of my feminine side. Every man has a feminine side. I think most men are ashamed to admit that, which is a problem.
It’s weird that men don’t show emotions enough. In Ireland, that’s a big thing, so it has given me sensibility. But my sisters also taught me practical things, like if you want to kiss a girl, how would you do that? I don’t mean the actual kiss, but I remember them always saying that you should ask, “Can I kiss you?”
What did you bring into your marriage?
I grew up in a household full of girls, and I’m still surrounded by girls. It’s mad, but I love it. In a weird way, I almost don’t know how I would deal with a boy, if we had a boy. Once you’ve had two girls, that’s all you know.
Do you object to being referred to as the good-looking or cute guy?
Look, there are worse things to be called (laughs). But there’s a part of me that wants to be recognized [for something other than the way I look]. In a project like “The Fall,” I f***ing throw myself at that project so hard. I get so deep into the mind of this horrible person.
Sometimes, you’re covered in blood, sweat and tears. But the main thing people want to talk about is, can a serial killer be that good-looking? And you’re like, f***.
I haven’t ever been called cute in my life. But it’s an issue that I’ve had since I was a kid, feeling like I was a skinny, very young-looking boy when I wanted my sisters’ mates to fancy me. I wanted them to not see me as their friends’ cute little brother.
I always played sports and rugby, but I was on the smaller side. My whole life, I’ve been fighting against that. That was probably why I was thinking, when can I have a beard? Because it makes me more like a man. This is like therapy now (laughs).
How avidly do you work on your physique?
I’m not very good at that. I go through phases. But in the whole series of “The Fall,” I get my top off a lot. Paul Spector is obsessive about working out. So I guess it’s a pressure.
And “Fifty Shades” speaks for itself. You have to work out. I don’t enjoy it massively, more so because it takes up a lot of time. I have young kids. I don’t want to be away from them to be in a gym, just pushing heavy stuff around. That isn’t fun (laughs). I’d rather be fit doing sports.
What sports do you play?
I grew up playing rugby, tennis, golf, sailing and skiing.
When news came out that “Fifty Shades” was going to be made, the haters were saying that it was going to be horrible. Then, $600 million later, guess who has the last laugh?
I don’t want to ever feel vindicated. I try to avoid quoting Taylor Swift here with “haters gonna hate” (laughs). People are entitled to their opinion. It made a lot of money, but there are lots of people who didn’t like it and had objections with me, Dakota, how it was made, how it looked, what scenes were kept in and what scenes weren’t.
It’s a subjective world. There were f***ing loads of people who weren’t happy I played Christian Grey—and that’s fine. No one who would’ve been cast would have unanimously been appreciated. I took comfort in that.
Coming into the first one, I got cast five weeks before we started filming. It was f***ing insane. I don’t think it was a healthy way to go down any job. There was Charlie Hunnam (who was cast as Christian Grey, but dropped out due to a schedule conflict), and there was a scramble.
People were more relaxed with the second and third. And you can also take comfort in the fact that the first film made a lot of money, so the pressure is slightly off.
Dakota and I get along well together. Only I know what she’s going through, and only she knows what I’m going through. I’m thankful for that and that we have respect for each other—and we’re great friends.
He plays a serial killer with a bondage fetish in The Fall, and in the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise his character Christian Grey has a penchant for S&M. But the handsome Irish actor assures he doesn’t bring his work home with him.
He laughs. “No. I’m not into that. My wife isn’t either. It’s funny. Obviously there’s a huge market for it, a lot of people are into a certain type of sex but I am just not one of those people. It doesn’t interest me at all. So, I don’t think those roles have had any influence over our sex life,” he tells news.com.au.
Unsurprisingly, the former Calvin Klein model is comfortable with his body.
“I don’t really care about the whole nudist aspect of what is required of me as an actor. I hope there’s some degree of modesty remaining but I am not a prude in any way, I wasn’t brought up that way.
I’m not saying my parents were walking around the house naked, far from it, but I come from a liberal background where I don’t think my family have ever been shocked by sex or nudity or any of that sort of stuff.”
As The Fall’s Paul Spector, his process of targeting his victims usually begins with him stalking them outside their apartment. Having just binge-watched the show, I find it a little unsettling to find Dornan standing outside in the corner of the building where we’ve arranged to meet. Wearing a heavy beard fashioned in exactly the same way as his serial killer character in The Fall, despite myself, I let out a scream.
He laughs. “Yes, I suppose I’m lurking about looking suspicious. But at least I’m not wearing a hoodie,” he says, in reference to Spector’s wardrobe choice when he carries out each attack.
As for the facial hair, he says, “Well, I have the beard because it makes me more comfortable and makes me look like a man. I was a very skinny, very young-looking boy when I wanted my sister’s mates to fancy me. But to me I was a man!” he says, raising his voice. “I wanted them to not see me as their friend’s cute little brother. My whole life I’ve been fighting against that ‘cute’ thing. It irritates me, I guess.”
When he was cast as Christian Grey in the erotic drama, Fifty Shades of Grey, it was met with a lot of negativity from fans of the book. The film was a predicted disaster, but despite low expectations, it went on to earn more than US$500 million (on a US$40 million budget). Presumably he feels vindicated?
“I try to avoid quoting Taylor Swift with ‘haters gonna hate’, but people are entitled to their opinion and there are lots of people who still hated it. It made a lot of money, but there are still lots of people who had objections with myself, had objections with Dakota and had objections with how it was made and how it looked. It’s a subjective world and yes there’s f**king loads of people who weren’t happy that I played Christian Grey.” He shrugs. “That’s fine. There’s no one that would have been cast who would have unanimously been appreciated.”
Dornan had to amp up his workout regimen to return to his character for Fifty Shades Darker (released in February).
“I’m not very good at working on my physique but I had to run a lot for The Fall and for 50 Shades, of course you have to work out a lot. I don’t enjoy it massively, more so because it takes up a lot of time,” he said.
“I’ve got young kids and I don’t want to be away from them in a gym just pushing heavy stuff around, that’s not fun. I’d would rather be fit doing sport. I still love sport and played rugby as a kid. I still cling to some belief that I am going to play sport professionally when the acting dries up in about a year,” he jokes. “I go through phases. I never watch what I eat, I am terrible about that. I eat a lot of sh***y food.”
World’s away from the roles he plays, the Irish-born actor lives an idyllic life in rural England with his wife, Amelia, and two daughters.
“We can see sheep and lambs outside my front door. I love my life. It’s brilliant. I’m surrounded by a household full of girls. It’s mad, actually. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”