“If I read an interview with me, I often think, ‘What a d*ck!’”
When he arrives at the tail end of MODE’s Versace shoot in London, he stares in befuddlement as the photographer screams “Show me the money!” at a male model draped in gold patterned silk. “I’m sorry, but I’ve never been in a shoot before where the photographer has shouted, ‘Show me the money,’” he says in his distinctive Northern Irish accent.
“Modelling has been very good to me, in that I’ve earned money from it and I’ve had the opportunity to travel, but that’s about it for me. There are not many places you can go in modelling. I’ve nothing else to achieve in it. Oh God, I sound like a d*ck again, don’t I?”
With his acting career in the US taking off, the unfailingly modest Dornan finds it easier to talk about how many times he’s broken his nose (three), his golf handicap (13) and how everyone in the US thinks he’s Scottish rather than his remarkable rise through the fashion industry.
Born in a small town called Holywood (“everyone pronounces it like ‘Hollywood’” insists Dornan), he attended school in Belfast. His father, a keen rugby player and actor, was offered a place at Rada but chose medicine instead. However, Jamie never felt academia was for him.
“I learned quite a lot about acting back then, but I was just f*cking around. I knew I was not the type of person who would sit down and type numbers all day — my brain just doesn’t work that way. I never thought I would end up sitting in an office.”
He studied marketing at Middlesbrough University in 2001 before dropping out after his first year. “All I did was drink and play rugby. I never went to lectures. I would not have set the marketing world alight had I qualified.”
At the end of his first year, his sister suggested he apply for the reality TV show, Model Behaviour, which had a contract with top model agency Select as first prize. “I got to the stage where there were five people from each different city that went down to London, I was one of the five people from Belfast, which isn’t saying a lot. I got to London — the idea was we were to be whittled down to the point where we were all living in a house together. I got kicked out on day two.”
Despite his rejection from the show, he approached one of the agents at Select and asked if he could have another try. With the offer of work, he quit university and moved to London.
At the same time, he started folk band Sons Of Jim with friend David Alexander, enjoying moderate success, although he’s quick to say they never did. “We weren’t any good. We were easily manipulated, and easily led, and we ended up singing songs we didn’t want to sing.”
“I only did Milan Fashion Week once, and it was f*cking horrible. What guy would enjoy that? Hanging out with a bunch of f*cking douche models, each of them saying, ‘Ah I saw you in that campaign, really good stuff,’ and you’re like, ‘F*ck off, I don’t want to talk about what that job is like.’ But that’s just me.”
“I wasn’t plucked out of a picture and dropped in. I did all the sh*t everyone does for the part. So people are expecting you to act a part. The reality is that you have to work harder to break the stigma. Most of the male models I’ve met are d*cks, so most of the assumptions about them, I guess, are true.”
After 10 years of modelling, five as a musician, and a brief attempt at becoming a professional rugby player, Dornan appears to have found his niche. “I don’t like to sit still,” he says as he starts wrapping his leg around his waist. “Sorry, I’m doing the whole d*ck thing again, aren’t I?”