LOS ANGELES— Jamie Dornan in a white shirt, looking rakish with a full beard, was in a playful mood when we recently interviewed him via Skype.
Appearing relaxed in his London home (we were home in LA), he smiled and laughed often, especially when he said there could be some benefit in bringing one’s date to watch his much-awaited “Fifty Shades of Grey” this Valentine season.
“If your girlfriend or wife wants to see [‘Fifty…’], there can be a benefit in that, even when you get home,” suggested a grinning Jamie, who stars as Christian Grey, the bondage-loving businessman in director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of E.L. James’ erotic novel. Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele, a naïve college student who falls for the kinky executive.
Keeping romance alive
As to what the actor, married to singer-composer Amelia Warner (they have a daughter, born in November 2013), usually does on Valentine’s Day, he revealed, “I’ve always made some conscious effort to do something romantic. Now that I am married, even more so. You have to keep the romance alive. It shouldn’t be about just one night in a year. But I don’t think we are going to [see ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’] on Valentine’s night. »
The great-nephew of the late actress Greer Garson said about his full beard, quite a contrast to the clean-shaven Mr. Grey: “The fan base for a film like this is… very involved. There’s a conscious decision on my part to remind them and maybe myself, that I am just an actor. [If] people see me as Christian Grey, maybe there needs to be some reminder that I am not just him. So maybe this beard has something to do with that (laughs).”
Added the actor, who has made the jump from his native Holywood, Northern Ireland to Hollywood, California, “Also, for my next job, I need to have some beard.” And then, laughing, he admitted, “There’s laziness involved, too.”
About his nude scenes in “Fifty…,” the former Calvin Klein and Dior model stressed, “I knew what I was getting into. I would be pretty foolish to go into that project thinking I’m going to get away with people not seeing my… (laughs) torso, at least. But we signed things to make sure that they don’t see the whole shebang. But I am certainly exposed, to be honest. I am comfortable enough with that. I am not someone who is massively perturbed by that.”
Ironically, Jamie confessed to having insecurities about his looks. “I was a very skinny kid but I played a lot of sport. More and more, nowadays, it’s not just about skill; it’s about being big. [As a kid] I always felt small. Now, I am 32 and probably getting too old to play rugby. I have the same insecurities… all I see is this skinny kid and I don’t like it. No matter how many times you get filmed with your top off and photographers say ‘You look great; add more oil,’ and all that s**t, if you have these insecurities ingrained in your head—all the people in the world saying stuff like that isn’t going to alter your self-image.”
Steamy final week
Jamie, whose credits include the TV shows “Once Upon a Time” and “The Fall” and the movie “Marie Antoinette” (he was Count Axel Fersen), wished he had more time for gym workout after he landed the plum role when Charlie Hunnam left the project. “We had four weeks, which isn’t really a great deal of time. We did our best. But as I was saying, I am never going to be happy.”
As for filming the sex scenes, which reportedly amount to about 20 minutes, or about one-fifth of the movie’s running time, Jamie recounted, “All of the red room stuff was in our final week of filming. We put that right at the end of the shoot when Dakota and I had built up trust, strong rapport and a good sense of each other’s humor and approach. Actors are weird people. It often takes a while to work each other out and have the best approach with the actor you are working with. By then, we had it all done.”
Of course, as any actor who’s done sex scenes will tell you, it’s not as sexy on the set as it looks on the screen. “It’s not a free-for-all,” Jamie said about shooting the erotic role play portions showing domination, submission and S&M kinkiness.
He explained, “There are so many elements on a film set; so many people have to be kept happy. In terms of lighting and camera, it becomes very choreographed. It’s very much like, ‘This is how you are going to get on the bed,’ ‘This is what you are going to do here’ or ‘What kind of shot do you have, doing this?’ It’s choreographed—in a way, that’s comforting because you know the parameters.
There’s also the whole thing about the closed set. I have done sex scenes before. On a closed set, there’s still more people than you would ever see in a room when you’re having sex with someone. There’s still someone who has to hold a big mic, a camera guy, the script supervisor and the director. There are still people around you, so it’s strange. But we broke it up where we had to, really made it fun. Work has to be fun for me or I wouldn’t do it.
It was an intense shoot and we had our baby three days before we started filming, so you can imagine how mad that time was,” said the father whose baby daughter could be heard occasionally in the background during our interview.
With a smile, the former member of the folk band Sons of Jim quipped, “So relaxing was changing diapers, having little baby vomit on my shoulder and waking up four times at night. That was how I relaxed when we were doing the shoot. It was pretty full-on.”
As for Dakota reportedly being quoted as saying that he is “borderline manic,” Jamie chuckled and upon hearing that description, responded, “We’ve been doing this [interview] for about 25 minutes now and I have been standing still the whole time. I am very impressed with myself. I have tendencies toward hyperactivity. A doctor once told me that I had high levels of adrenaline in my blood.
“I do struggle to sit still for too long but it’s quite a good attribute toward being an actor for the most part. Although in the last few performances, I have made a character choice to be very still (laughs), which, you can imagine, was tricky for someone who doesn’t enjoy being still for too long. I used to play sports and get a chance to burn off a lot of energy. I don’t get the chance to do that now.”
Asked to comment on the awards prognosticators’ prediction that the Oscars best actor race is between his buddy Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton, Jamie answered, “I am a huge Michael Keaton fan; I have always been. I am one of those people who feel we lost something over the last 10 years when Michael Keaton was very quiet. He did ‘Mr. Mom,’ ‘Beetlejuice,’ ‘Batman’—all those films I grew up with.
A very dear friend
“But Eddie is a very dear friend of mine. He totally deserves everything that comes his way. There’s acting, which is one skill, and then there’s a whole separate skill set that he used in that role. It’s beyond the physicality of it. To combine those, as he does in ‘The Theory of Everything’… I am so biased but it’s astonishing to me, what he did. If I had the opportunity, Eddie would get my vote.”
Will he be back as the dapper mogul who likes to shop for cable ties, masking tape and rope? “If the film makes money and we want to make two more films, then I am very happy to jump back into this role. But I would be conscious to also take on roles that are very different, one being ‘(The Siege of) Jadotville’ with Guillaume Canet.”
He sounded enthusiastic about acting opposite Guillaume in the film to be directed by Richie Smith and written by Kevin Brodbin. “Hopefully, that all falls into place,” Jamie said. “I am a massive fan of Gillaume as an actor. As a writer and director, Gillaume is hugely exciting. I have always admired him. I am very excited about him.”