Jamie Dornan first shot to fame getting his kit off to model Calvin Klein underwear, earning himself the nickname, The Golden Torso. His awe-inspiring abs were emblazoned across billboards alongside Kate Moss and Eva Mendes, and won hordes of admirers including Keira Knightley, whom he dated for two years.
But the 31-year-old from Northern Ireland was always first and foremost an actor, and his role as Christian Grey in the film adaptation of EL James’ steamy trilogy is his big breakthrough. The author tweeted her approval of the latest casting. She tweeted: “Stow your twitchy palms ladies... our man is here. Welcome to #TeamFifty @JamieDornan1.”
Fellow Brit Charlie Hunnam had been first choice for the role but dropped out a week ago. Film bosses cited his busy schedule, while Charlie himself blamed “family stuff”. But it was rumoured that he was freaked out by the frenzied attention caused by his casting as a billionaire described in the book as “the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking”.
That attention is unlikely to faze Jamie, who is well used to hyperventilating women and also the focus of rave reviews for his portrayal of a serial killer in BBC2’s The Fall earlier this year. From the moment Charlie dropped out, Jamie was favourite to take over -- and fans hit Twitter to roar approval. One, @CamilleStorm wrote simply: “Jamie Dornan is Christian Grey. I’m dying. Love Him.” Jamie was given the seal of approval by producers after a screen test with Dakota Johnson, 24 -- who plays Christian’s young bondage partner Anastasia Steele.
But it was Jamie’s wife who had to give the ultimate thumbs-up before he agreed to sign on. Singer Amelia Warner, who wed the hunk in April, is expecting their first child soon and Jamie was worried about being away from her. A source said: “Amelia is in the last trimester of her pregnancy. She was his main concern when it came to signing on the dotted line because he would be away from her for a large chunk of time while filming.
“After extensive talks they’ve agreed it is too good an opportunity for him to turn down.” It means two dream roles at once for the actor -- the part as kinky, tormented billionaire Christian and the one as a brand-new dad. Jamie has spoken for years about how much he wanted to be a father, admitting: “I get broody even when I see strangers’ babies.” Family means a lot to the actor, who lost his mother, Lorna, to pancreatic cancer just after he turned 16.
Jamie, who has two older sisters, has explained: “It was a bizarre and huge, awful turning point in my life. “The comfort was knowing that it was inoperable -- knowing what the outcome was going to be rather than clinging on to some kind of hope that she was going to be with us. We had a year and a half.”
The very next year four of his friends were killed in a car crash. He said, “It’s awful to say this but it’s almost better that I went through that early on, because it’s prepared me for situations that might arise in later life... actually I don’t know that it did. It’s just some sh*t that happened.”
Jamie’s mum never knew he wanted to be an actor, nor saw him rocket to fame as a model. But he knows she would have been thrilled. He said, “She would have been the proudest. My mum was extremely glamorous, beautiful and very much into style and fashion. Mum would love this.”
His dad James is enjoying every moment of his son’s success. He is a leading obstetrician but longed to be an actor. He even won a place at top London drama school, RADA, but his parents refused to let him go. And Jamie’s dad isn’t the only showbiz link in his family -- his great aunt Greer Garson won a best actress Oscar playing the lead in 1942’s Mrs Miniver.
Young Jamie -- who appropriately grew up in Hollywood, Co Down -- started acting at school and won a drama prize at 11. He ended up modelling by accident, after moving to London in 2002. The idea had been to get into drama school, but instead he was spotted by a modelling agency.
Jamie was soon working with top brands including Calvin Klein, Dior and Armani -- and reportedly earning £10,000 a day. Speaking earlier this year, he said, “It was a fluke. I’m not the best-looking guy who was doing that job. I just got lucky. I knew I wanted to act and was always trying to find my way into it. But there were always other distractions. I was still involved in modelling contracts and still mucking around trying to be in a band. I always knew I wanted to purely be an actor though.”
Looking back -- and at the time oblivious that his smouldering looks would land him one of the movie world’s most coveted roles -- he even admitted his success as a pin-up may have hindered his acting career.
He said, “There’s a massive stigma attached to having modelled before. You spend a few years as a model, leaning against walls and looking depressed while someone takes photographs of you, but God forbid you can also act. I’m not saying that I’m a good actor, not for a second. But this idea that there’s no way you can do both -- well it’s always going to bother me and it’s something I’m always going to fight against.”
Jamie dated Keira Knightley for two years after meeting her on a photoshoot in 2003. At the time he was doing adverts for Calvin Klein alongside both Kate Moss and Eva Mendes -- but his fame paled compared to hers.
Jamie later admitted that being in a relationship with a superstar was tricky. He said, “They don’t want to think, ‘Oh, he must find it really awkward because I make loads of money’. So you have to try to keep that to yourself and still be the man in the whole thing -- which I didn’t do very well.”
In April this year he wed singer Amelia Warner, 31. She is best known for Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want -- used in John Lewis’s 2011 Christmas ad.
The Sun/The Interview People