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Jamie Dornan Has Heard It All

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mandatory credit photo by taylor jewellinvisionapshutterstock 9120286jactor jamie dornan poses for a portrait to promote his film, anthropoid in new yorkanthropoid portrait session, new york, usa

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When Jamie Dornan tells me that his new TV series The Tourist is the last project we’ll hear him sing in for a while, I balk. In recent years, the Jamie Dornan Musical Number has very much become A Thing. A Good Thing. During a video call in March, I go over his immediate classics with him: “Edgar’s Prayer” from Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, his cover of “Everlasting Love” from Belfast, and of course, “Maybe I’m Amazed” from Fifty Shades Freed.

“Look,” Dornan says, “is unintentional is what I’ll say. I have no idea how or why that ended up being the case.”

I suspect this will come as a blow to certain corners of the Internet that have become all but obsessed with his ability to burst into song. But he insists that side of him is finished. Maybe, as the 39-year-old prepares for his next chapter, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dornan’s been a shapeshifter most of his career; he’s a musician turned model turned actor, who broke big by playing a grisly serial killer. Then a BDSM-inclined billionaire. Then he fronted a massive Oscar contender from Kenneth Branagh, of Thor and Hamlet (the 1996 version, anyway) fame. Now, he’s starring in a psychological thriller called The Tourist on HBO, playing a character only known as “The Man.” On camera though, he’s just nice. Earnest, and maybe a touch delirious after flying in to Los Angeles from Italy where he’s been working on another film, Heart of Stone. No guns or whips and chains. And unfortunately, no tune.


Dornan’s first near-famous turn came as a member of Sons of Jim—a folk band that had all the makings to go big, until it didn’t. On purpose. Dornan, born and raised in Northern Ireland, was in his early 20s when the duo came together, and the band’s ascent happened more quickly than either expected. “My friend and I who I did it with were kind of doing it for fun,” Dornan recalls.

They opened for KT Tunstall and released two songs. Appeared on morning TV, too! And then by the time Dornan turned 24, he was out. “You don’t have a clue if you’re looking left or right at that age,” he says. “We were getting that traction and maybe something was going to happen, and I pulled the string. I’ve never regretted it. I’m still best mates with my friend that I was in it with.”

There’s still a half-album’s worth of songs out there that Dornan has released via his movies. And he is a good singer, I tell him. “I feel like I could have kept being a musician if I was like in Kiss or something and I was wearing a fucking mask and my tongue,” he stops abruptly, seeming to consider giving me a quick Gene Simmons impression. (He does not.) “But all eyes are on you, and they know it’s you. That was uncomfortable for me.”

He may not like performing for the masses as Jamie Dornan, but when Dornan assumes a character, his desire and ability to entertain grows. In February 2021, as the pandemic raged on and people were understandably beleaguered, a delightfully bizarre film by the name of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar debuted on streaming platforms. Starring Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, it was one of Dornan’s first distinctly comedic roles, featuring an absurdist musical number that involved him kicking up sand with his toes, ripping his shirt off, and doing pirouettes on the beach. Audiences loved it. Where did that come from?

mandatory credit photo by taylor jewellinvisionapshutterstock 9226301cactor jamie dornan poses for a portrait to promote his film, anthropoid in new yorkanthropoid portrait session, new york, usa   6 aug 2016
“I just don’t ever want to look back and go, ‘Jesus, I missed loads of their youth because I was doing movies or making some TV show that people were into for three weeks,” Dornan says of being a father to his three daughters. “That just would be a sad reflection.”

Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

“My wife came down to set on the beach when we were doing ‘Edgar’s Prayer,’” Dornan says. “I’m on a jet ski, but the jet ski is on land, so it’s beached, and I’m like lip syncing to that absurd song. I’m thinking it’s so ridiculous. I got off the jet ski and my wife was just like, ‘Do they realize that, that’s just you being yourself?’ And I was like, ‘I think they’re starting to realize.’”


When Dornan talks about his family, that’s when he opens up most. This applies doubly so when the conversation turns to his wife, Amelia, a successful film composer. Because of the nature of her work, the family is able to spend time with Dornan as he bounces from set to set. Recently, that included a stop in Cancún, a stint in Australia, and of course, a much-welcomed trip home to Belfast. The moving can be taxing, he admits, especially with three daughters under 10 in tow, but the payoff is undeniable. “I just don’t ever want to look back and go, ‘Jesus, I missed loads of their youth because I was doing movies or making some TV show that people were into for three weeks,” he says. “That just would be a sad reflection.”

In Belfast, Dornan plays the character inspired by Branagh’s father. “I’ve never felt such freedom on a job in my life, which is saying something when you consider you’re playing the director’s father, and he’s there the whole time” he says. The film is an ode to Branagh’s childhood, and to Northern Ireland, telling the story of the every-family who lived and worried and triumphed amid The Troubles. Dornan said what drew him in was that this was a story of a regular, hardworking family who was trying to exist surrounded by chaos. “For me, being from Belfast, I know how important it is to tell stories from there about real families [and] relatable characters with faces rather than men in balaclavas doing bad things,” Dornan says. “That’s so necessary.” The most acclaimed work of his career, the film landed seven Oscar nominations, taking home one for Best Original Screenplay.

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But every time I mention to Dornan that his profile is, undeniably, on the rise, he makes a comment about how fame can be fleeting. Or how he’s lucky. Or how inspired Amelia’s work is. “I would never want it to be like ‘The Jamie Show’ because mommy works too, and her work is unbelievable and she’s way more talented than daddy,” he says. But he also admits that his three girls have picked up on the fact that daddy’s face is… everywhere right now. We’re speaking before the Oscars, where Belfast was a major contender for Best Picture. It’s something he thinks about. “It’s a bit more explaining to do the older they get,” he says, “but the weirdness of what mommy and daddy both do. It also is just who we are. They’re born into it and there’s no point in trying to hide it and tell them we’re actually insurance people.”


Dornan’s latest project, which is now streaming in full on HBO Max, saw Dornan relocate to the the Australian city of Adelaide to film The Tourist. The series opens with a scruffy Dornan, playing a character only known as The Man, driving down a desolate highway while giving—yep, what is apparently his final musical performance—a dazzling rendition of Kim Carnes’s “Bette Davis Eyes.” Then he’s chased by a big rig, until the car crashes. When he awakens, he remembers nothing of his identity or why the crash happened.

The role is his most mysterious since his star-making turn in The Fall. He shares the majority of the six-episode limited series with Danielle McDonald who offers a brilliant performance as a good-natured officer named Helen who gets entangled in The Man’s misdeeds. (Very Frances McDormand in Fargo, if you will.) And the whole thing culminates in an ambiguous ending that centers on friendship and a burrito. That’s all you get.

When I ask him about that final scene, he turns the question back and asks what I think. “What I love about [The Tourist] is the ambiguity of it,” he says. “The fact that you can, as an audience, derive different responses to it and different understandings of it,” he adds with a cheeky grin. “There’s something fitting about an end for him, but then there’s something so powerful about the relationship he has with Helen…” he trails off, not wanting to reveal more. He admits that there have been talks for a potential Season Two, but no firm decisions have been made yet.

the tourist
In The Tourist, Dornan plays ’The Man.’ Following a car accident at the start of the series, he has no memory of who he is or the past he left behind.

HBO

As unnerving and disorienting as the series may be for viewers, for Dornan, the most anxiety-inducing part came in waiting for the response. “I only worked out recently that on Twitter, you don’t need to be on it—you can just search a hashtag and get a big thread,” he says. “I have to say when the first episode of The Tourist was on in the UK, I’ve never been more intrigued about how something is going to be consumed.” But the quick takes were brutal, saying the series was a rip off of Steven Spielberg’s Duel (Fun fact: The car/tractor trailer chase defines the entirety of the movie Duel. It is over eight minutes into The Tourist). He turned his phone off, dejected, and was surprised to find an hour later that people quickly changed their tune by episode’s end.


Dornan is soft-spoken and thoughtful throughout our conversation, but a distinct annoyance peeks through as he talks about social media and the knee jerk opinions that flood it. “You’re not invested in a show if every frame of the movie you’re tweeting about [it]. Look, fucking put your phone down and look up and watch it and see,” he reasons. “You can miss shit, particularly if you’re just tweeting your angry thoughts about ripping off Steven Spielberg.”

For anyone remotely online, you know the Internet is full of critical assholes. Now, imagine you’re a public figure wading through hundreds, if not thousands, of hot takes. There’s a toll, no matter how mighty the perks are—one Dornan has paid at multiple stages of his career. I ask him about a wisecrack he made at the Critics Choice Awards, when he suggested he wasn’t the body’s favorite performer. “Come on. You know what I mean by it,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “I’m now on a good run with them. They loved Barb and Star. They loved Belfast and they loved The Tourist. All of those things are 86 plus on Rotten Tomatoes.”

But that’s not always been the case. Since 2018, he’s been bucking the kinky ghost of Christian Grey from the Fifty Shades franchise. It’s not that he’s ashamed of the part, but he does want the freedom to evolve. “Are there jobs that I did that I wish maybe I hadn’t done? Maybe, yeah, but probably not the one people are thinking,” he says. “There’s going to be defining moments, and there’s going to be… not regretful moments… It’s just the tapestry of it all, isn’t it?”

mandatory credit photo by taylor jewellinvisionapshutterstock 9120286jactor jamie dornan poses for a portrait to promote his film, anthropoid in new yorkanthropoid portrait session, new york, usa
“Prejudgment is such a fucking disease,” Dornan says, referencing social media and online vitriol. “It’s a disease in all our culture. In my line of work, sure. But in general, people prejudge people based on fucking anything really, and it’s very sad.”

Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Dornan famously came up at the same time that friends Andrew Garfield and Robert Pattinson were also exploding onto the scene. All three have led major franchises. All three have faced immediate backlash to those projects. “Prejudgment is such a fucking disease,” he says thinking about their shared experience. “It’s a disease in all our culture. In my line of work, sure. But in general, people prejudge people based on fucking anything really, and it’s very sad. Look at the reaction when Rob got cast as Batman. It was like 90 percent negative. Daniel Craig got cast as James Bond—I mean that was 100 percent negative. It was vile what was written. It was actually disturbing when you see the fucking venomous anger that people have over casting decisions. And then guess what? Daniel Craig is fucking brilliant, and it changes the whole energy of Bond. All the naysayers love what Rob has done with Batman.”

That, of course, brings up another lingering question—whether Dornan would ever do another franchise. Perhaps there’s a role opening up where he’d be required to wear a suit and tie? Like most actors from the area of the world Dornan calls home who have prestige projects that launch them into the spotlight, Dornan’s name has been floated as the next Bond. He remains coy in conversation on the subject. “It’s fun and it’s a cool thing to be in the mix for that sort of thing. I do think it’s very transparent in terms of if you look at that list, there’s not one person on that list who doesn’t have some content at the moment that’s doing well.”

He admits he’s heard the rumors of his name floated everywhere from tabloid coverage to betting rings. “Those lists have had family members, family friends, mates of mine,” he says, now starting to count groups of people on his hands, “lot of strangers, lots of different people over the years say, ‘Oh, I put a bet on you 40 to one.’ I think there had been a short recently as eight to one or whatever, like people putting an actual bet on. It’s just so silly really.”


There is one spy that is for sure, however, in his future. Looking up at the ceiling, he’s recounting what the past week has looked like for him as he’s crossed oceans, mountain ranges, and continental divides. It’s all of this is for his next project, Heart of Stone: a Tom Harper-directed spy film which he stars in opposite Gal Gadot. (No singing.) Not much has been revealed about the plot, but like so many films of 2022, it will call Netflix home once it’s released.

The thriller will thankfully wrap filming a bit closer to home, where he, Amelia, and the girls can catch a breath a bit closer to Gloucestershire, where the family now resides. “I actually was texting with one of my best friends at one point when I was at the 27 hour mark without sleep. He replied, ‘Oh, that’s meant to be great for you,” Dornan said. “It’s like some like fabby thing that some health guru has decided that having a day off sleep is actually good for you.”

So really, the next big project Dornan is embarking on is rest.

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