jamie dornan you’re so divine, please oh please be our valentine
We speak to Jamie Dornan about researching BDSM, filming sex scenes and going on Graham Norton.
Mr Grey will see you now. And you can finally see him too, as Fifty Shades of Grey has just hit cinemas worldwide. With model (he was on that Channel 4 program Model Behaviour ages ago and has since starred in campaigns for Calvin Klein, Dior, Armani, and Asprey, not to mention gracing the cover of i-D), actor (he's just starred as the tortured lady-killer Paul Spector in The Fall), and all round Irish heartthrob playing the role of millionaire turned sexual sadist Christian Grey, you're in for a very sweet treat this Valentine's. But it hasn't all been chocolates and roses: based on the best-selling sensation by E.L. James, the film, which charts the sexual evolution of shy, young Submissive, Anastasia Steele, (played by the lovely Dakota Johnson), at the hands of BDSM loving businessman and diehard Dominant Christian Grey, has attracted a lot of negative attention. ''50 Shades is Domestic Abuse'' and ''Mr Grey is a Rapist'' read a few of the signs held up by angry protestors at last night's premiere. Not that they really stood out, though, amongst the legions of hysterical fans who had pitched up to see their favorite author's cinematic debut, as interpreted by artist/filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson. Bigger fans than the ones who were there last night, we caught up with Fifty Shades of Dreamy, Jamie Dornan. <3
This is a bit like speed dating.
It is, I know, which I've never done.
Now you won't need to.
I'm married, yeah. Good point. It wouldn't have been for me anyway. Too much pressure to be impressive.
You're pretty impressive in Fifty Shades of Grey.
But at least you have a whole movie to convince people.
And I guess you're playing somebody else.
Millions of fans turned up to the premiere last night, was it as big as you imagined it would be?
It's hard to imagine or quantify it because it was mad. It's not like we were expecting no one to turn up or whatever. But it was quite something. I hope they enjoyed it. There seemed to be a good response. I went and did Graham Norton's show after so I wasn't there for it.
That's quite a nice relief to do that after such a big premiere.
Yeah, you know what? I did Graham Norton about a year ago and I was so nervous because I had never done anything like it before and, I don't know, compared to all the other madness around us I actually felt quite comfortable doing it. I was just like, ''I'm doing Graham Norton,'' all casual about it. I had a few drinks and felt really relaxed about it. I actually said to Julie Walters afterwards, ''shall we have a drink in the green room afterwards?'' and she was like, ''do you not have to go to some after party for your film or something?'' and I was like, ''Fuck! I've remembered what I'm doing today.''
With all the madness around you at the moment what's keeping you sane?
For me, it's those core fundamental things that matter in life: your family and your mates. None of that is changing for me. I guess from the outside it might seem crazy and you might get recognized in the street more and there's a lot of hype around this film and this character and who he is. I feel good that I have all my things that matter in place; I still have the same group of friends that I've had since I was a very small little boy. And that's a good thing. A lot of them were there last night.
What did they have to say?
I think they looked away at certain bits…
I bet they didn't…
My sister said she had her purse over her eyes a lot, which I totally understand.
What do you think you'll take away from this experience?
I mean you learn so much from any job, which is the cool thing. There's such a progression of his character through the three books, so if we get the chance to make the sequels it will be fun to explore that and all those things in the first film that you feel he is incapable of — love, marriage, fatherhood — we'd get to see all of that. We get to see her really open him up, which you'd never expect from someone so closed off, tortured, impenetrable and difficult.
What were the sex scenes like to film? Were there any awkward moments or giggles?
We giggled a lot. We were very comfortable by then, Dakota and I. Sam very cleverly left all the Red Room stuff to the final week so we had built a lot of trust up between us, a rapport, and an ease, but also a friendship which meant we really understood each other and made each other laugh easily. But you're still naked, especially Dakota, and there is a vulnerability with that and an unconformable space that puts you right on the edge of being uncomfortable but also on the precipice of bursting out into laughter. So there was a lot of that, as you can imagine. We'd be serious, focused and professional when the cameras were rolling, but sometimes we'd just end up in total giggles. Dakota is very quick to laugh and then she starts crying. It was a lot of fun.
Have you ever met anyone like Christian Grey that you could base your character on?
I don't have any mates like that, no. There's not that many people like him. He's a fantasy. I've never met anyone that powerful or successful in business. Not really the crowd I swing with. I wanted to get an idea of him based on what he's come from, the tragedy he faced from early on and how that has formed the man he is. How impressively astute he is with business and how he's incapable of having regular romantic relationships has all been shaped from what happened when he was younger.
How important was it that Sam was involved in it in terms of getting a female perspective on it?
I mean the books are written by a woman, and the whole story is told from the perspective of a woman. I think it was a clever idea of having a female director. And no one would be better than Sam. In her past work, as an artist, photographer and filmmaker, sex has been dealt with in a very classy and sophisticated way. Sam is a very classy and sophisticated woman and definitely one of my favorite people in the world. I love her. We're so close now. Her and her husband and me and my wife have become friends for life. It's a real treat to work for her.
Could you see the sequels going ahead without her?
I mean I would love her to be involved. I think the idea when we all signed up was that we'd be in it together and we'd honor the trilogy and do all three films. But Universal are the ones who make the decisions. I would certainly love to do it with her.
What did you have to do in terms of research?
I knew nothing about it in terms of the S&M world. I obviously knew it existed but I didn't know how rife it was. There is a scene everywhere, in every city and town in the world. I delved into that a bit, a lot of things you can find online, there were a lot of interesting sites that I was pushed towards. And a lot of stuff I witnessed firsthand, in someone else's version of the Red Room. I wanted to see a Dominant/Submissive relationship firsthand, the energy in the room, the approach. It wasn't all totally applicable to Christian Grey, but I took some stuff from it. It was an interesting Tuesday night.
Did it allow you to understand more those who are heavily into S&M?
Totally. They care for it and take it very seriously. The one I saw was quite giggly and free-spirited and fun. The whole thing about that world is that no one is dragging you into it. It's not prostitution. People who are into it — there are as many men as there are women who are Submissives — they've chosen it. They want it, they've asked for it and you can't bemoan them for it. Often very powerful people like Christian Grey are Submissives. A lot of people who exert power all day at work, when work finishes, just want to release themselves of all power. I understand that. I'm not into it, it doesn't really do it for me either way, but I understand it. A lot of people say, ''How can they do that to each other? It's so violent!'' but I'm so defensive of it. No one is doing it against their will. It's all consensual.
Does it frustrate you that a lot of that negativity comes from people who haven't seen the film?
You've gone from playing a woman-killer in The Fall to a guy who is heavily into BDSM, are you worried you'll be type-cast as a troubled, tortured soul forever?
I consider Spector and Christian Grey to be very different characters, and hopefully I haven't given the same performance twice. But I understand why people make comparisons. They're both very interesting and intriguing characters, they're complicated guys who are tortured but for very different reasons. I don't consider myself to be like that in the slightest, but I do find it interesting exploring it. What I love about being an actor is that you discover things about yourself, which is great. But will I play a sexual sadist for the rest of my life? Probably not, and I don't really want to. But I am very happy to continue playing characters that are really hard to get in the mindset of and hard to understand. But I also think I have something a little bit lighter in there, too.
What have you got lined up next?
I can't really talk about it. But there a couple of things that are definitely going to happen in the next four or five months. One is a war film, which is a departure from everything else. That will be exciting. I get to play a pretty cool guy. I'm really fucking excited about that, actually. But there is certainly nothing fun about war. But I will get there.
You should do a rom com.
I like the idea of a rom com. If it's well written. There are some shockers out there.
Will you be watching one this Valentine's Day?
Probably. We're going to have a very low-key Valentine's Day and will be nowhere near a cinema. We'll probably cook some food and drink some nice red wine. Maybe we'll watch something. I love a good rom com; I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Text Tish Weinstock
Film stills courtesy Universal Pictures and Focus Features