Jamie Dornan must be sick of hearing himself talk. “Thank you for listening to me,” jokes the Belfast-born actor, displaying his self-effacing sense of humor and clearly exhausted from promoting back-to-back movie releases in New York City. The truth is that we could listen to Dornan’s lilting Irish brogue all day long.
The 34-year-old father of two is famously easy on the eyes as well, but this month Dornan has wisely chosen a pair of diverse roles that allow him to flex his acting muscles as opposed to the ones in his chiseled abdominals. In Anthropoid, he stars as a conflicted assassin hunting Nazis during World War II, whereas he plays a doctor obsessed with saving his comatose young patient in his latest release, the supernatural thriller The 9th Life of Louis Drax. Both films serve as a showcase for Dornan’s intense onscreen presence, equal parts cerebral and soulful, and are a far cry from his best-known part as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades franchise.
Formerly one of the highest-paid faces in the fashion world, Dornan is that rare male model who has successfully made the leap from magazine ads and billboards to the screen, eventually emerging as an A-List actor in Hollywood. He was once dubbed “the male Kate Moss” by GQ creative director Jim Moore, but these days, what actress would Dornan like to be the male equivalent of? “That’s a very hard question to answer,” he says with a smile. “I don’t think I’d like to compare myself to anyone.”
ET: What appealed to you about playing a neurologist in The 9th Life of Louis Drax, aside from the fact that you didn’t have to do nude scenes or tie up any women?
Jamie Dornan: [Laughs.] It was a bit of a departure from anything that I had done. I also got to explore that world a bit -- something I did not have a great deal of knowledge about, although I have plenty of doctors in my immediate family.
Like your father, for instance.
Yeah, my dad’s a doctor, my stepmother is a doctor, my [deceased] mum was a nurse, and my uncle’s a doctor. It’s definitely something I have an understanding of, to a point. I was just very taken by the journey that [my character] goes on. And he’s also not your everyday doctor. You don’t get a lot of doctors who are mavericks in their approach and they’re doing TED Talks and have this kind of appeal from the books they release. I find all of that highly intriguing.
You have Louis Drax and Anthropoid coming out less than a month apart, and the third season of your Netflix series The Fall later this year. It’s been 10 years since your very first role in Marie Antoinette. How have you grown as an actor since then?
It’s crazy: I was actually filming in Paris two weeks ago, and I was staying in the same hotel that I stayed in when I did Marie Antoinette. We shot in the same opera house next door to that hotel. So I was asking myself that question quite a lot. I went through a period after Marie Antoinette where I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be an actor. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing in that job as much as I loved it. But now I am very focused on being an actor -- it’s all I am. Back then I was still modeling and my head wasn’t in the game and I had a kind of frivolous approach to it. Now I am pretty serious about it. Very serious about it. So I guess the most fundamental change is that now I am actively pursuing it and back then I just saw it as a bit of fun. But you want to keep growing and challenging yourself. I think that’s important to do in this career.
What can you tell us about season three of The Fall? Obviously your serial killer character, Paul Spector, miraculously survived his gunshots wounds at the end of season two.
Yeah, it’s no secret that I’ve done season three. So I guess you know that Spector shows up in season three in some capacity. I am constantly talking to Allan Cubitt, who created the show, and we are very close. Despite picking his mind for the past four and a half years, I didn’t see coming what he had planned for season three. So it is quite something, and it’s unexpected. And hopefully people respond to it.
In general, you seem to be attracted to darker roles. Will you ever let your daughters watch your work when they’re old enough?
Certainly not for a bloody long time! Maybe not the Fifty side of things, but if they wanted to watch that one day and see what daddy does, then that’s cool. I am mindful that I have two children now. There is part of me that does want to do something they can watch soon -- that is kind of lighthearted -- because I don’t consider myself a dark or menacing person despite what I portray onscreen. I definitely want to have the opportunity to show other sides as well.
Are you secretly longing to do a fun romantic comedy?
I am not opposed to that at all. But in terms of the last five or 10 years, there have only been one or two that worked. It’s a genre that they often get wrong. So you’d have to be very careful to get all the right people, and you’d have to feel strongly that it is the right one to do. But I am certainly open to it.
You were just filming the Grey sequel. How was playing Christian the second time around? Have you fully embraced the character?
I felt more comfortable the second time around. There was a lot of pressure the first time. I think when you’re making the first film of any franchise there is a lot of pressure in terms of setting a tone and the way it’s shot and the way it’s played and finding your feet with it. It was very strange that I came into that job six weeks before they started filming, which is totally unheard of in a franchise of that size -- and not the way you want to go into any job, really. This time I felt I had a lot more time on my hands. And the pressure seemed to be off a bit with every department because the first one made so much money. Everyone was in a better place about it. So it was definitely a better experience.
Are we going to see more of you in Fifty Shades Darker? And by “more of you,” I mean the full monty.
I hear ya! The truth is that I don’t know the answer to that. You’ll have to wait and see. [Laughs.]
Do you feel frustrated by your international sex symbol status or have you embraced it? You were previously dubbed “The Golden Torso” in your modeling heyday, so it’s not surprising that your bum makes headlines now -- and was hailed as the second-best in Britain after Tom Hiddleston’s. I am wondering if you demand a recount in that election.
I only found out about it a couple of days ago, when I was doing a research call thing for a talk show. You know, that’s all frivolous and fun and I don’t pay a huge amount of attention to it. You certainly can’t be annoyed with that sort of status. It goes with the territory a little bit. But I guess my thing is not to pay a great deal of heed to it.
You’ve described yourself as “hyper.” What keeps you from sleeping or wakes you up at 5 a.m.?
My children now. They’re up; especially my oldest one is often hyper, so at least we get to be up together.
You used to sing in a band that opened for KT Tunstall. You were also one of the highest-paid male models, and now you’re part of a global film franchise. But do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a good cook. Where I come from, we do a Sunday roast: Potatoes and roast beef, chicken or lamb with all the trimmings -- that would be my specialty.
Anthropoid is out now and The 9th Life of Louis Drax will be in theaters on Sept. 2.