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Jamie Dornan: ‘I keep playing sick psychopaths. It worries me’

The only thing worse than a model/actress, the old snarky joke goes, is a model/actor. And I might once have snarked along with that joke, until I met Jamie Dornan. Jamie and I became friends exactly a decade ago, when he was 22 and I was 26 and a mutual friend introduced us at a party. Neither of us, to be honest, was in the best of shape at the time. He was heartbroken after the recent end of his long-term relationship with Keira Knightley (it took about a month before I even saw him smile) and I, meanwhile, was deep in my belief that the way to make the most of my 20s was to get as wasted as possible, as often as possible. But somehow, through our own personal fogs, we clicked.

Someone whispered to me early on that Jamie was a model, but I didn’t pay much attention to this information. It wasn’t until I went to New York for fashion week a few months after meeting him and saw him nearly naked on a giant billboard advert for Calvin Klein that I began to think my condescension might have been a tad misplaced. In fact, my new sweet and sweary friend from Belfast was one of the most successful male models in the world at the time, working for Dior Homme, Aquascutum, Zara, Armani and dozens of others. But you would never have known it from talking to him: as much as I tried to goad him by quoting Zoolander, he would just shrug and smile and change the subject. He never mentioned that he had spent the day, say, writhing naked with Gisele or Eva Mendes for a shoot, as most young men might reasonably have done, and in 10 years of knowing him I have never once seen him glance at his reflection in a mirror or window. I’ve never even heard him mention going to the gym.

He’s married now, to film composer Amelia Warner, and father to 16-month-old Dulcie. But when he was single, he was neither a shagger nor a flirt. Though some of my female friends made it very clear they would be happy to do either with him, he simply seemed to have no interest in his looks, or the benefits they could bring.

Today is the first and only time I’ve seen him wear a fashion freebie; we meet for this interview in a west London cafe and he turns up, having come straight from the golf course, wearing a cap with the slogan “Double Bogey” on the rim. “A golfwear company gave it to me; isn’t it cool?” grins the former face of Calvin Klein.
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“Fifty Shades of Grey” London Premiere

I’ve added a ton of photos of Jamie from the London Premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the after party last night to the gallery!

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“Fifty Shades of Grey” Premiere at 65th Berlinale International Film Festival

I’ve added photos of Jamie from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” premiere at 65th Berlinale International Film Festival on February 11th to the gallery!

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Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson for W Magazine

Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James’s 2011 tale of sex and submission, has sold more than 100 million copies and inspired a cottage industry of extremely graphic erotica. Along the way, it has also sparked a public symposium on what separates the genuinely titillating from just good marketing. So it’s interesting that in choosing a director for their hotly anticipated screen adaptation, which maintains the novel’s many overheated bondage scenes, the producers turned to Sam Taylor-Johnson. She first made her name (which was then Sam Taylor-Wood) in 1998 as a Turner Prize–nominated artist with a penchant for photographs and videos that seduce with a quiet watchfulness. “I had to be faithful to the book,” says Taylor-Johnson, who took the shots on these pages. “There were, if you like, manacles. But there was also room for trespassing.”

In the movie, as in the book, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) meets her Prince Charming in the rich, handsome Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), whose guarded veneer is both alluring and frustrating. “The whole book, and the movie, is about control,” Taylor-Johnson says. “And in a sense, the whole process of making the movie also became about control. This is my first studio film”—she made the 2009 indie Nowhere Boy—“so I quickly wised up to the fact that I couldn’t free-form it too much. Coming from a totally autonomous position to answering to a lot of people can be kind of a shock initially.”

While she would never consider a potential film franchise shouldering a reported $40 million budget and a frightfully ardent fan base as anything akin to her art, Taylor-Johnson does manage to use her eye for the slow burn, honed in work like her 2004 video portrait of the soccer star David Beckham sleeping, to great erotic effect. After all, what’s in front of you is often less stimulating than what you can only imagine. “When you see something, it’s all over,” Taylor-Johnson says. Not that the film lacks sex scenes. “We do get there eventually.” She laughs. “We definitely get there.”

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Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson for USA Today

NEW YORK — Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson seem to go together like peanut butter and gasoline.

Put them in front of a TV camera, and they’re awkward. Uneasy. Stiff. Cautious. Guarded.

So do the two leads, who play dominant Christian Grey and submissive Anastasia Steele in the movie adaptation of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (in theaters Friday, with select Thursday screenings), detest each other? The answer, from a variety of parties, is no.

“She’s an easy person to get along with. She’s sweet,” says Dornan, who replaced Charlie Hunnam in the role just four weeks before shooting started. “We instantly had a thing. It’s so important, given what we had ahead of us. If we hadn’t liked each other, I wouldn’t have been cast. I got cast because they thought it worked. Dakota and I get on so well. We’re friends now.”

That’s a good thing, given that Dornan spanks, handcuffs and blindfolds Johnson and introduces her to the chamber of titillation (or horrors, depending on your take) known as the S&M “Red Room,” the place where Christian feels most comfortable in his own skin.

For Johnson, who played the wide-eyed college grad wooed by Christian, the scene where Ana is tied to the bed proved the hardest to shoot.

“Your senses are taken away when you’re blindfolded and tied up. It’s a really interesting brain exercise.” When the director calls “cut,” she says, “you’re still tied up and blindfolded and not in the most comfortable of positions. Having those experiences, I understand how they make sense to people in their private home. In a filming environment, it was difficult.”

Which is why, the actress says, connecting with and trusting her co-star was more important than ordinarily is the case. She had read with a slew of Hollywood’s top actors before Dornan met with her.

“It was weird because I’d gone through so many men at that point. He was very calm and funny. He was able to keep up with my joke-making and that meant a lot.”

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson squashes rumors of off-camera friction.

“Everyone likes to gossip. And so many stories are utterly untrue. They’re funny and sweet together,” she says. “I don’t know if everyone expected them to have a Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson thing. Jamie is married with a small baby. Dakota is in a relationship.

“It’s a movie. It was work. They get along fine.”

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