James Peter Maxwell Dornan (//;(born 1 May 1982) is an actor, model and musician from Northern Ireland. Formerly a character actor, his works in independent film and television are often character driven. He has won two Irish Film and Television Awards and has been nominated for a BAFTA Television Award. In 2020, he was listed at number 32 on The Irish Times' list of Ireland's greatest film actors of all time.
James Peter Maxwell Dornan
1 May 1982
|Education||Methodist College Belfast|
Initially beginning his career as a model in 2001, he appeared in campaigns for Hugo Boss, Dior Homme, and Calvin Klein. Dubbed "the Golden Torso" by The New York Times, he was ranked one of the "25 Biggest Male Models of All Time" by Vogue in 2015. In addition, he performed in the folk band Sons of Jim until 2008.
He began acting in 2006, and earned international recognition for playing Sheriff Graham Humbert in the series Once Upon a Time (2011–2013) and serial killer Paul Spector in the crime drama series The Fall (2013–2016). For the latter, he won the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor in Television and was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. In film, he has portrayed Axel von Fersen in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2006), Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades franchise (2015–2018), and Jan Kubiš in Anthropoid (2016).
Dornan was born in Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland, and grew up in the suburbs of Belfast. His mother, Lorna, died from pancreatic cancer when Dornan was 16. His father Jim Dornan, an obstetrician and gynecologist who had also considered becoming an actor, died from complications related to COVID-19 on 15 March 2021.
Dornan has two older sisters: Liesa, who works for Disney in London, and Jessica, a fashion designer based in Falmouth, Cornwall, England. He is a first cousin, twice removed, of actress Greer Garson. His grandparents on both sides of his family were Methodist lay preachers.
He attended and boarded at Methodist College Belfast, where he played rugby and participated in the drama department. In school, he appeared in Christmas Pantomime and portrayed Widow Twanky which earned him his first drama prize. He also played Baby Face in Bugsy Malone and the milkman in Blood Brothers during school productions. He was a member of Belfast's youth amateur drama group, Holywood Players and participated in Ballymoney's Drama Festival with this group on several occasions. From the age of twelve, he participated in the native production of Anton Chekhov's stage dramas.
He attended Teesside University but dropped out and moved to London in 2002 to train as an actor. He worked in a pub in Knightsbridge for six months until he embarked on his modelling career. Referring to those six months as a rough time, Dornan stated he went through such financial hardship that he could not afford to buy even a kettle for his rented residence and to make ends meet, he took a job at the pub.
Dornan was not keen to pursue modelling as a career but was persuaded by his step mother and sisters. In 2001, he took part in the Channel 4 reality show Model Behaviour. He was eliminated but signed a modelling contract with Select Model Management. In 2003, he modelled for Abercrombie & Fitch with Malin Åkerman. He then modelled for Aquascutum, Hugo Boss, and Armani. In 2005, he became the face of Dior Homme's fragrance advertising campaign. Dornan's first appearance in Calvin Klein's advertising campaign was in 2004 with Russian model Natalia Vodianova. His later notable works for Calvin Klein include the jeans advertising campaigns with Kate Moss in 2006 and with Eva Mendes in 2010. In 2009, he was made the face of Calvin Klein's 'CK Free' fragrance. In the same year he appeared solo in Calvin Klein's underwear campaign. In 2006, he was labelled "The Golden Torso" by The New York Times. He also appeared as a judge in Calvin Klein's model hunt competition, 'Nine countries, nine men, one winner'. In 2009, Calvin Klein unveiled a billboard of its jeans ad campaign in New York, featuring Eva Mendes and Dornan. This was accused of showcasing rude nudity and native residents demanded its removal.
Dornan appeared in commercials for Dolce & Gabbana, Zara, Banana Republic, Dior, Calvin Klein, and Levi's Jeans with Lily Aldridge. In 2006, he was dubbed the "male Kate Moss" by GQ and in 2015 was ranked one of the "25 Biggest Male Models of All Time" by Vogue. He was ranked 3rd and 15th on GQ Magazine's 50 best dressed British men list respectively in 2015 and 2016. In 2018, he became the new face of "Boss The Scent" for Hugo Boss alongside Dutch model Birgit Kos. During his career, he worked with renowned fashion photographers Terry Richardson, Bruce Weber, Guy Aroch, Norman Jean Roy. Dornan's modelling significance was his iconic, trademark look which was named "Dornan Furrow" by the industry and the media. Though he is considered to be an A-class model, he never participated in ramp walks because of his unconventional style of walking.
2006-2011: Silver screen debut
Dornan said that the transition into an acting career was not easy for him, as he was often stigmatized with the designation of "model turned actor", but that he had always wanted to act and was steadfast in proving his acting abilities. Dornan's first acting role in a film was as Count Axel Fersen in the Sofia Coppola film Marie Antoinette (2006). Dornan also appeared in the drama film Shadows in the Sun (2009), which starred three-time Academy Award nominee Jean Simmons. In 2008, he played the lead role of Ed in the Hammer Horror production Beyond the Rave.
Dornan garnered recognition in 2011 when he appeared in nine episodes of the ABC television series Once Upon a Time, playing the role of Sheriff Graham. While Graham from Storybrooke was killed by the town's mayor Regina (The Evil Queen) in the episode "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter", Dornan stated that he would return as the Huntsman from the Enchanted Forest at some point, and he remained a regular on the series. He returned as The Huntsman for the season finale episode, "A Land Without Magic". About his performance, Laura Prudom of The Huffington Post wrote: "Irish-born Jamie Dornan did an excellent job of portraying Graham's hopelessness and confusion".
2013–2016: Breakthrough with The Fall and critical acclaim
Dornan starred alongside Gillian Anderson in the Northern Irish drama series The Fall, playing Paul Spector, a serial killer terrorising Belfast. Dornan initially auditioned for the role of a police officer, but he was later called upon to audition for the lead role, for which he was eventually selected. Beginning in 2013, the show aired for three series ending in October 2016. Dornan read books about serial killers and watched interviews of Ted Bundy to get an understanding of the mindset of his character, and stalked a woman in his preparation for the role. Neil Midgley wrote on Forbes about Dornan's performance: "His ingenuousness - compared with his cynical, hard, calculating, mental Spector of old - really was an acting tour de force". Dornan won his first Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor in Television and was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.
In 2014, Dornan was cast as Abe Goffe in New Worlds, a historical drama series. Nancy deWolf Smith, writing for The Wall Street Journal, criticized the series but described Dornan as "a scraggly leading man" who "is no flaw at all compared with the general oddity that is this miniseries".
2015–2018: Stardom with Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and independent features
On 23 October 2013, Dornan was cast as Christian Grey in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, replacing Charlie Hunnam. Initially announced to be released on 1 August 2014, the film was later rescheduled and released on 13 February 2015. Dornan visited a private sex dungeon as preparation for playing his sadistic character. In February 2015, it was confirmed that Dornan had signed on to reprise his role in the second and third installments of the Fifty Shades film franchise, Fifty Shades Darker, released in 2017, and Fifty Shades Freed, released in 2018. Earning approximately $1.32 billion, the franchise became the seventh highest-grossing R-rated franchise. Despite being a box office blockbuster, the trilogy was poorly received by critics, with Dornan's performance being critically panned. He stated in several interviews that he was depressed to receive such reviews.
On 27 August 2014, it was announced that Dornan would play Dr. Allan Pascal in a Miramax film titled The 9th Life of Louis Drax, a supernatural thriller based on a book of the same name. It was released on 2 September 2016. In November 2014, Dornan was ranked third in People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive rankings.
Dornan was cast as Commandant Pat Quinlan in Netflix's historical war film The Siege of Jadotville in 2016. He was sent to a boot camp in South Africa with the rest of the cast to train for the film. Donald Clarke of The Irish Times lauded him for his suave acting. For the film, he received his third nomination for best actor in a leading role in Irish Film and Television Award. In the same year, he starred as Jan Kubis, alongside Cillian Murphy in another war film Anthropoid. Writing for The Wall Street journal, Joe Morgenstern praised his performance and said: "Jamie Dornan readily transcends his perfectly fine performance in "Fifty Shades of Grey". For the film, he received nominations for Best Supporting Actor in British Independent Film Awards and Czech Lion Awards.
In May 2017, it was reported that Dornan would co-star alongside Peter Dinklage, as a journalist Danny Tate, in the HBO television film My Dinner with Hervé. Shooting for the film started in June 2017, and it was released on 20 October 2018. Lucy Mangan of The Guardian wrote: "Dornan does fine work here, too, managing not to be effaced in a more straightforward role by Dinklage's tour de force". Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe said: "The Danny plot is fine - nothing special really, although Dornan is excellent and manages to bring a good sense of transformation to an underwritten character".
In 2018, Dornan portrayed journalist Paul Conroy in the drama A Private War. Ann Hornaday, writing for The Washington Post, described Dornan's performance as "a gallantly self-effacing performance". Kenneth Turan for Los Angeles Times described Dornan's performance as "excellent work from the Fifty Shades veteran". In the same year, he appeared as Will Scarlet in Robin Hood and as Nick, a doctor and memoirist in Untogether. Jeannette Catsoulis, writing for The New York Times, said that Dornan's character lacked definition, and Bilge Ebiri wrote on Vulture: "Dornan continues his streak of giving likable performances in mostly forgettable films".
In 2019, Dornan starred as a Paramedic in science fiction, thriller film Synchronic. Critics commended the film for both its writing and performances. Richard Roeper of Chicago Sun-Times believed that Dornan delivered one of his best performances.
Dornan then appeared in two comedy films, Wild Mountain Thyme (2020) and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021). For his musical number and comedic turn in Barb and Star, he received rave reviews. Writing for The Wrap, Alonso Duralde addressed his ballad as "a definite highlight" of the film and said: "While it's definitely Mumolo and Wigg's show all the way, Dornan winds up being surprisingly capable at holding his own against these two dynamos".
Wild Mountain Thyme, John Patrick Shanley's film adaptation of his own play Outside Mullingar, was poorly received and was criticised for accent inaccuracy. Nevertheless Dornan's performance received praise as Simran Hans of The Guardian described it as "a commendable feat of comic brilliance, not to be missed" Some critics supposed Dornan to be a miscast as Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle thought that he played his role well but his essence read more a "cool guy" than a "weird guy".
In 2013, Dornan was made the patron of TinyLife, a Northern Ireland charity for premature and vulnerable babies. In 2016, he appeared in a skit for Children in Need, BBC's annual charity event to help disadvantaged children in the UK. In 2017, he joined other celebrities for a charity football match, Game 4 Grenfell, to provide aid to the victims of Grenfell Tower fire in West London that year. In the same year, he collaborated with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in a charity dinner to raise funds to help the JDRF support children diagnosed with type-1 Diabetes.
In 2018, Dornan became the patron of the newly established charity Northern Ireland Pancreatic Cancer (NIPanC) which was created in partnership with Pancreatic Cancer Action and the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. In 2020, Dornan read a bedtime story as part of Save with Stories to raise funds for Save the Children's Emergency Coronavirus Appeal. In the same year, he supported the Faster 5K Friday campaign for the Care Workers Charity, which provides financial grants for care workers.
In 2021, Dornan backed an emergency campaign in Northern Ireland, Donate for Dáithí, to find a replacement heart for a four year old child, and supported the NHS Organ Donation foundation to help such children.
In 2003, Dornan met Hollywood actress Keira Knightley in an Asprey photoshoot. Being together for two years, they split up in 2005. In 2010, Dornan met English actress and singer-songwriter Amelia Warner and they became engaged in 2012, and married in 2013. They have three daughters.
|2006||Marie Antoinette||Axel von Fersen|
|2008||Beyond the Rave||Ed|
|2009||Shadows in the Sun||Joe|
|X Returns||X||Short film|
|Nice to Meet You||The Young Man|
|2014||Flying Home||Colin Montgomery|
|2015||Fifty Shades of Grey||Christian Grey|
|Burnt||Leon Sweeney||Deleted scenes|
|The Siege of Jadotville||Pat Quinlan|
|The 9th Life of Louis Drax||Dr. Allan Pascal|
|2017||Fifty Shades Darker||Christian Grey|
|2018||Fifty Shades Freed|
|A Private War||Paul Conroy|
|Robin Hood||Will Scarlet|
|2020||Trolls World Tour||Chaz (voice)|
|Wild Mountain Thyme||Anthony Reilly|
|2021||Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar||Edgar Paget|
|2011–2013||Once Upon a Time||The Huntsman / Sheriff Graham Humbert||9 episodes|
|2013–2016||The Fall||Paul Spector||17 episodes|
|2014||New Worlds||Abe Goffe||4 episodes|
|2018||My Dinner with Hervé||Danny Tate||Television film|
|2018||Death and Nightingales||Liam Ward||3 episodes|
|TBA||The Tourist||The Unnamed Man||Six-part BBC thriller|
|2006||"My Burning Sun"|
|"Only On the Outside"|
|2007||"When I Go"|
|2018||"Maybe I'm Amazed"|
(from the Fifty Shades Freed: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
|2020||"Wild Mountain Thyme"|
( with Emily Blunt from Wild Mountain Thyme (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack))
(from Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack))
Awards and nominations
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Mr. Dornan, 31
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Media related to Jamie Dornan at Wikimedia Commons