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There’s a buzz in the air as I make my way into Claridge’s, London’s most exclusive hotel, snuggled in the heart of Mayfair.
I ask the concierge if he can direct me to the film junket for Fifty Shades of Grey. With the air of Basil Fawlty, he knows nothing of it, but his equally unconcerned colleague is “aware of something on the first floor.” Like a hound with a scent, I take it from there. In a room upstairs, a few other journalists are waiting their turn. Some are seeing the director, some are seeing Dakota Johnson - some are eating donuts which are being handed out by Alison Hammond - but some, like me, are only here for the main event.
Jamie Dornan might be my ultimate celebrity crush now, but I wasn’t aware of him until he appeared in ABC’s fairytale themed TV drama Once Upon A Time in 2011, playing a sheriff in one narrative and a huntsman in another - who wouldn’t be won over? Then in BBC’s The Fall, he got tongues wagging as Belfast based serial killer Paul Spector, who strangled his sex victims to death and then played mind games with Gillian Anderson’s fierce Det. Superintendent. Here, his skills as an actor and a model both come in to play perfectly (there’s a lot of moody staring), but it’s a juicy script that makes the series a success - even Madonna is a fan. There’s something about the sinister sexual deviant he plays which almost makes for the perfect segue into his current role, as Christian Grey, in the film adaptation of modern chick lit classic Fifty Shades of Grey. Scoff not - for it has delivered him directly into our laps at Attitude, and when I’m asked “Do you want to see Jamie Dornan next week?” I snap at the opportunity, before I even realise I’m being offered an interview.
And now, before I realise it, I’m being ushered down the hall towards him. A female journalist, dressed to the nines, passes me looking like she’s just been stunned. He’s in Room 101 (ominous) but it’s not red (sadly). The door opens, and there he is. With a blue chequered shirt peeking out from under a rolled up navy jumper, he’s rocking a semi-casual look, with his hair sleeked back, and then there’s the beard - the beard! - in all its glory, back from its Fifty Shades exile to rival that other facial haired Irishman Fassbender, and brush up against anyone lucky enough for a kiss on the cheek. It could be me.
But no, we shake hands. He has now touched me. “We’ve met before” he remarks casually - almost shading the mere civilian publicist who endeavoured to introduce us. “As soon as you came in I thought, this guy’s Irish.” He speaks beautifully - more Liam Neeson than Ian Paisley, with added suave. Inside I’m dying, but externally, I gather myself. I tell him I’m sure I’d have known if we’d met, but he’s insistent. Perhaps he’s just being polite. Perhaps I really have met him and remember nothing of it; after all, we’re both from Northern Ireland, where the degrees of separation never exceeds three. As the interview is being filmed we have a few semi-awkward moments while it all gets set up, during which time I have nothing to do but sit in silence and observe him. So I smile. He smiles back. Some people think working at Attitude means I spend my days purveying a continual stream of models, cat-walking their way through the office on a hopeful trek to fashion shoot stardom, and I do see many a handsome face, but none of them come anywhere close to the magnificence of this man in front of me. Dornan first came to the attention of gay men (and anyone else who cares for underwear advertisements) when, as a fresh faced model, he became the face of Calvin Klein in 2006 - the same year he made his acting debut in Sofia Coppolla’s Marie Antoinette. The images produced from his ad campaign were so resplendent, some of us still have them as our desktop backgrounds: and by some of us, I mean me. Can he tell this just by looking at me? I’m reminded of the time I met Boy George and worried he might hear Karma Chameleon playing in my head. But I digress. This is my moment with Mr Grey, and we have business to attend to.
Does he feel guilty for being so ridiculously desirable that millions of women can only be disappointed with their own spouses after watching the thrill ride that is his new movie? “Hopefully their husbands are dragged - or want to go and see it - with them. I think it will be beneficial if they do go with their wife and hopefully she’s in an open mood when they get home, let’s put it that way.” Indeed the saddest news of all is that Doman has his own wife to go home to - Amelia Warner, a musician who performs under the name Slow Moving Millie. In 2011, she soundtracked the John Lewis Christmas ad, with her version of Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want. And boy has she. The pair married and had their first child in 2013.
But we had our eyes on him years before that. Dornan bagged his first cover of Attitude when Calvin Klein signed him in 2006, and cropped up again when Will Young guest edited in 2010. “And God created...” was our initial hyperbolic headline, but boy has he lived up to it. This time around, the game has changed, the bar is raised, and Dornan is a bona fide A-lister; the most desired man in the world right now. I produce the original cover to give him a blast from the past, and he strokes his beard, part sex symbol part Bond villain. “There it is,” he laughs, slightly embarrassed but keen to take a look. Back then he confessed to us that many people - particularly from home - naturally assumed he was gay when he dumped a degree in Marketing at Middlesborough for a life as a model in London. Do people still mistake him as such now? “I think that now I’m married and we’ve made a human being baby, that assumption has diluted somehow.” Indeed, now it’s just wishful thinking. He modestly dodges my suggestion that he might also star in a gay adaptation of Fifty Shades: “It probably wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do both versions would it?” It would be so inappropriate, he has no idea. His safe word, if he had to choose one? “Banana man” he says - before shaking his head and laughing as though he’d given away more than he cared to.
With a few quick fire questions, I try to learn as much as I can about this demi-god in the little time I’m allocated, and I manage to make some headway; on his favourite shade of grey (“Elephant’s breath”), whether he wears boxers or briefs (“boxers”), and whether he’d rather be spanked by his former roommate Eddie Redmayne, or Benedict Cumberbatch. “They can both have a go” he laughs, shaking his head again, “what a vision.” As we wrap up, I dare to ask for a photo with him - I’ll only hate myself if I don’t, and the worst he can say is, “No, fuck off” which would only provide me with a Regina George ‘she punched me in the face... It was awesome’ moment. This picture was so monumental for me, I felt it should be immediately mounted on the wall with other famous moments at Claridge’s, such as the visits of Winston Churchill or The Queen. Regardless, I got 200 Facebook likes out of it, and A HAND ON THE SMALL OF MY BACK. That is basically the second base of interviews.
Back at the office, I’m slightly giddy and a tad smug, recounting my experience to the boys. We watch the video back, and much to my absolute delight, they point out that he seems quite flirtatious.
I hadn’t realised. But then again, I may well have met him in the past and forgot it entirely. What does he do to me?! With all the personal excitement, I wasn’t quite fit to make the premiere that night (Lie: It was raining), but I’d seen Jamie Dornan in the flesh. That’s enough for one lifetime.
Source | Thanks to @50ShadesWorldcm for scans and Youtube version