Jamie Dornan is now a bonafide box office star thanks to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but the 32-year-old actor spent a stretch of his 20s in Los Angeles trying to make it as an actor. During a two-hour interview with Variety in January, he talked about some of his early experiences, his worst audition ever and the time he saw Fabio at the gym.
Dornan, who grew up in Ireland, started as a fashion model.
“My sister had encouraged me to go on this U.K. reality show called ‘Model Behavior.’ I reluctantly went. I didn’t get very far on the show, thankfully. I ended up joining the agency that was behind it, and then I was with them. I never got a huge amount of joy when I was modeling. No disrespect. I didn’t want to be one of those guys modeling when I was in my 40s.”
In his mid-20s, he moved to L.A., where he became pals with struggling Brit actors Andrew Garfield and Eddie Redmayne.
“I really disliked L.A. when I arrived. I thought it was a really weird place. I was just renting an apartment and doing whatever you do when you’re an actor not working in L.A. There was no pressure. The stakes weren’t that high, because we weren’t really getting work. We played a lot of table tennis and volleyball and had nice dinners. What’s the song [‘Drinking in L.A.’] — ‘What the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at 26?’ We kept singing that.”
Dornan auditioned for the lead in “Rock of Ages,” but it didn’t go too well.
“I had to sing ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You.’ It’s nearly impossible to sing, and I’ve got quite a deep voice when I sing. My audition was at 10 in the morning on the Warner Bros. lot. I convinced myself it would be a good idea to have a bit of whiskey to relax my vocal cords and maybe as a bit of a confidence booster. Suddenly, I took a swig of Jameson and I instantly f–ing puked. So I’m standing with all these executives driving around in golf carts, as I’m vomiting on the lot. It was a bad look. I hadn’t been clever enough to bring mouth wash. And then I had to go in, stinking of whiskey and vomit and proceed to sing ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You,’ which I couldn’t sing. It was the worst situation ever. Obviously, I didn’t hear anything back.”
He spotted Fabio at the gym.
“I went on a trial at the L.A. Equinox, and I only went twice. Both times Fabio — that guy on the cover of those romance novels — was there. It was the weirdest scene ever I’d seen at the gym. It made me not join. I don’t need to be watching people watch Fabio working out.”
Dornan saw plenty of movies growing up.
“I liked ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Teen Wolf.’ I loved John Hughes movies. I had two older sisters, and was subjected to them early on, so I ended up liking ‘The Breakfast Club,’ ‘Sixteen Candles’ and ‘Mr. Mom.’ As you get older, your tastes change. ‘Badlands’ is my favorite movie of all time.”
He wants to alternate between studio and indie projects.
“Honestly, I feel so f–ing privileged to work. I’m doing a big studio movie. You can’t take those things for granted. It’s insanity when you think a couple years ago, the stuff I’d audition for and really wanted and didn’t get. That’s the madness to this industry.”