I was trapped in a hotel quarantine in Australia when my beloved father died, says Belfast actor Jamie Dornan
JAMIE DORNAN was halfway around the world with four days in hotel quarantine when he received the worst news imaginable.
Her beloved father Jim had died of Covid after being hospitalized for routine knee surgery.
Stuck in Australia last March, where he had to self-isolate ahead of filming for BBC drama The Tourist, Jamie was unable to return to his native Northern Ireland to deal with the heartbreaking loss.
Suddenly Jamie, 39, best known for starring in the big screen Fifty Shades Of Gray and TV thriller The Fall, found himself caught in a nightmarish situation caused by the global pandemic.
So he understands the trauma that so many people have gone through over the past two years.
Jamie says: “It was a brutal time for many reasons and for many people. We’re all trying to get out of it and out the other side – and hope we have our heads intact.
The actor is receiving rave reviews for his turn in BBC1 thriller The Tourist, playing an amnesiac mystery man who has no idea why he is stranded in the Australian Outback.
And he’s getting more plaudits for his fine portrayal of a troubled father in Northern Ireland in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast.
Jamie’s father Jim was a renowned obstetrician and gynecologist in Northern Ireland’s capital – and had been proud to have his son star in a film there.
A photo of Jim with Sir Kenneth at the city’s Royal Victoria Hospital stands proudly in the Dornan family home.
Jamie says: ‘There was a picture on our shelf of my dad and Ken opening up a maternity ward at the hospital where my dad spent most of his career.
“I remember thinking it was a big thing in our house that he was there and did that and met dad and everything.”
Unfortunately, Jim will never see the film, which hits theaters next week.
The loss of his father made 2021 “the worst year. . . and the hardest” of his life, says Jamie.
Jim helped him through the painful loss of his mother Lorna to pancreatic cancer when Jamie was 16, telling his son, “Don’t let that be the thing that defines you.”
Jamie says: “I was subjected, early in my life and now, to a lot of pain and loss.”
Jim supported Jamie’s decision to become an actor after the dashing star grew tired of working as a model for Calvin Klein and Armani.
The risky move paid off as the former clothes rack – once dubbed The Golden Torso – is set to become one of acting’s golden boys.
“I have a real understanding of what it’s like to go to work. Every step I take since becoming a father – my career – is for my family. That’s all that really matters to me’
Jamie plays Pa in the new film, which received seven Golden Globe nominations and co-starred Dame Judi Dench.
The character is based on Branagh’s own father.
In 1969, Pa is working in England and wants his family to join him there as tensions between Belfast’s Protestant and Catholic communities escalate into deadly violence.
The plot was deeply personal for Jamie, who can’t stand being away from her daughters Dulcie, eight, Elva, five, and Alberta, two.
He says: “I am the father of three girls and sometimes I have to say goodbye to them.
“I think I have a real understanding of what it’s like to leave, often for the benefit of family – to work, to support. Every step I take since I became a father, my career is for them. That’s all that really matters to me.
“I am so lucky to have three healthy little girls. I miss them so much.
Jamie met his wife Amelia Warner, 39, a musician and former actress, in 2010. They married three years later.
They live in rural Gloucestershire, preferring the local pub to glamorous red carpet events.
Even though Jamie has to travel the world for his job, he can’t afford to be apart from his children for more than two weeks at a time.
The family traveled with him to Australia for The Tourist – in which Shalom Brune-Franklin plays his on-screen love interest – and spent several months there during filming, with the children enrolling in local schools.
Jamie’s upcoming accolades complete a remarkable turnaround, after his acting in the maligned Fifty Shades trilogy was derided.
Luckily, Jamie’s skin is thick enough to ignore cruel beards.
He says, “I’ve always been able to give shit and take shit, so I’m kind of armed for that.”
It’s part of the culture of Belfast to deal with problems with a laugh, says Jamie.
He says: “There is a resilience in the men and women of Belfast. What I find remarkable about people in Northern Ireland is that there’s a humor that we have – that you need, I think, to get through some of the things that we’ve all had to go through.
Although he left town at 20, Jamie still considers himself a “Belfast man”.
“Singing is terror like you can’t even imagine”
He says, “This is my house. We probably feel like he’s something special, a “Belfast man”, and I think we all know what that means.
“If you’re from Belfast, whatever era you grew up in, you’ve been through something.
“You have gone through certain trials and you have been tested at many stages of your life.”
The Troubles began in Northern Ireland around 1966 and the film is set three years later when Loyalists rampaged through Catholic areas, burning homes and businesses.
This escalated into terrorist attacks by paramilitary groups including the IRA and UDA, until the Good Friday Agreement finally brought some peace in 1998.
Jamie says: “I was born in 1982, in the middle of a 30 year conflict.
“When you grow up in this environment, you are taught about it – you are taught why everyone is fighting around you, what is this hatred based on, where did it start. Personally, I think it’s not taught enough.
Instead of dwelling on tangled politics, Sir Kenneth’s film, which is shot in black and white, focuses on a family coping with the turbulent situation through love and humor. It is based on the director’s experiences growing up in the city and his father’s decision to bring his young family to England.
Jamie says with a smile, “All the characters are very much inspired by people who are part of Ken’s life.
“I play a version of his father. So this leads to a whole new round of stress.
He also faced the ‘terror’ of dancing and singing in one scene, as Pa performed Everlasting Love, a UK chart topper for Love Affair in 1968.
His blue eyes sparkling, Jamie said, “It’s a terror like you can’t even imagine.
“I’ve sung in a lot of things recently. I think the last four or five things I did, I sang. It’s getting too common.
“There is a resilience in the men and women of
Belfast. There’s a humor that we have, that you need, to get through some of the things that we’ve had to go through’
Pandemic restrictions meant Belfast could not be filmed in the city at the center of its attention.
A set was built in Berkshire and production began in 2020, as soon as restrictions permitted.
The lockdown also meant Jamie couldn’t return to Northern Ireland for many months.
When asked to film Belfast, it offered a chance to reconnect – albeit from a distance.
He says: “I was away from home, I couldn’t get back to Belfast. I had family there that I hadn’t seen and couldn’t see.
“So the house was very much in my mind, and then I get a script called Belfast.”
Throughout his career, he has never faced an easier decision.
The star says: “I imagine that once in my career, I will make a film bearing the name of the city that created me. So it was an easy “yes”. ”
- Belfast (12A) comes out on Friday 21st January.