Why Jamie Dornan is ‘The Man’ in thrilling new series

The Tourist is a mysterious new drama with a unique tone that airs on BBC One today. Georgia Humphreys hears more from its Co Down born and raised star about stunts in the outback and humour in dark places

Friday, 31st December 2021, 6:00 pm
Jamie Dornan as The Man in The Tourist PIC: PA Photo/BBC/Two Brothers Pictures/Ian Routledge.

When Jamie Dornan first started acting and moved to LA, he only wanted to do comedy.

Of course, life took a clearly very different path, and the Northern Irish star, 39, who was born and raised in Holywood, Co Down, ended up playing “a psychopath” for three years (serial killer Paul Spector in hit BBC Two series, The Fall alongside X-Files star Gillian Anderson). But dishy Dornan’s latest role is a tense thriller which is also surprisingly funny.

New BBC series The Tourist – written by Harry and Jack Williams (known for The Missing, Liar and Angela Black) – is set in the Australian outback, and starts dramatically.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Jamie Dornan and Amelia Warner arrive for the European premiere of 'Belfast', at the Royal Festival Hall in London during the BFI London Film Festival.

We see Dornan’s character – known as The Man – driving along when he realises he’s being pursued. In the end, his car tumbles off a ridge, and he wakes up injured in hospital, and with absolutely no idea who he is.

“It’s very heightened and unreal at times, and the comedy is often found in the darkest of places,” reflects charismatic Dornan, who’s also, of course, very well known for playing Christian Grey in the inordinately successful Fifty Shades of Grey franchise alongside Dakota Johnson.

“I thought that was really interesting, and just a challenge and a fresh take for me. So that’s definitely why I was I was drawn to it.”

The father-of-three, who’s married to musician Amelia Warner, notes: “I don’t understand the point of doing this for a career if you don’t want to explore every facet that the job serves up – all the different mediums of it, all the different genres, all the different challenges of it. And I love a challenge in life. Always have, always will.

Caitriona Balfe as Ma and Jamie Dornan as Ma in Kenneth Branagh's Belfast, which is hotly tipped for Oscar glory.

“I love the exploration that this job allows, and I feel like I’ve spent the last eight years or so making the most of that, and taking stuff on that isn’t the same as the previous – and I plan to do that for as long as I’m allowed a career.”

Other characters in The Tourist include Helen (Danielle Macdonald), a local beat cop who helps The Man try and figure out who he is, waitress Luci (Shalom Brune-Franklin), who The Man meets at a local diner, matter-of-fact detective inspector Lachlan Rogers (Damon Herriman) and a mysterious American man named Billy (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson).

The six-part story has the theme of self-discovery at its core, as The Man starts questioning who he is and who he has been in the past – and it’s also adrenaline-filled with plenty of big stunt scenes, as the script takes many twists and turns.

The Williams’ goal was to try and do something different. Dornan says the pair – who are behind production company Two Brothers Pictures – “often play with tone in quite an obscure, refreshing way, but they’ve really ramped it up for this one”.

Jamie with Kenneth Branagh at the film's premiere at the Belfast Film Festival.

The actor also liked the intrigue of the show – the fact that all the characters have big secrets, especially his.

“Usually, in the opening few pages of a script, you get a sense of who this person is – the life they have, the family they have, the job they have, what their intentions are. But with this, there is none of that. It’s very exciting to have all of that revealed to me, as it will be revealed to the audience.”

Dornan had been to Australia before, to visit friends for New Year’s Eve in 2009. But Sydney is obviously very different from the filming locations for The Tourist, where there were snakes, sandstorms, and extreme temperatures on either end of the scale.

“Legitimately, in the mornings and the evenings towards the end, it was cold. And you’re dealing with the isolation of the Outback – we were four hours outside of Adelaide, with not much to do. But [there was] a pub and a pool table – good pub.”

One of the things the star loved about the series was how ambitious it is, which you get a sense of from the very start of the first episode.

“In a very heavily saturated world of television, of big television, of expensive television, with huge ambitions across the board, you want something that pops, that gets people’s attention – the opening of this hopefully does,” he teases.

“It’s definitely paying homage to Steven Spielberg’s Duel; I don’t think Harry and Jack would shy away from that or mind me saying that.

“It puts you right bang into the middle of this madness, but this very beautiful sort of scape. And it was a challenge. The whole shoot was a challenge – it was the longest shoot I’ve ever done, and it was at times harsh.”

They had a lot of time to shoot the opening sequence, with the stunt stuff alone lasting “days upon days”.

“I was trying to do as much of that as I could and I got thrown around quite a lot I have to say – but I’m up for that,” follows Dornan.

“But then a lot of the more beautiful drone stuff, where you can’t see who’s inside, that was stunt guys, and they worked really hard doing that to make sure I was able to do some quieter scenes.

“But it was definitely a challenge and it was right at the beginning when it was still hot – well, for me. I found it hot. It was the introduction to being out shooting in the Outback, just this massive sequence. It’s a really fun, exciting opening to a series.”

JAMIE LAUDED FOR STELLAR PERFORMANCE IN BRANAGH’S OSCAR-TIPPED BELFAST

By Joanne Savage

East-Belfast born director Kenneth Branagh, perhaps one of the best actors in cinematic history to have portrayed Shakespeare’s Hamlet, has produced a euphoric eulogy to his home city, wherein nostalgia is set against the nightmarish birth pangs of the Troubles.

Dornan joins Dame Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds and Caitriona Balfe in what is a scintillating coming-of-age story with a soundtrack masterminded by Van Morrison. In many ways it is a paean to the best of Belfast, the strong sense of community and the strength of family ties as violence begins to spill onto the streets and the sense of menace hangs in the air.

It is 1969 and Jamie Dornan plays a man who lives in north Belfast, a largely Protestant district but still with some Catholic families. He is an easygoing charmer, away in England a fair bit during the week, doing skilled carpentry work and harassed with the need to pay off a tax bill.

When his long-suffering wife (Caitríona Balfe) writes to the Inland Revenue asking for confirmation that his debt is finally paid off, it prompts the authorities to look further into his murky affairs and decide he owes another £500. This is such a horribly unglamorous, uncinematic moment that it surely has to be taken from real life.

The family includes two boys, the older Will (Lewis McAskie) and younger Buddy, played by newcomer Jude Hill, whose stunned, wide-eyed incomprehension sets the tone. The grandparents live with them under the same roof and are played with beguiling sweetness by Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench.

Violence explodes when unionist hardmen burn the Catholics out of their homes and set up barricades to protect their new fiefdom against republican retaliation – a gangsterism that requires payments from local families, enforced by tough guy Billy Clanton (Colin Morgan), accepted more or less pragmatically by local man Frankie West (a great cameo from Michael Maloney) but resented by Dornan’s character. He starts showing his wife and kids assisted-emigrant brochures for Vancouver and Sydney: places beyond the reach of the terrorists and the taxman but so alien they might as well feature on Star Trek, which the boys watch on TV every week. And poor Buddy just has to carry on with his life, which involves much unrequited pining for a girl in his class.

Some may regard the film as overly sentimental or glossing over the full horror of the conflict, but Jamie is stellar as Pa, a man facing up to threats who wants above all to save those he loves from the threat of paramilitarism.

HOW JAMIE LOST OUT ON PLAYING SUPERMAN - BUT HE MAY YET WOW US ALL AS A SUPERHERO

Jamie Dornan is currently out making the promotional rounds for his new film, Belfast, which is shaping up to be one of the most well-received movies of the year.

While Dornan is still mostly known for his role in the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, the actor actually could’ve become famous for a very different role. And as it so happens, he lost that part to another notable star - Henry Cavill, who was most recently tipped to be the new 007 before Tom Hardy was confirmed for the part (there had even been rumours that Jamie himself was in the running).

Dornan recently got candid about his latest movie, his career and his future goals in a lengthy profile for The New York Times. The profile reveals some interesting facts about the actor, his relationship to the erotic romance series, and some roles he missed out on.

And one of the big roles that got away was actually Superman.

The Northern Irish actor apparently auditioned for Man of Steel, losing out to Cavill, who would ultimately play the role in multiple films. While Dornan did end up making a name for himself in another way, one can certainly understand why he’d still think about that role.

Casting “what ifs” are always fun, and the fact that he auditioned for Superman is honestly very surprising.

There’s no indication as to how close he was to actually getting the part, but it would have been interesting to see an alternate reality where he won the role. And though he’s yet to play a costumed hero, he’s still looking to land such a role. He told the New York Times about the new iron-clad will to power he finds in himself since the loss of his father, esteemed gynaecologist Jim Dornan and the responsibility he feels in providing for the three daughters he shares with wife Amelia Warner. Jamie said: “It’s like a necessity to deliver and provide, very caveman-esque: I must succeed for these precious little people. Also, since my dad died, it’s lit this extra fire within me, this extra burner of wanting to succeed.”

The Christian Grey actor doesn’t regret the path he’s taken and seems conscious of the fact that he’ll always be asked about his role in the romance franchise. And it’s hard to find fault when it arguably helped catapult him to where he is now, starring in Belfast, which is hotly tipped for Oscar glory. His path has certainly been a unique one and, though he’s already very accomplished, it’s fair to say that he’s just getting started.

Who knows, maybe we’ll see an alternate version of Superman or indeed 007 played by Jamie Dornan sometime in the future. But until such things come to pass, if the stars are indeed so aligned, the Co Down actor has plenty of other movies and television shows that fans can check out. First up: The Tourist.

The Tourist starts on BBC One today (January 1).

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Editor