Jamie replaced Charlie Hunnam in the movies (Picture: Andrew Woffinden / GQ / REX)
Jamie Dornan was ‘relieved’ when Charlie Hunnam beat him to the role of Christian Grey – only to end up being cast when the actor dropped out.
Sons of Anarchy star Hunnam was originally chosen to play the BDSM-loving businessman Christian Grey in the divisive movie Fifty Shades Of Grey, but he dropped out a few weeks after the casting announcement was made.
Relative newcomer Dornan – at that time, best known for being a Calvin Klein model and the star of the TV show Once Upon A Time – was then given the role, and it was tricky to get his head around.
Speaking to GQ, the Northern Irish star said: ‘I was beaten to it the first time by Charlie Hunnam and I felt a certain amount of relief when he got it, to be honest. I thought, “This would have been fun, but it would have been a strange ride. Better not to be on that ride.”
‘But he pulled out and then I got a call. And I got it. And there we go. I had to confront that choice again.’
His choice was to accept the role, and he went on to play Christian Grey opposite Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia Steele in three films – Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shade Freed.
The movies were a commercial hit but a critical failure (Picture: Chuck Zlotnick/Focus/Universal/Kobal/REX)
Dornan doesn’t regret taking the role (Picture: Andrew Woffinden)
The franchise, based on the books by E.L. James, followed a naive college graduate, Anastasia, who begins a sadomasochistic relationship with a business magnate.
While the Fifty Shades films were huge box office successes, they were critically panned, but Dornan doesn’t regret taking on the job.
The 39-year-old said: ‘Look, put it this way: it’s done no harm to my career to be part of a movie franchise that has made more than $1 billion. Every working actor would say the same thing. It’s provided – a lot. There’s no shame in saying it’s transformed my life and my family’s life financially.
‘I am very, very grateful for this and always will be. And the fans loved it. Kevin Maher [the film critic] at the Times didn’t love it – what a surprise!
‘But I take issue with the whole thing being just a bit of a joke. Everyone involved worked as hard as they could on those films, including myself.’
Despite the critical mauling the movies got, Dornan has continued to have success, with TV shows including The Fall and films like Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, while he will next be seen in Kenneth Branagh’s new movie Belfast.
The actor is now starring in Belfast (Picture: Andrew Woffinden)
Hunnam, 41, explained that scheduling issues, having already agreed to star in Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, and coming close to a ‘nervous breakdown’ were the reasons behind him leaving Fifty Shades.
The actor said: ‘I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place if I didn’t want to do it. It was a really, really difficult time in my life.
‘I was going to finish Sons at like 11 p.m. Friday night, get on the plane Saturday morning to Vancouver for Fifty, missing the whole first week of rehearsal and start shooting Monday morning. And I was going to shoot that film, wrap that on the Wednesday and the following Monday I was going to start shooting ‘Crimson Peak’ in Toronto. I just had like … frankly, something of a nervous breakdown.
‘I just said “I can’t” … to fail on such a grand scale. Fifty’s going to be massive; it’s going to be huge. I really didn’t want to fail on such a grand scale, and I just couldn’t transition from Jax Teller to Christian Grey in 48 hours. I bit off more than I could chew, and it was painful. I loved the character, and I wanted to do it.’
See the full feature in British GQ’s December/January issue available on newsstands Friday November 5.
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