Jamie Dornan Wants to Be the Cool Dad

The actor on why he was initially reluctant to play the father in Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast.

Interview by Lynn Hirschberg
Photography by Tim Walker
Styled by Sara Moonves

Jamie Dornan wears an Hermès tuxedo, shirt, and tie; Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello hat.

Jamie Dornan began his year on-screen serenading seagulls with a melodramatic rock ballad in Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s delightfully bizarre comedy Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar. The performance won him praise from comedy fans and critics alike for his commitment, and helped audiences see the former 50 Shades actor in a new way. As if to put emphasis on his versatility, he ended the year in Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical coming-of-age drama, Belfast, as a version of the director’s own father. Dornan’s performance has garnered nominations for best supporting actor from the Critics Choice Awards, the Hollywood Critics Association, and more. For W’s Best Performances issue, he talks about his hesitation to play a father, his enduring friendship with Eddie Redmayne and Andrew Garfield, and the superpower he secretly wants.

What was your reaction when you first heard about the part?

In Belfast, I play a dad, and there was a moment when I read the script where I thought, I’m a young guy—I’m not ready to play a father! Mind you, in real life I do have a wife and three daughters, but my kids in Belfast are a bit older than my actual children. Then I realized that I was playing a version of [writer-director] Sir Kenneth Branagh’s dad, and I felt better. I also grew up in Belfast, and I wanted to make the city proud.

Belfast is a tearjerker. You’d played a father before in The Fall.

Yes, but he was a serial killer. Not exactly Father of the Year!

What movie makes you cry?

Philadelphia gets me every time. I had some friends around to watch it, and I gave out tissues at the start of the film. I was weeping, and my friends just stared at me; their eyes were dry, while I was sobbing.

You started your career at the same time as Eddie Redmayne and Andrew Garfield. The three of you have remained close.

We never felt like it was a competition. We’d audition for the same roles sometimes, and we’d even help one another prepare. Somehow we all found our way and managed to stay friends.

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Flying. I have a recurring dream that I’m flying over Belfast. I fly over the city and wind up home.

Jamie Dornan wears an Hermès tuxedo, shirt, and tie; Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello hat.

Grooming by Joanna Ford for Kevin Murphy at the Wall Group. Produced by Wes Olson and Hannah Murphy at Connect the Dots; production manager: Zack Higginbottom at Connect the Dots; photo assistants: Antonio Perricone, Jeff Gros, Morgan Pierre; digital technician: Michael Preman; lighting technician: Keith Coleman; key grip: Scott Froschauer; retouching: Graeme Bulcraig at Touch Digital; senior style editor: Allia Alliata di Montereale; senior fashion market editor: Jenna Wojciechowski; fashion assistants: Julia McClatchy, Antonio Soto, Nycole Sariol, Sage McKee, Josephine Chumley, Rosa Schorr; production assistants: Tchad Cousins, Juan Diego Calvo, Gina York, Brandon Fried, Nico Robledo, Kein Milledge; hair assistants: Tommy Stanton, Sol Rodriquez, Andi Ojeda; makeup assistants: Tami Elsombati, Bridgett O’Donnell; manicure assistant: Pilar Lafargue; set coordinator: Sarah Hein; set assistants: Olivia Giles, Seth Powsner, King Owusu; tailors: Suzi Bezik, Cardi Mooshool Alvaji; tailor assistant: Elma Click