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Jamie Dornan: Lockdown was in full swing so we had to shoot Belfast in Berkshire

Holywood heart-throb talks movies, music and grief over his late father Jim

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SHOWMAN: Jamie Dornan takes to the stage

SHOWMAN: Jamie Dornan takes to the stage

SHOWMAN: Jamie Dornan takes to the stage

Jamie Dornan has revealed his new Oscar-tipped movie Belfast was filmed on a set in one of the poshest areas of England.

The crew was forced to shoot away from the city as lockdown prevented filming on location in the capital.

Fifty Shades Of Grey actor Dornan (39) said the film’s writer and director, Tigers Bay-born Kenneth Branagh (61), initially wanted to put residents up in hotels so he could use their houses and streets.

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From left: Jamie Dornan as Pa, Ciaran Hinds as Pop, Jude Hill as Buddy and Judi Dench as Granny in director Kenneth Branagh's Belfast

From left: Jamie Dornan as Pa, Ciaran Hinds as Pop, Jude Hill as Buddy and Judi Dench as Granny in director Kenneth Branagh's Belfast

From left: Jamie Dornan as Pa, Ciaran Hinds as Pop, Jude Hill as Buddy and Judi Dench as Granny in director Kenneth Branagh's Belfast

But the Holywood-born star added: “We were the first production in the UK to start shooting in Covid times, so it was all new territory.

“They hadn’t even announced a vaccine at that stage, so we were unable to (decamp to Belfast) because of the lockdown.

“We couldn’t take over streets in Belfast to make them look like we needed to, because it would have meant rehousing people in hotels, and people weren’t allowed to leave their homes.

“So we had to build a set, and it made sense that we built it in England. In Berkshire, of all places. But you’d never know.”

The setting was handy for the director, as Branagh now lives in Berkshire.

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From left: Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Kenneth Branagh and Jamie Dornan with Jude Hill in front as they attend the Irish premiere of film Belfast at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, to mark the opening night of the Belfast Film Festival

From left: Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Kenneth Branagh and Jamie Dornan with Jude Hill in front as they attend the Irish premiere of film Belfast at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, to mark the opening night of the Belfast Film Festival

From left: Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Kenneth Branagh and Jamie Dornan with Jude Hill in front as they attend the Irish premiere of film Belfast at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, to mark the opening night of the Belfast Film Festival

Dornan added even though the film is based in Troubles-era Belfast, fans have said it resonated with their struggles in cities across the world.

He said: “People from everywhere, from Haiti to Iran, would come up to Ken Branagh saying, ‘That’s my story.’

“It’s the story of a nine-year-old boy from Belfast, but sadly people can relate to being from somewhere that has experienced civil war, fighting people from the other side of the street.

“Division and tribalism and sectarianism are common themes in many countries.”

Dornan plays carpenter Pa who starts to plot his family’s escape from the gangsterism of the Troubles in 1969.

Australia is the setting for Dornan’s latest critically-acclaimed TV series, The Tourist.

He plays a loner in the six-part BBC One show billed as ‘The Man’ who wakes with no memory of why he is in the outback or why he’s a murder target.

Dornan said the part was welcome relief from playing sociopaths including serial killer Paul Spector in The Fall and kink-obsessed Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades trilogy.

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Jamie Dornan and wife Amelia Warner

Jamie Dornan and wife Amelia Warner

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Jamie Dornan and wife Amelia Warner

Dornan — father to Dulcie (8), five-year-old Elva, and Alberta (2) with his musician wife of seven years Amelia Warner (39) — added: “I feel I’ve been lucky to have had very varied parts so far in my career, but I’ve played loads of very dramatic characters, very sinister characters and very honest, humble people.

“The Man presented this great opportunity and challenge to incorporate lots of different types of people. He’s constantly toying with identity and sense of self. As an actor, that’s a brilliant challenge.”

But Dornan is still grateful for the rave reviews he received for his portrayal of psycho Spector.

He told the new issue of Radio Times: “I remember I was on my honeymoon when it came out. I was driving across America with my wife, and checking into some hotel in Texas, getting on the wi-fi and reading the reviews. I’ll never forget it.”

Dornan also said he needs to curb his new habit of singing on screen after an early scene in The Tourist featured him driving through the Australian outback singing along to Kim Carnes’ 1981 hit Bette Davis Eyes. The actor — who tried but failed to learn the harmonica during lockdown — added: “I wouldn’t make it to the Pyramid Stage. I never tend to do it seriously. It’s fun. Most actors can sing a wee bit, but it’s become a bit of a habit recently. I might have to curb it for now.”

Despite his jokes about trying to develop his musical ability in lockdown, Dornan’s isolation was marred by his dad’s death.

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Jamie Dornan with his late father Jim

Jamie Dornan with his late father Jim

Jamie Dornan with his late father Jim

His prominent obstetrician and gynaecologist father Jim Dornan (73) died during a routine knee operation after he tested positive for Covid.

Dornan has said it was “brutal” his dad never got to see him in Belfast, which comes out in the UK later this month.

He added: “The early lockdown was frightening, but also happy in that I had all this time with my family. Apart from the home-schooling aspect, we had brilliant days together, and the weather was insane. But on the flip side, I lost my father to Covid at the beginning of the year, when I was out in Australia doing The Tourist, quarantining in a hotel.”

On the day his father died, Dornan’s quarantine had three days to run, but Dornan said despite it being brutal, much of the world had a “testing experience” due to Covid.


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