“He is not merely good looking—he is the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking.”
That’s how E.L James describes the character of Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey…and that’s the almost impossible ideal that any actor up for playing the kinky seducer must live up to in the upcoming film adaption of the blockbuster novel.
Sons of Anarchy’s swashbuckling lead Charlie Hunnam had been cast as the BDSM-loving businessman opposite The Social Network breakout Dakota Johnson in the hotly anticipated film version of 50 Shades, but shocked Hollywood when he, um, pulled out this past weekend--less than a month before shooting was set to begin. The latest Adonis cast in the part is 31-year-old model-turned-actor Jamie Dornan.
What do we know about Dornan, and, more crucially, what he looks like in his underwear? Blessedly, a lot.
Anyone wondering if he’s qualified to play Christian Grey should know that, in 2006, The New York Times gilded him “The Golden Torso.” The piece accompanied the Belfast-born model’s film debut in a bit part in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette as one of the queen’s lovers.
Did The Grey Lady feel silly about profiling an actor after such a small role? She’s got hormones too, people: “It is a modest role, barely a cameo for Mr. Dornan (and, not incidentally, for his torso). But, like, many of the things he has done, it got him noticed, by moviegoers and movie agents and even by critics, who singled out him and his etched abdominals for praise.”
Before his let-them-eat-cake breakout (have you seen those abs...like he eats cake), Dornan was a tabloid staple while dating Keira Knightley from 2003-2005, and modeled for Calvin Klein in high-profile campaigns with Kate Moss and Eva Mendes. Little needs to be left to 50 Shades fans’ imagination's thanks to this photo of a naked Mendes straddling a sweaty Dornan. Or this ad in which Dornan undresses the world with his eyes. Or, for good measure, this one starring Dornan’s crotch. To quote James’s own oft-repeated refrain: “Oh my.”
It seems silly to list his bonafides after revealing those…bonafides, but it should also be mentioned that Dornan recently starred on the first season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time as Sheriff Graham. He plays a serial killer on the BBC series The Fall, and has already proved that he’s not one who will shy away from 50 Shades’ kinkier, more outlandish scenes.
“I spent a day strangling myself on the back of a door while I masturbated to a driving license of one my victims,” he recalled about one of The Fall’s shooting days. “And they cut it out! I couldn’t believe it—they didn’t even tell me. When I first watched the series, it just wasn’t there!”
So, what’s the likelihood that Dornan is the man we’ll soon be hearing whisper line like, “Show me how you pleasure yourself…keep still…let’s see if we can make you come like this…you’re so deliciously wet?”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a major factor behind Hunnam’s early exit from the project was the fan and media frenzy that erupted following his casting. Producers are not likely to want to hire another actor who may balk at the pressure of filming the major project. Dornan’s wife, Amelia Warner, is pregnant, which could dissuade Dornan from committing to the rat race of the film trilogy and its promotion.
If that’s the case, the studio is also reportedly courting Magic City actor Christian Cooke and True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard as possible backups. Universal, which is producing the film, needs to tie up one of the actors soon, however, as the Nov. 1 start date on filming is looming. The upside of Hunnam’s exit is that, just before departing, he had reportedly put enough pressure on the studio to strengthen the script that Oscar-nominated screenwriter Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal) was brought on to do a final polish and develop the characters more.
In true 50 Shades fashion, the project should, very soon, be whipped into proper shape. And Jamie Dornan will be the chiseled hunk doing the whipping.