Oscars 2022: Jamie Dornan on hard work, loss and Northern Ireland

By Judith Cummings
BBC News NI in Los Angeles

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Image source, ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS
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Jamie Dornan and his wife Amelia Warner at the Academy Awards on Sunday night

From singing about seagulls in the sand, getting amnesia in the Australian outback, to playing Sir Kenneth Branagh's Da, Jamie Dornan's career went from strength to strength in 2021.

Barb and Star go to Vista del Mar, The Tourist and of course Belfast in turn made people laugh, gripped viewers and moved cinema goers around the world.

On Sunday night, Sir Kenneth received his first Academy Award for Belfast.

Speaking to BBC News NI in Los Angeles, Dornan said it was "pretty rare" for him to have three things in a row received so well.

"I feel good about it. I've worked hard, I've always worked hard," he added.

Media caption,
Jamie Dornan has been speaking to BBC News NI about hard work, loss and Northern Ireland

"But a lot of it's timing and being the right thing at the right time.

"I've been lucky this year workwise that a couple of things have been liked, not only critically but lots of people watched."

But during that year of hard work, the Northern Irish actor also had to deal with the sudden death of his father to Covid-19 in March of last year.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Jamie with his sister Jessica Dornan Lynas and their father Jim at the 2018 launch of the charity NIPANC

One of Northern Ireland's leading obstetricians, Professor Jim Dornan, was a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist for more than 40 years.

Prof Dornan had previously been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

"It's unimaginably difficult. Still, to be honest with you," he said.

"I've had moments where I'm in denial about it, and I think I've just not stopped.

"We lost our mum 24 years ago and dad was so amazing saying: 'Your life isn't gonna stop for you. You can't be defined by something like this. You've got to keep going.'

"We're still heeding that advice now after my dad's death."

Image source, BBC/Two Brothers Pictures/Ian Routledge
Image caption,
Dornan filmed The Tourist over five months in Australia

And Dornan's work schedule meant he "literally didn't stop".

"When Dad died, I'd three days left of hotel quarantine, stuck in a room with my wife and kids.

"Then 10 days after dad died, I started shooting The Tourist.

"It was the most gruelling schedule of a job I've ever done, the longest job I've ever done. It's the furthest away from home we've ever been."

Dornan said the work took over.

"You're like: 'I'm here to do a job and it's probably good for me just to throw everything at this.'

"Maybe not in the long run. I don't know."

Image source, MARK BLINCH/REUTERS
Image caption,
Jamie Dornan and Sir Kenneth Branagh at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2021

Straight off the back of filming The Tourist, Dornan went straight into Belfast - a project he knows his dad would have loved.

"I take a lot of comfort in the fact he knew I was doing it. He knew who I was doing it with, he knew it was Ken, he knew it was Judy Dench, Ciarán Hinds and Caitríona.

"I'm very proud to be from Belfast, my dad was an extremely proud Belfast man and yeah, I think it would have tickled him pink to know and see what what the response has been to this film and you know, and maybe he does know in some kind of way."

That pride in Belfast means for him, Northern Ireland will always be home.

"I don't think I'll ever think anywhere else is home. I think it's something, particularly if you're from that part of the world, even if you wanted to shake it, which I don't, you can't.

Image source, Steve Granitz/Getty Images
Image caption,
Dornan at the LA premiere of Belfast, a film his he says his father would be "tickled pink" by

"Everyone calls it home. I've the best mates in the world that I've had since I was a kid and not that many of us still live at home and it's all still: 'Have you been home recently, when you're going home next?'

"I think that just comes with the territory."

So what's next? Series two of The Tourist?

"There's certainly talk about it. I think any time there's a want for something, you have to explore that. The plan was only ever to do one. We only ever signed on the one.

"But then things change. Twelve million people watch it in the UK and Ireland and you go okay: 'What would it look like if we were to do more?'

"So I know discussions have been had, so we'll see where we get to."

'Things have to fall into place'

But he also plans to come home to work.

"I've got big plans to be home for a long time.

"I've written something with Conor MacNeill, another actor from Belfast, and we are planning on making our film at some point which will hopefully be at home.

"A lot of things have to fall in place and people have to give us money to make it happen. It'll happen when it's meant to happen."