I was trapped in hotel quarantine in Australia as my beloved dad died, says Belfast actor Jamie Dornan

Jamie Dornan was on the other side of the world with four days in a hotel quarantine when he received the worst news imaginable.

His beloved father Jim passed away from Covid after being admitted to hospital for a routine knee operation.

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Jamie Dornan says growing up in Belfast made him resilient to life’s challengescredit: Getty
Jimmy Jim's father died of Covid while the actor was filming in Australia

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Jimmy Jim’s father died of Covid while the actor was filming in Australia

Stuck in Australia last March, where he was asked to be isolated before filming the BBC drama The Tourist, Jamie has been unable to return to his native Northern Ireland to deal with the tragic loss.

Suddenly, Jimmy, 39, best known for starring in the big-screen Fifty Shades Of Gray and thriller The Fall, finds himself stuck in a terrifying situation caused by the global pandemic.

So he understands the trauma that a lot of people have been through over the past two years.

“It was a tough time for a lot of reasons and for a lot of people,” says Jamie. “We’re all just trying to get over it and come out the other side — and hopefully our heads are in order.”

The actor has garnered rave reviews for his role in the BBC1 thriller The Tourist, in which he plays a mysterious man with amnesia who has no idea why he was left stranded in the Australian outback.

He is receiving further acclaim for his beautiful portrayal of a father caught in the trouble of Northern Ireland, in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar-winning film Belfast.

Jamie’s father was a famous obstetrician and gynecologist in the capital of Northern Ireland – and he was proud that his son was starring in a movie set there.

A portrait of Jim with Sir Kenneth at the city’s Royal Victoria Hospital standing proudly in the Dornan family home.

“There was a picture on our bookshelf of my dad and Ken opening a ward in the maternity ward of the hospital where my dad spent most of his career,” says Jamie.

“I remember thinking it was such a big thing in our house that he was around and did that and met my dad and other things.”

Unfortunately, Jim won’t be watching the movie, which opens in cinemas next week.

The loss of his father made 2021 “the worst year…and the hardest” of his life, says Jimmy.

Jim helped him cope with the agonizing loss of his mother Lorna from pancreatic cancer when Jimmy was 16, telling his son, “Don’t let that be your thing.”

“I went through, early in my life and now, a lot of pain and loss,” says Jamie.

Jim supported Jimmy’s decision to become an actor after the superstar had grown tired of the modeling work of the likes of Calvin Klein and Armani.

This risky move paid off as a former dresshorse – once called The Golden Torso – is on his way to becoming one of the Golden Boys of acting.

I have a real understanding of what it means to go away from work. Every step I take since becoming a father – my profession – is for my family. That’s all I really care about.”

Jimmy plays Pa in the new movie, which earned seven Golden Globe nominations and co-stars with Dame Judi Dench.

The character is based on Prana’s father.

In 1969, Ba is working in England and wants his family to join him there as tensions between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Belfast escalate into deadly violence.

The plot felt deeply personal to Jimmy, who couldn’t stand his daughters Dulce, eight, Elva, five, and two-year-old Alberta.

“I am the father of three girls and sometimes I have to say goodbye,” he says.

“I think I have a real understanding of what it means to get rid of, mostly for the good of the family – work, to save. Every step I take since becoming a father, my career is for them. That’s all that really matters to me.”

“I am very fortunate to have three healthy little girls. I just miss them so much.”

Jamie met his wife, Amelia Warner, 39, a former musician and actress, in 2010. They married three years later.

They live in the Gloucestershire countryside, and prefer the local pub over glamorous red carpet events.

Although Jimmy has to travel all over the world for his work, he doesn’t allow himself to be away from his children for more than two weeks at a time.

The family traveled with him to Australia for The Tourist – where Shalom Brune-Franklin plays his love interest on screen – and they spent several months there while filming, with children enrolled in local schools.

The upcoming awards in Jimmy’s path complete a notable turnaround, after he parodied his acting in the sinister Fifty Shades trilogy.

Fortunately, Jimmy is thick-skinned enough to shrug off harsh barbs.

He says, “I’ve always been able to give s**t and take s**t, so I’m kind of armed for that.”

Jamie believes that dealing with your problems through laughter is part of Belfast culture.

He says, “There’s flexibility for men and women from Belfast. What I think is great for people from Northern Ireland is that there’s our sense of humor – which, I think, needs to go beyond some of the things that we’ve all had to live with.”

Although he left town at the age of twenty, Jimmy still calls himself the “Belfast Man”.

“Singing is a horror you can’t even imagine.”

“It’s Pete,” he says. “Maybe we feel like that’s a certain thing, ‘Belfast man,'” and I think we all know what that means.

“If you’re from Belfast, no matter what era you grew up in, you’ve been through something.

“You have been through a certain hardship and have been tested at many different stages of your life.”

The Troubles began in Northern Ireland around 1966, and the movie took place three years later, when Loyalists spread out into Catholic areas, burning homes and businesses.

This escalated into terrorist attacks by paramilitary groups including the IRA and the UDA until the Good Friday Agreement finally brought some peace in 1998.

“I was born in 1982, in the middle of a 30-year struggle,” says Jamie.

“When you grow up in that environment, you are taught about it – you have learned why everyone around you is fighting, what this hatred is based on, where this started from. I personally don’t think it has been taught enough.”

Rather than delving into tangled politics, Sir Kenneth’s film, shot in black and white, focuses on one family dealing with a turbulent situation through love and humour. It is based on the director’s experiences growing up in the city and his father’s decision to bring his young family to England.

Jimmy says with a smile, “All the characters are largely based on the people who are part of Kane’s life.

“I play a version of his father. And that brings with it a new set of tension.”

He also faced the “horror” of dancing and singing in one scene, with Pa performing Everlasting Love, the UK’s top chart for Love Affair in 1968.

His blue eyes twinkle, Jimmy says, “It’s a horror you can’t even imagine.

“I’ve sung on a lot of things lately. I think the last four or five things I did, I sang in. I’ve become very used to.”

There is flexibility for men and women from
Belfast. There’s our sense of humor, which you need, to get past some of the things we’ve had to live with.”

Epidemiological restrictions have made it impossible to photograph Belfast in central Belfast.

The range was built in Berkshire and production began in 2020, once restrictions were allowed.

The lockdown also left Jamie unable to return to Northern Ireland for several months.

When asked to photograph Belfast, he was given an opportunity to reconnect – albeit from a distance.

He says, “I was away from home, and I couldn’t go home in Belfast. I had family there that I didn’t see and couldn’t see.

“So home was very much on my mind and then I got a script called Belfast.”

Throughout his career, he has never faced an easier decision.

The star says, “I only imagined once in my career that I would do a movie named after the city that made me. So yes, it was easy.”

  • Belfast (12A) departs on Friday 21 January.
Jimmy doesn't like working apart from his wife Amelia Warner for more than two weeks

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Jimmy doesn’t like working apart from his wife Amelia Warner for more than two weeksCredit: BackGrid
New Show Belfast is a very personal project for Northern Ireland-born Jimmy

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New Show Belfast is a very personal project for Northern Ireland-born Jimmycredit: scientific
Jimmy was away at the tourist site when he learned of his father's death

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Jimmy was away at the tourist site when he learned of his father’s deathCredit: BBC
Jamie Dornan sings Everlasting Love at Belfast Premiere

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