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Jamie Dornan faced some of the worst reviews of his career for his performance as leading man Christian Grey in the blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey movies, which was based on a series of bestselling, erotic books. And he seems to be OK with it.
"Look, put it this way: It's done no harm to my career to be part of a movie franchise that has made more than $1 billion," Dornan said in a British GQ interview published Friday. "Every working actor would say the same thing. It's provided — a lot. There's no shame in saying it's transformed my life and my family's life financially. I am very, very grateful for this and always will be. And the fans loved it. Kevin Maher [the film critic] at [Britain's] the Times didn’t love it — what a surprise! But I take issue with the whole thing being just a bit of a joke. Everyone involved worked as hard as they could on those films, including myself."
The original adaptation of E.L. James's novels, released in 2015 — followed by 2017's Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed in 2018 — earned 25 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. (Scores for the sequels were 11 percent each!) However, to Dornan's point, the franchise really cleaned up at the box office.
"There has to be an acceptance with acting, taking jobs, that you don't ultimately have control over some things. But you do know what you are getting into and I did spend a lot of time weighing up whether to take the Fifty Shades role," Dornan said. "Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised; sometimes you can be bitterly disappointed. Take that project [and] you know that loads of people are going to hate it — hate it — before they have even seen it. Why? Because, guess what? The majority of people hated the books. And I'm not saying I don't recognize why those books were so powerful for millions of people, but you aren’t going to have books that were horrifically critiqued turned into movies that will be critically acclaimed. You are dealing with the same material. That's the raw material we had."
Dornan knew that, despite the backlash he was going to receive, the movies, in which he co-starred with Dakota Johnson, represented a big opportunity for someone with a handful of credits.
When asked whether he regretted having taken the role, Dornan was clear.
"Ultimately, no," he said. "I mean, I understood the job and the reactions. I was in the running for it for a long time, remember. It wasn't some split decision I made on a whim."
He then recalled having initially lost out to Charlie Hunnam, who's said he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Dornan wasn't too upset when that happened.
"I felt a certain amount of relief when he got it, to be honest," Dornan said. "I thought, 'This would have been fun, but it would have been a strange ride. Better not to be on that ride.' But he pulled out and then I got a call. And I got it. And there we go. I had to confront that choice again."
It's a choice he's stuck with forever now, no matter what he adds to his IMDb page.
"Whether A Private War, Anthropoid or Belfast, or whatever comes next, the line in the press is always, 'It's the best thing he's done since Fifty Shades. As if I am still needing to prove myself; I am still paying penance for that choice to get me back to where I was beforehand," Dornan said. "Look, I get it, and, to be honest with you, it spurs me on. It lights a fire in me. If that means people saying, 'Oh, actually he's not that bad,' well, so be it."