Jamie Dornan (‘Belfast’): ‘I lost my dad to Covid, and this movie would’ve meant so much to him’

“The resilience and the humor of these people mean so much to me and it’s such a joy to be a part of something that shows them in a different light,” Jamie Dornan declares about his latest film “Belfast” and how it portrays the people of his hometown, “through the eyes of a nine year-old boy,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

The Focus Features film is drawn from the childhood experiences of its five-time Oscar-nominated writer and director Kenneth Branagh, following nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), his beloved Pa (Dornan) and his protective Ma (Caitriona Balfe) as they weigh up whether to stay in Belfast with his loving grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Oscar winner Judi Dench) after their neighborhood erupts in sectarian violence.

SEE Caitríona Balfe (‘Belfast’) rises in Oscar odds since shifting to supporting actress

The character of Pa, as written by Branagh, represents a noble and idealized image of a provider, protector and someone to look up to. There’s also a nuanced vulnerability about Pa, which suited Dornan’s “less is more” approach to acting. Among the many memorable scenes in the film, an example of Pa’s stoicism and tenderness comes late in the film, when Pa is in the pub having a pint with his friends. Buddy runs in to give him some devastating news and Pa’s face subtly drops as he reacts non-verbally upon hearing the news.

“It’s a tough moment in the movie,” Dornan admits. “You are wearing and carrying so much in those moments and you’re trying to, well, I’m broken in those moments. I really am. My father was still alive at that time, and was not unwell, but I lost my mother when I was young, and so I remember. I know what that feeling is of a phone call or a moment where you’re told that your parent has died, I will never, ever forget that feeling,” he divulges. “I now know that feeling twice, so to play something that is as monumental as that or gargantuan as that; it’s a lot. You’re wearing it. You’re really wearing it.”

The whole experience of being a part of “Belfast” has been understandably close to home for the actor, not only during production, but also as audiences have embraced the film, particularly in his hometown. He recalls the night the film was unveiled at the red carpet premiere in the city a few weeks ago, which ended up being an emotional night for him and his family.

“Before I got to the press line, I was really physically sick. I often feel a wee bit like that anyway leading up to stuff sometimes,” he laughs. “Because I have a feeling people aren’t going to like it. I’ve experienced everything so far in my career in terms of that, but this, bringing it home to the people of Belfast, I’ve never done a premiere in Belfast, I’ve never shown a movie in Belfast before so that was unique in itself. But this story of all stories, a story for the people,” he shares, “well, we could get all the praise around the world and win all these lovely audience awards at different film festivals around the world, but Jesus it just matters so much for people from that city! We were all just carrying this expectation and hope and fear that it would be received well there.”

“I lost my dad at the beginning of this year to Covid and this movie would’ve meant so much to him,” Dornan reveals. “There was heightened emotion of all that, so I was a wreck, an absolute wreck and then, once I mumbled my way through the press line and got in,” he recalls, “it was palpable sense of appreciation right from the beginning of it. They seemed to be on our side from beat one of it, really truly, and you could feel it was tangible in the room.”

“It was a very emotional situation. Ken dedicated the movie to my dad before it even started so my whole family was shaking in tears before we kicked off this thing.”

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